This year, I am growing 5 types of winter squash: 'Delicata', 'Butternut', 'Sweet Dumpling', 'Lakota' and 'Sweet Meat'. All are doing great and it's fun to go out into the garden every day and watch the squash mature. I'm also growing 2 types of pumpkins, 'Casper' and 'New England Pie'.
About 2 weeks ago, I trimmed back the tips of actively-growing squash and pumpkin vines because it's important for the plants to focus their energy during these last weeks of our growing season on ripening each squash. There's no point in having them bloom or start to develop any new squash because there just isn't enough time. Although I have to admit it's hard for me to accept the fact that it's nearly September already!
The photo above is of a 'Casper' pumpkin I'm growing this year and they are really cool. The skin is a smooth, creamy white and they are a nice medium size. The seeds came from Ed Hume Seeds, in case you're interested. They're supposed to grow to 8-10 inches high and 10-12 pounds, and they're good for baking as well. 'Casper' needs about 100 days to reach maturity, which I was a little nervous about, but I think they'll be ripe in time.
The photo to the right is of a large 'Lakota' squash. Isn't it a beauty? I've never grown them before but they were recommended to me by a friend. My husband Bill and I love eating winter squash throughout the winter and it looks like we will be well-fed this year!
Now, if you're wondering when winter squash are ripe, there's a pretty easy method to use. It's called the "thumbnail test" and what you do is press your thumbnail into the skin. If it easily cuts through the skin, it's not ripe; but if you can't pierce the skin with your nail, it's ripe. I always leave a couple of inches of stem attached to the squash when cutting them from the vines.
The next important step is to "cure" them before placing them in your long-term storage area... which in our case will be our basement.
To cure winter squash and pumpkins, place them in a warm, protected area where they won't get rained on, for about 2 weeks. I place them on the planting benches in my little unheated greenhouse because it's nice and toasty in there, which helps them cure. You could also put them in a warm room in your house or under a carport. Once that process is done, I place sheets of newspaper on the floor of my basement and set the squash and pumpkins there, with a few inches in between each one. It works great.