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Old August 17, 2016   #1
gorbelly
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Default Best point to pick winter squash?

Obviously, it's still early and there's no frost pressure bearing down. My first black futsus are just making the transition from dark green to tan. Should I let them do so fully on the vine, or pick them and let them change in storage? Does it matter? They're pretty high up on a trellis, so I have no fears that the groundhog will get them. The squirrels show no interest in any of my cucurbits.
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Old August 17, 2016   #2
brownrexx
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I just picked my butternuts yesterday . It is always best to leave them on the vines until the vines die but the squash bugs were getting mine. I would leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are free from animal or insect predators.
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Old August 17, 2016   #3
gorbelly
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I just picked my butternuts yesterday . It is always best to leave them on the vines until the vines die but the squash bugs were getting mine. I would leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are free from animal or insect predators.
I haven't had that much of a problem with squash bugs this year. This is my first time growing winter squash, as I thought I wouldn't have the patience for it, but it's actually turning out to be fun. Waiting until fall to know whether my efforts have had tasty results is a bit of a nail-biter, though!

I'm more concerned about the powdery mildew than about critters, but Bill's bleach spray seems to be helping. Speaking of which, it's about time for another round.

Thanks for the advice!
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Old August 17, 2016   #4
brownrexx
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I don't know about the squash that you are growing but it's best to allow butternut squash to cure for a couple of weeks before storing them. I washed mine, dipped in bleach solution to kill mold spores and have them curing in the garage for 2 weeks before storing in baskets in the basement for the winter. They usually last 8-10 months this way.
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Old August 17, 2016   #5
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I think squash have to ripen on the vine for best flavor. I groan every year when green striped (unripe) butternut squash is brought to market.
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Old August 17, 2016   #6
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I've read it is best to leave them on the vine too if possible.

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Originally Posted by brownrexx View Post
I just picked my butternuts yesterday . It is always best to leave them on the vines until the vines die but the squash bugs were getting mine. I would leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are free from animal or insect predators.
The squash bugs got mine. Some where already starting to die off due to the daily 100+ heat, and I have little doubt that the ground has nematodes. I lost interest in keeping the squash bugs off of them the first week of August. I had planted them outside the garden - I just mowed them a week ago.
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Old August 17, 2016   #7
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So even for squash that are mature and the stems starting to turn brown in August--I should try to leave the on the vine until frost? Or just until they turn their full mature color? Because avg. first frost is mid-October where I am, and it's been later than that in recent years. That seems like a really long time for a squash to sit on the vine. Or do you mean just until it totally turns the mature color and the stems go totally brown?
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Old August 17, 2016   #8
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I understand your question better now. I would leave it on until it is ripe. In your case it's probably in August or early September. For me, it's sometime in October - our first frost isn't until around November 20th.

My knowledge on this comes from my father's gardens back in the late 1970s. I was in my earlier teens, but I helped a lot in those gardens. October was when we would pick the butternut squash. It seems like Acorn squash was a little earlier, but that was decades ago.
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Old August 17, 2016   #9
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Thanks. That's what I thought. I was nervous about the prospect of leaving a ripe squash on the vine until frost. Seems like the possibility for rot would be really high.
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Old August 18, 2016   #10
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If the squash has it's mature color and the vine is turning brown then I would pick them. My vines were still green but I had to pick the squash because of squash bugs getting out of control.

Be sure to CUT the stem, don't try to snap or twist it like summer squash. It is always best to leave an inch or two of stem attached. If it breaks off at the top of the squash, rot can start at that point.

Since my squash will be stored for months, I always dip the squash into a bleach solution to kill mold spores.
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Old August 18, 2016   #11
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rexx, aha, I think I misunderstood your first comment. When you say leave them on "until the vines die", did you mean until the stem vine of the squash turns brown and "dies"? I at first thought you meant until the entire vine, i.e., the entire plant, was killed by frost.

So when picking when fully ripe (squash has turned its final color, the stem of the squash is totally brown), do I still need to cure it for a week or two? I can leave them in my garage to cure. If it works for you in your garage and you're in my area, my garage will probably work well for me.
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Old August 18, 2016   #12
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Actually I usually pick most of my butternuts when the entire vine dies but they are probably different than your squash. I grow bush type Butternut. Mine all seem to be ripe at almost the same time but if I see ripe ones before that, I usually pick them. The stems on butternut do not seem to turn brown until the vine is really dead so I am cutting them with green stems. The sign that a butternut is ripe is when the green stripes turn tan. Yours are obviously different.

The real test for ripeness of winter squash is to check it with your fingernail. The rind on a ripe squash will have hardened so that you nail does not penetrate the rind.

I cure mine in the garage which is attached to the house but not air conditioned so it's warm but not as hot as outside. It keeps them out of the sun and away from bugs and rain. My basement is cool so I cure the squash at a warmer temperature in the garage for 2 weeks before storage.

Curing winter squash allows them to give off some of their excess water and concentrate the sugars in the flesh. It also hardens the skin a bit so that it will store better and longer.

Last edited by brownrexx; August 18, 2016 at 11:41 AM.
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Old August 18, 2016   #13
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Leave as long as possible. Being under the sun sweetens them. Then cure in a warm place. I won't eat mine before December. I plant them in late April.
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Old August 20, 2016   #14
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Huh, yes, I'm seeing more and more advice as I do my research to just leave them on the vine until the vine dies for the best taste, even when ripe, even if it means leaving them for months on the vine. Some people recommend you leave hard-shelled squash out to cure on the ground for a while even after the vines die. Black futsus are not super hard-shelled, so I probably won't do that, but I guess as long as the pests are staying away, I'll just leave them on the vine, even though it's only Aug.
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