Growing butternut squash (a warm-season winter squash) on the ground is a simple and fruitful way of producing squashes at home. There is no expertise required. All can be done with proper planning and the right strategy of choosing the ideal location, preparing it for plantation, and finally, sowing the seeds.
This article will help you cover all these steps with a practical guide and post-plantation care for massive butternut squash harvest. Lastly, you will get 5 must-follow tips to grow butternut squash fast on the ground. So without any further delay, let’s get in!
Key Learning Points
Best Time to Grow Butternut Squash on the Ground
The best time to grow butternut squash on the ground is when the normal daytime temperature is above 75oC, and the soil temperature ranges between 65 to 70oC.
This winter squash does not like cold; frost or low temperatures can hinder plant growth. Thus you can start indoors by sowing seeds in early April and planting them out in late May.
On the other hand, if your climatic conditions are warm enough, you can directly grow butternut outdoors in late May and early June.
Growing Butternut Squash on the Ground – Step By Step
Growing butternut squash needs a bit of preparation and planning on your end. When it is the right time in your zone, follow the steps described below for a plentiful harvest at your place.
Step 1: Selecting a Plot or Garden Site
The first step in growing butternut squash on the ground is selecting the best plantation site. You cannot randomly pick a place and grow this plant.
Here are the 4 considerations you need to keep in mind while selecting a site to grow this winter squash variety:
- Butternut squash needs plenty of sun, so the best bet is to go for a location receiving at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- The magnitude of the plantation site depends on your need or availability of land. But remember, each butternut squash can grow 20 to 30 cm long or even more, and multiple fruits can crowd the space. Thus always consider the size of the land too.
- Also, don’t select a site with a previous history of powdery mildew, beetle infestation, or similar pests. These nasty pests will kill seeds before germination.
- Lastly, make sure the soil is well-draining and organically rich. Preparing the site (as described in the next section) will also be great before directly diving into the plantation stage.
Step 2: Preparing Plantation Site
All lands are not equally ready for plantation – they need soil analysis, organic treatments, and other stuff for ideal growth.
Here is how to prepare your backyard or kitchen garden area:
Soil pH Test
Checking soil pH is one of the first steps of this project, as the soil pH varies in different gardens. In fact, you will see a pH difference in the soil of the same garden due to fertilizers and other factors. Therefore, check the soil pH with the kit or send the soil sample to your local extension for in-depth analysis.
Always consider the fact that butternut squash ideally grows in acidic soil (between a pH of 5.8 and 6.8), so make sure the pH of your plantation site is acidic.
You can also adjust soil pH with home treatments without using harmful chemicals.
Organic Soil Treatment
The next step in preparing the soil for butternut squash plantation is organic soil treatment because the plant grows well in heavier soil.
Add well-rotted manure or compost, and be cautious; using aged manure is the best approach. Fresh manure may contain harmful bacteria and increase weed problems.
Another benefit of organic matter is you may not need additional fertilizers. Organically rich soil also helps in the uptake of water and nutrients.
Blend the soil well after adding organic matter for uniform soil composition. Also, remove foreign bodies, including rocks and roots of previously grown plants.
Rake the soil smooth and loosen it for improved aeration.
At the same time, do not let the soil dry. Water appropriately without making it drenched.
The last step (optional) in preparing the site for butternut squash is making ‘Hills’ of the soil. The soil is mounded slightly to allow good drainage.
Hoe the soil into hills 7 to 10 inches high and 3 to 5 feet in diameter with 4 to 5 feet row spacing.
You can skip making mounds and continue plantation on flat ground if the soil is well drained and supports vine growth.
Step 3: Growing Butternut Squash on Ground
Till this step, your garden site has been selected, prepared, and ready for butternut squash growth. Just follow a few more steps, and you will finish the plantation. These are:
- Take 2 to 3 butternut squash seeds and sow 1 inch deep in the loosened soil. If you plan to sow more seeds, like 4 to 5 per row, you must thin them. It is proven from research that increased plant density may result in a more significant number of smaller fruits. It is best to thin plants for your size preferences, and it is possible when seedlings show 1 or 2 true leaves.
