Do you love delicata squash? Or are just looking for a new variety of squash to grow in your garden this year?
If so, you’ll be happy to know that delicata squash, also known as cucurbita pepo, is a great choice for your home garden. I’ll share with you the best way to grow delicata squash and provide tips for ensuring a bountiful and delicious harvest. So, if you’re looking for a new vegetable to add to your garden, consider growing delicata squash!
What is Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is one of the varieties of winter squashes that is characterized by its delicate, thin skin. It’s also often referred to as “sweet potato squash” because of its sweet, nutty flavor. (Buy delicata squash seeds here!)
Delicata squash is a small squash, typically only growing to about 12 inches in length, which isn’t too small if you’re comparing it to summer squash. But this fun striped squash variety is easy to grow in the home garden whether you’re using raised beds, containers, or a row garden.
Delicata squash is often eaten with the skin still on because it’s so delicate. This winter squash is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber, making it a healthy addition to your dinner table.
When to Plant Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is a “winter squash”, which means it takes longer to mature than summer varieties. It doesn’t mean that you grow it in the dead of winter. I had to learn this the hard way years ago.
You should plant delicata squash in late spring/early summer, after all danger of frost has passed. In my region of the country, the last frost date is typically mid-April. For those with a long growing season, you can choose tp plant in spring or late summer or both!
Delicata squash is a great grower that typically takes about 90 days to mature, so you’ll want to make sure you give it enough time to grow in the summer months before the chance of frost returns in the fall.
Popular Delicata Varieties
Cornell’s Bush Delicata- Developed by Cornell University in 2002, this bush variety grows larger than regular delicata squash. A favorite of home gardeners for its tender skin.
Sweet Dumpling Delicata Squash– A shorter, rounder variety of delicata that resembles an acorn squash, these squash grow in the heat of summer for a fall harvest.
How to Plant Delicata Squash
Select a planting location for your squash that gets full sun, at least 6 hours per day and has well-draining soil. Delicata squash is best planted using seedlings rather than direct sow delicata seeds because they have a longer growing season and giving them a head start can increase the time they have to grow outdoors. You can purchase seedlings from your local nursery or garden center or start them yourself indoors 3-4 weeks before planting.
When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s about twice the size of the pot in moist soil and mix in some rich compost. Gently loosen the roots before placing the plant in the hole and be sure to look for any root rot that may be present. If you’re using square feet as your gardening method, then you can put one plant per square foot.
When planting, make sure to space the seedlings about 18-24 inches apart. Delicata squash plants will spread out as they grow, so you’ll want to give them enough room to do so. Water well after planting.
How to care for delicata squash
Delicata squash is a relatively low-maintenance crop, but there are a few things you can do in order to ensure a bountiful harvest.
First, you’ll need to water your plants regularly. They should be watered about once a week, or more if the weather is particularly hot and dry. Delicata squash are have good size fruit, and that takes more water than some other vegetables.
Be sure to also fertilize your plants every few weeks. I like to use an organic fertilizer that I can either mix into the soil or water directly onto the base of the plant. Espoma is my go-to, but use whatever works best for your garden soil.
If you haven’t had your soil tested, be sure to do that first, so you’ll know what type of fertilizer your soil really needs. See my full video and post about how to test your garden soil.
Finally, keep the area around your squash plants free from weed growth. Weeds use up nutrients and water that your crops need. Also consider mulching around the plants to keep moisture in the soil and to reduce weed growth.
Delicata pests and diseases
Finally, you’ll need to watch for pests and diseases. The most common pests are squash bugs and cucumber beetles, which can be controlled with a variety of methods including hand-picking, row covers, neem oil, and insecticidal soap. For natural pest control, check out my resources below:
As for diseases, powdery mildew and bacterial wilt are the most common diseases to watch out for. You can prevent powdery mildew by making sure your plants have good air circulation and aren’t too close together. You can also water early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall and focus watering at the base of the plants to avoid getting the leaves overly wet. See my full post about powdery mildew.
A watering system like garden grids from Gardening in Minutes is a great help for watering plants efficiently at the base. If your delicata squash has major infestations, be sure to use other organic gardening practices like crop rotation and companion planting.
When to harvest delicata squash
Delicata squash is ready to harvest when the skin is deep yellow with dark green stripes and when a fork inserted into the flesh meets little resistance. Resist the urge to harvest too soon when the squash still has a pale green or light yellow tint to it.
Also check your seed packet or plant tag for your specific variety’s days to harvest.
How to Store Delicata Squash
While delicata isnt the best variety for very long-term storage, it can still be stored short term. The thinner skin of this squash makes it easy to eat without peeling, but also affects its storage.
Once harvested, delicata squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two months. If you have a basement or other cool, dark place, this is the perfect spot to store your extra squash.
Otherwise, roast those delicata squashes as they come off and enjoy the fruits of your gardening labors! They are delicious roasted with butter and brown sugar.
Do you have any tips for growing delicata squash? Comment below and share with other gardeners. We’re all a constantly learning community! Have a great week and happy gardening!