Despite its name winter squash is a summer crop. Like all the cucurbit family including cucumbers, summer squash, and melons, winter squash loves warm weather and dies with frost.
The many varieties are called winter squash because they form a hard shell and will keep sometimes for months in a cool, dry place. My pantry has high humidity and I can keep winter squash there for four to five months.
A few years ago I reorganized my garden into beds. These are a generous four foot by ten foot. All the vegetables I grow do very well in these beds.
Except winter squash.
Summer squash forms a large, bushy plant. It sprawls a little. My plants do get big enough to demand an entire bed for two or three hills.
This year I grew kabocha and butternut winter squashes. The kabocha grew up and over the pea trellis. Branch vines drooped off the edges spreading out through the bean trellis and across the summer squash.
The butternut plants were planted late in July. The heat and dryness held the plants back even with supplemental watering. Rain revived them. the vines remained smaller than usual, but still overran the bed and invaded the garlic chives across the pathway.
The prize for exceeding its bed goes to two Winter Luxury pumpkin vines. Pumpkins are a variety of winter squash.
These vines engulfed their bed, the neighboring summer squash, the hollyhocks, covered the raised bed including the cherry tomatoes there. Still not satisfied, the vines went out through the fence and spread out into the orchard.
The vines can be trimmed. I hesitate to do so as the squash bugs move in and devastate the vines.
Unlike summer squash that quickly succumbs to squash bug attacks, winter squash has a survival tactic. Those long vines root at the leaf nodes. The extra roots help the vines survive long enough to ripen the squash.
And that is the big reason to plant winter squash. Each variety is different from the others in taste and texture. I like kabocha and butternut, but not buttercup. Acorn will do in a pinch. Spaghetti squash is not on my menu.
Pumpkins are another story. I love pumpkins. And those monster vines are busy ripening a few nice pie pumpkins for me.