For a long time, gardening during the cold seasons has been a major impediment especially for zone 5 farmers and gardeners have found it tough to make something out of their hard labor at the farm. The harsh climates have significantly raised concerns and growers have had to come up with measures that will mitigate their risk of not getting anything at all. From planting to harvesting or caring for their produce while in the field to ensure it flourishes to give good yields, cold climates have pushed butternut squash farmers to devise the following tricks to see their crop through the hostility of the winter season.
A butternut squash is, in Australian and New Zealand, a delicacy where they commonly referred to it as Gramma or the butternut pumpkin. It is popular for its sweet, nutty taste that resembles that of a pumpkin. It stands out because of its yellow skin and many love the orange-yellow pulp below the skin. The orange color will intensify as it ripens making it very attractive and sweet looking.
How to plant butternut squash
Planting is the most crucial part of growing the crop and will require a lot of planning and care, and this is how to go about it:
- Raising seedlings – You may consider raising the seedlings in a greenhouse before transferring them to the open fields. Sow the seeds on a raised seedbed for about three to four weeks. The seeds will only germinate on warm soils within and will take 5 to 10 days.
- Arrange for transplanting – Planting should commence in spring according to experts. Catching spring will require careful planning and timing. Transplanting has to be done about six weeks before the last frost falls
- Butternut squash is a vegetable and planting it will just be like any other vegetable.
- The nursery trick will create time for the cold to disappear while giving the plant time for a heal kickoff. Remember to harden them first, though.
- The seedlings are exceedingly tender and will get frozen with the slightest of frost.
- Transplant them in a 4-inch depth after the frost while the soils are about 60-6. Place them at about 18 inches apart to leave space for the fruits to grow to size. You should use a tiller for turning and mixing the soil.
Give the plant 110 to 120 days to have the fruit mature. A ripe butternut squash will have its skin hard that the nails cannot penetrate.
Fertilizer for butternut squash
Once your seedlings have gotten a few inches tall, it is advisable to start fertilizing and watering them. The fertilizing will bolsters their strength and ensures you harvest high-quality butternut squash at the end of the day.
Fertilizing the butternut squash plants is done to supplement the nutrients that might be insufficient in the soil and should be done throughout the growth period but at specified intervals. Fertilizing will form large plants that will subsequently form large squash fruits. Granule fertilizers or water-soluble fertilizers can be used based on preference.
The plants are very vulnerable to attacks by fungus and others pests like pickle worms. The pests c easily be handpicked off the plant vines or the fruits
How to harvest butternut squash
After a lot of watering, weeding and fighting the diseases that would have attacked your butternut, the long wait is finally over. Your seedlings gradually grew over the period and formed small fruits which have eventually developed into these edible guard-like pieces of gold.
You know it is time to pick your butternut squash once their coats harden up, and their color starts turning to a solid yellow from the initial green. When it comes to this point, the color is the only sure test to see the fruits are ready for harvesting. At some point, the squash stops growing in length, and this is also evidence that it is now ready for picking. Picking is preferably done before the first heavy frosts. It is crucial to ensure minimal damage to the fruits before harvesting.
- Carefully, and with a sharp knife or shears, cut the fruit off the vine. The fruit should be between eight to twelve inches by now.
- Two inches of the stem should remain to prevent bacteria that might develop on the cut from getting into the fruit.
- Bruised or stem-removed- butternut squash should be consumed soonest. The rest of the harvest is preserved in a fresh and preferably dark place for a future day. They can remain stored and in good condition for two to three months, and this will see the gardener through the winter. Before storing your bounty, put it out in the sun and let is cure, then store in relative temperatures.
For cold regions and seasons, gardeners have found it wise to grow hardy perennial plants. Since gardening here is a big challenge, the most efficient and proactive measure would be planting crops that are, early bloomers are highly tolerant of cold temperatures. The trick here is to evade the late spring and late spring frosts that are likely to mess the whole garden. The crop will require having a short period to grow and mature before the conditions become unbearable for the plant.
As a measure, erecting a shed to cover the crops especially while the frost is falling has proven more than helpful as it protects the plants from directly getting scorched by the frost. Growers have also advised cutting off infected parts and then freezing the fruits before storing instead of throwing it all away or making it spoil the other lot.
For every dieter, the butternut squash is a delight they cannot afford to miss in their diet. Carrying a ton of complex carbohydrates and fibers for your health you cannot imagine just how good this food is. As if that is not enough, the butternut squash contains a significant amount of niacin, iron, and potassium which the body will then convert into proteins. The butternut can be baked, roasted or boiled but never while raw. It makes a great substitute for pumpkin in pie. This colorful and curvaceous gold mine for nutrients retains its nutritional value even after being stored for an extended period which makes it the ideal winter fruit.