Growing Butternut Squash in The Northern Territory
Introducing Butternut squash
A delicious warm-season crop. These squashes have a deep orange-coloured flesh with a distinct nutty flavour. They’re easy to grow and produce an abundance of winter squashes which are versatile for cooking and store beautifully.
Make sure your butternuts get enough sun, and have enough space to grow.
Butternuts need lots of sun, but will be happy with some shade over the hottest part of the day.
Butternuts like a rich soil. Work in plenty of compost and well-rotted manure.
Sow your seeds into mounds about 1m apart. Keep the soil damp while they germinate. Once the plants are up and established, choose the strongest plants and thin the rest.
Butternut squash tend to do best when planted from seed straight into the garden. They can be planted as seedlings though. Just handle them with care, because they don’t like to have their roots disturbed. Plant them into mounds as you would for seeds and remember to add some bonemeal to each hole and keep the soil moist until they’re settled.
Once your vines reach a desirable length, pinch out the growing tips to prevent them from growing longer. Butternuts can also be grown vertically if space is an issue. Remove any diseased leaves, but remember not to add them to your compost pile.
You will need to water your butternut to keep the soil moist during the dry season. Be sure to regulate the amount of water your butternut plant gets once it starts bearing fruit. A drastic change in water supply can cause the butternut to crack open.
Butternuts are heavy feeders and benefit from regular feeding. Feed every 4-6 weeks throughout the growing season.
Mulching helps to keep the soil moist and cool. Apply a generous layer of organic mulch like lucerne, sugarcane or pea straw. Since butternuts are such heavy feeders, a compost mulch is also a good option, because it’ll keep feeding the hungry vines.
Butternuts can be harvested once their skins have hardened and thickened and the stem is shriveled and woody. Pick mature fruit as you need them. Use a sharp knife to cut them away from the vine. Be sure to leave a piece of stem attached to each butternut. If you want to store your butternuts, only harvest them at the end of summer so that their skins can become hard and thick. Butternuts should be cured before storing.
Snails and slugs
Lay down grit, like eggshells or silica sand or create barriers around your plants. Remove any slugs or snails that you see.
Milk spray or baking soda solution work well and can be sprayed on affected plants.
What to do about Snails and slugs?
What to do about Powdery Mildew?