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How to Harvest Winter Squash

With colder days ahead, get ready to turn your delicious winter squashes into lots of warm and cozy soups! Discover how to properly harvest squash.
harvesting pumpkins..READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶▶▶

Winter squash has a long growing season from early spring through summer, and come fall, its fruit is finally ready for harvest! With curing and proper storage, winter squash will last for several months, allowing you to continue eating homegrown produce even into the cooler months. After harvest, get ready to turn your delicious winter squashes into lots of warm and cozy soups. During the long, cold days of fall and winter, nothing warms the soul more than a bowl of soup made with fresh, homegrown produce like squash!

Learn everything you need to know to harvest, cure, and store winter squash. Discover when the correct time is to harvest your plants, how to properly cure them, and how to store your squash for the winter ahead.

Materials Needed
array of gardening tools including garden spade, shears, and garden gloves

Gather the following materials to harvest your winter squash.

Pruning shears
Rubbing alcohol
Gardening gloves

When to Harvest
butternut squash-1

Depending on your climate, harvest your winter squash during the fall months — typically, September through October. Winter squash is not frost-tolerant and therefore, you need to harvest the fruit before temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike summer squash, winter squash should be fully mature when you harvest it.

You’ll know your squash is ready for harvest when the vines start to die off and appear brown, and the skin feels hard to the touch. Check to make sure the stem is dry and hard, also known as stem corking. Corking is when the stem starts to shrink slightly in size and turn brown with woody stripes. When this happens, the fruit stops drawing energy from the plant, signaling that it’s ready for harvest.
How to Harvest

Follow the directions below on how to harvest your winter squash.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Squash is Ready for Harvestbutternut squash ready to harvest

Using the guidelines mentioned above, ensure your winter squash is ripe and ready for harvest. One technique you can use is testing the skin toughness with your fingernail. Apply slight pressure using your nail and if you can easily pierce through the skin, it’s a sure sign that the fruit has not reached maturity yet. Another sign that your winter squash is ready for harvest is when the rind loses its glossy luster, appearing more dull-looking.

Step 2: Harvest Squash Using Pruning Shearspumpkin squash growing in the garden

Now that you’ve made sure your winter squash is ripe and fully mature, it’s time to harvest your fruit! Before you begin, properly disinfect your pruning shears. Wipe down the shears using rubbing alcohol to prevent any diseases from transferring between plants. Always use sharp pruning shears and never tear the squash off the plant using your hands, which can cause the stem to break. If necessary, sharpen your tools before using them.

Using sharp shears, cut the squash off its vine, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of stem still intact. For pumpkins, leave 3 to 4 inches of stem. Once harvested, avoid carrying the squash by its delicate stem. Doing so can cause damage to the stem and may cause bacteria or disease to spread, or sometimes even cause the plant to rot and spoil more quickly. Be careful when handling the harvested fruit as well, as any marks, cuts, or bruises to the skin will affect the overall storage time. Carry the fruit from the bottom, holding it securely. After harvest, trim and remove the old, dead vines that the plant was growing on to prevent diseases. Discard the vines right away in your compost pile.

Step 3: Cure Winter Squash For StorageBox of ripe butternut squashes

After harvest, you need to properly cure your winter squash for long-term storage. The main purpose of curing winter squash is to remove moisture and finish hardening off the skin — locking out any bacteria or fungi from entering the fruit. Curing is an important step as it extends the shelf life of your squash, allowing you to store it for months to come.

If you live in a dry climate, some gardeners prefer to cure winter squash directly on the vine, leaving them outdoors in direct sunlight before temperatures drop. Alternatively, if your climate is wet or if temperatures suddenly begin to decline, harvest your squash and bring it indoors to cure. Place your winter squash in a warm and dry location, such as a greenhouse or sunny window sill, for at least seven to 14 days. Maintain a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 80 to 85 percent is ideal.

If you are growing acorn squash, you can skip this step as curing is not needed. Curing acorn squash impacts its overall taste and shelf life.

How to Store
colorful squashes

Once curing is complete, move your winter squash to a cool, dry place with ample circulation for storage. Aim for a temperature range of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 70 percent humidity. Every couple of weeks, move and rotate the squash, checking for rot or decay. Winter squash will keep for two to six months when stored correctly, depending on the type of squash.
Acorn squash has a shelf life of two months, whereas butternut squash lasts for two to three months, and hubbard squash lasts five to six months. In fact, over time the squash’s flavor will actually improve as the fruit slowly converts starches into sugars.
Enjoy Delicious Homegrown Squash

Harvest and enjoy your homegrown winter squash this fall and winter! Trim your squash when it is fully mature, cure your fruit for up to 14 days, and remember to properly store your harvest in a cool, well-ventilated area. Are you growing winter squash in your garden? When do you normally harvest your squash? Leave a comment down below and share your expertise.

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