- You can start plants indoors for an early butternut squash crop before planting in warm soil. Indoor setup needs to be done 3 to 4 weeks before outdoor planting. For instance, if early May is your outdoor plantation month, you must start seeds indoors in early to mid-April.
- Sow 3 to 4 seeds per 2 to 3 inches wide container (peat pots are recommended). Wait for the seedlings to appear and remove all except the healthiest one by pitching or cutting (but do not pull out). Now harden off young plants before transplanting them in the soil and gradually acclimate to the outdoor sun.
That’s all! Now you are done with the plantation. Wait and see what needs to be done (in the next section) for healthy butternut squash yield.
Keep Growing Squashes Healthy: Things to Do!
Here are the key things that need to be followed after planting butternut squash on the ground:
1. Watering Plan
Regular watering is essential after setting seeds or transplanting butternut squash in the ground. It could be either rainfall or irrigation, but uniform watering is the key to healthy growth.
You can use drip irrigation or a soaker hose so that the leaves stay dry. Avoid overhead sprinkler irrigation for butternut squash as it may rot leaves and fruits.
Also, remember, sandy soils require more frequent but less water applied at any one time.
2. Feeding or Fertilization
Butternut squash is a heavy feeder and requires lots of nutritional energy to produce quality squashes.
Organic matter added before the plantation also does the same job and provides nutrients, but additional fertilization is required when seedlings are a few inches tall.
Fertilization at this stage will help the plant (butternut squash fruits) to grow bigger. Once the squashes grow bigger, avoid adding more fertilizer until after the blossoms appear.
The two types of fertilizers for butternut squash include:
- Water soluble
You can use either depending on your ease or availability. Good quality, well-balanced granular fertilizer (10-10-10) does well for butternut squash while young. Then use a fertilizer low in nitrogen, which encourages excess vine growth and suppresses fruit growth.
Mulching is a great way to conserve moisture and maintain soil temperature. It also keeps fruits from direct contact with the soil, where diseases could infect them.
You have two options for mulching butternut squash:
- Organic mulch
- Plastic mulch
Pine straw or wheat straw is used as organic mulch.
On the other hand, butternut squash grown on the ground could also be cultivated with black plastic mulch. The black plastic absorbs heat allowing the soil to warm quickly and is best for areas where the soil temperature is hard to raise.
5 Tips to Grow Butternut Squash Fast
- Make a flexible watering plan for butternut squash per your climatic conditions. For instance, the soil in warmer areas dries quickly, so water it more during the dry period. On the contrary, limit watering on rainy days to prevent leaching.
- Get the benefit of online apps for a reminder of watering time to avoid delays or overwatering. These apps also keep track of your watering schedule and give suggestions for particular zones.
- Generally, 100 to 120 days (3 to 4 months) is the butternut squash maturation period. Ensure to take care of the plant with proper feed and water until the fruits are ripe.
- Growing weeds with butternut squash vine is normal. You need to get rid of them by hand pulling or shallow cultivation.
- Organic materials such as chopped-up leaves, grass clippings, and straws can be tilled under at the end of the growing season, adding nutrients to the soil for the following year.
Conclusion – How to Grow Butternut Squash on the Ground?
Butternut squash is a vine, typically growing on the trellis or wall with fruits facing down, but growing it on the ground is manageable.
You just have a good patch of land receiving at least 6 hours of sun. Make it ready by removing rocks, weeds, and roots.
Loosen the soil and sow seeds the way directed above in the plantation section. Next, plan post-plantation care and see what type of fertilizer and mulch suits your land the best. Carefully working on all the steps will result in a massive butternut squash harvest that you can cook, bake and even store for later delicious treats.