By Albert Makendenge
Endless possibilities come with the growing of butternut squash come harvest time; one of which obviously being a sweet pleasant addition to various meals and this is one of the reasons why anyone should know how to grow them in their own backyard as explained below.
Being heavy feeders, butternut squash plants should be grown in well-drained, well amended and well fertilized soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
Butternut squash production is best started when all danger of frost is gone and the soil is well warmed by the sun (15oC to 18oC). The plants are extremely tender and the seedlings will freeze with the slightest frost and seeds will only germinate in warm soil. Thinning out should be done, thereafter, according to each variety’s recommendation.
As with most vining vegetables, butternut squash will require the farmer to mound the soil into a hill (about 40cm tall) before planting. Seeds are buried just below the soil surface (2cm or less) in groups of three on hills that are 30cm with rows 14cm apart to prevent overcrowding.
Fertilize well throughout the butternut squash growing season. Regular feeding will produce the most abundant crop which provides an added benefit of keeping the soil weed free.
Soils should be kept moist but not soggy. The plants require plenty of water but their leaves prefer to remain dry. Water the base of the plant and avoid spraying the leaves.
Pests, weeds and diseases
Watch carefully (check under the leaves) for bugs and when the need arises, use insecticidal soap, or apply insecticides in the evening when the bees which are essential for pollination have returned to the hive. Weeds, which could harbor pests and insects, should be kept at bay.
The fruits will be ready for harvesting (usually after 100 to 120 days) when the skin turns hard and is difficult to pierce with the thumbnail.