How to Pick Squash at the Appropriate Time

Knowing when and how to pick squash is vital. A gardener needs to know when the squash is ripe as well as where and how to cut the fruit off the vine.


Summer Squash Harvest

Summer squash is harvested in the summer when the fruit is young and tender. They grow quickly, sometimes doubling in size in a day or two. Ideally, they should be picked before the core becomes pithy and develop large seeds. Knowing some facts about each type of summer squash will result in a tastier squash.


Zucchini varieties are at their prime when they reach 6-8 inches, although there are some varieties that are still edible at a length of 1 foot. The zucchini should be dark in color and firm before harvesting. When picking zucchini, use a sharp knife or shears to cut it off the vine.

Yellow Squash

The many varieties of yellow squash quickly grow to the harvest size of 4-7 inches long. The round varieties are picked when they are 3-5 inches in diameter. Pick young fruit daily. Pulling squash off may damage the plant. Use a sharp knife or shears to take squash off the vine.

Pattypan Squash

Pattypan (scalloped) squash are summer squash that reaches maturity in 45-70 days. The fun-shaped squash can be eaten when the fruit is 2-4 inches in diameter. Check for ripe squash about every two days. Pattypan squash ready for harvest has an even color and a rind that can be easily scratched. Cut squash off with a sharp knife or shears.

Winter Squash Harvest

Winter squash is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. The many varieties of winter squash have a wide range of maturity days. Generally, when the squash reaches mature size, it can be harvested; however, waiting until the vines die back will produce a sweeter squash. Knowing each winter squash variety’s unique characteristics might yield a more bountiful harvest.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is usually mature in 110-120 days after planting. This sweet tasting squash is ripe when the outer rind turns a beige color and the skin cannot be punctured with a fingernail. Cut off the vine with a knife leaving 2 inches of stem on the squash. Cutting too close to the squash can allow bacteria to enter the squash.

Spaghetti Squash

Harvest of spaghetti squash is 90-100 days after planting. It is time to pick this squash when it turns a golden yellow or dark yellowish color. A ripe spaghetti squash has hard skin that a fingernail cannot penetrate. When cutting spaghetti squash off the vine, leave about 2 inches of vine on it to prevent bacteria from entering it.

Spaghetti squash growing season comes to a close in the fall or early winter. If a gardener has won the battle with the squash bugs and squash vine borer, their plants are still thriving with unripened fruit. Pick the unripened fruit before the first frost and attempt to ripen it indoors. Here are some tips that may possibly work:

  • Harvest all green, unripened spaghetti squash leaving 2 inches of vine.
  • Rinse all dirt off.
  • Dry squash thoroughly.
  • Place squash green side up in a sunny location.

Off the vine ripening only works for squash that was very near maturity. If your green spaghetti squash turns a yellowish color, you have succeeded with ripening it. Use the squash ripened indoors first because they have a tendency to rot quicker than those ripened on the vine.

Acorn Squash

Acorn squash remains green the entire time on the vine. Most varieties are ready for picking in 75-100 days from planting the seed. When ripe, the shiny green acorn squash will become a dull green plus have a deep orange spot where it touches the ground.

The final ripeness test is checking the toughness of the skin. The acorn squash is ready to be picked when the color is right and a fingernail cannot puncture the skin. To protect your ripened squash from bacterial growth, cut off the vine with a sharp knife or shears leaving about 2 inches of stem on the squash.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) matures in 85-95 days after planting the seeds. The outer skin of these sweet squash turns from a dark green to a grayish green with some orange spots when they are ready to be picked. Kabocha squash changes from somewhat round to a boxier shape at harvest time. The squash is not fully ripened for another 45 days after harvesting.