For the past couple of months our conservatory has doubled as a greenhouse for everything from chitting seed potatoes to starting off cabbage, kohlrabi and cauliflower from seed. One seed that just plain refused to germinate, however, was the butternut squash – until I learned what I was doing wrong.
Growing from seed is by far the cheapest way of growing butternut squash, as plants sell in the UK for the high price of around £6. My packet of seed was bought from the internet, but next year I’ll probably just save the seed from one of the squashes and use those. It seems such a waste to throw seed from the squash into the bin.
After leaving the pots in the conservatory for literally ages, I began to worry my seeds weren’t germinating and started hunting for tips. Butternut squash like a warm temperature (around 17 degrees c) to germinate, and the conservatory just wasn’t warm enough. Sure enough, within one night of moving the pots onto the kitchen window ledge they had germinated. I’ve never seen a seedling take off so quickly; one night, nothing, and in the morning a good inch of growth.
Here’s how to do it, which if all goes well will result in a healthy crop come autumn:
- Begin in April by filling individual pots (as pictured) with compost.
- With your finger poke a hole approximately 1 inch / 2.5cm. Drop in the squash seed.
- Water the pots, then place indoors on a window cill.
- Watch and wait…if the compost begins to dry out, water. After 7 to 10 days, all being well, you will have rapidly growing seedlings.
- After about 3 weeks start taking the pots outside during the day, bringing them in again at night. This “hardens” them off, ready for whatever the weather throws at them.
- Another week or so and they are ready for planting out. Dig holes about a spade’s depth and part fill with compost.
- Plant the squash, backfilling the hole.
- Keep well watered; give a liquid tomato feed every couple of weeks once fruit appears.