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The Best Harvest Time for Summer and Winter Squash

Squash harvesting is in full gear merely one and one-half months after planting some summer varieties. The rapid growth of this prolific plant requires daily picking throughout the summer, especially if good disease and pest control is practiced. The squash harvest will be prolonged for the adventurous gardener that also chooses to grow one or more of the winter varieties of squash.

Harvesting of Summer Squash

Summer squash varieties such as pattypan, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, and zucchini are planted after the last frost. All are harvested before the rind becomes hard and inedible. The different summer squash varieties reach this ideal picking stage at various sizes. Here are the general types of summer squash with their ideal maturity size:

  • Pattypan Squash (2-4 inches in diameter)
  • Yellow Crookneck Squash(4-7 inches long)
  • Yellow Straightneck Squash (4-8 inches long)
  • Zucchini Squash (6-8 inches long)

Each variety of summer squash has a unique size at maturity. Check the seed packaging for a more accurate expected growth size. Smaller than ideal size is still totally edible as well. The key is to pick summer squash before the outer skin becomes tough and the inside develops large seeds.

Harvesting of Winter Squash

Knowing when to harvest winter squash is slightly more complicated than summer squash. Winter squash days to maturity range from about 75-120 days. Each type of winter squash has unique characteristics that indicate the fruit is ripe and ready for harvest. Here are three winter squash varieties with their unique characteristics:

Delicata Squash

The delicata squash belongs to the Cucurbita pepo species that includes all the summer squashes; however, it is harvested in the fall or winter. It is considered a winter variety because of its harvest season.

Depending on the variety, days to maturity range from 80-105 days. A harvest ready delicata squash rind changes from a whitish color to beige and develops an orange hue. The outer rind will not dent when a fingernail is pressed into it.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

Sweet dumpling squash is a small, ivory colored, pumpkin-shaped fruit. The pumpkin-like creases are dark green. Mature squashes of about 1 pound are ready to harvest in 90-100 days or when the squash turns a deeper color. Another harvest time indicator is dried-up brown vines.

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard squash is a true winter squash that is harvested in the fall or winter. Hubbard squash rinds range in color from deep green to gray to blue. The Hubbard True Green Improved Squash variety can grow to an enormous size of 10-40 pounds in about 110 days. The smaller True Hubbard variety takes 115 days to grow to a size of about 10 pounds.

Hubbard squashes are ready to be picked when the rind is too hard to pierce with a fingernail. Waiting to pick the squash when the vines turn brown is a sure way to pick the best tasting Hubbard squash.

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