Let’s get those winter squashes to ripen well

If you planted reasonably late in the season, in July or perhaps early August, for example, or if your squashes are still looking very small or under-ripe, here are a few pointers to help them ripen up and reach maturity in the next few weeks.

  1. Prune out newly forming fruit – assuming you have a few fruits on the plants already, then you can pull off any new ones that are forming to help the plant concentrate its resources on those that are a little more mature. 3-5 fruits per plant is great if you planted in May/June, but 2-3 might be more realistic if you planted in July/August.
  2. Thin out the foliage – cut off any leafy vines that do not have fruits, and thin out the leaves a little so that the sunshine can reach the fruits. Again, this will help the plant to put its energy into the fruits, and the warmth from the sunshine will help to ripen them as well.
  3. Give them a liquid feed – this will help to boost the plants growth and energy. Choose a potassium rich feed (which is better for fruit forming) as opposed to nitrogen (which is better for leaf growth)
  4. Lift fruits off soggy soil – slide some straw underneath them or perhaps carefully lift them to rest them on a stone. This will help to prevent rotting, and will also help the underside of the squash to ripen.
  5. Leave them on the vine as long as you can – even when the leaves are dying off, it’s ok to leave the squashes growing on the vine at this time of year. You’ll need to harvest them before frosts though, so do keep an eye on the forecast and on nighttime temperatures once we reach mid-October.

A final word – if your plants are still very young, and you only have one or two small fruits on the plant, our recommendation would be to cut off leafy vines and new fruits, give a potassium feed, and then if you can, cover the plant with fleece or clear polythene to keep the plants as warm as possible as this will help them out over the next few weeks. You should have until late October before they need to be harvested, so don’t panic, there is still time for any small fruits to gain weight!

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