Saturday, 15 August 2009

Butternut Squash - a Whole New World!

Arguably the London Vegetable Garden's most thirsty plant, my butternut squash has been enjoying the recent muggy weather and continues to grow exponentially! There are many different things going on in the pot however, so I'm appealing to you, dear readers, for advice and pointers!

The shot below shows the plant in its pot on the London Vegetable Garden balcony:
As you can see, it looks very similar to a courgette plant at the moment – plenty of big leaves that threaten to take over the whole balcony! What is interesting however, is the recent appearance of these 'swirly feelers' – I don't know what else to call them:

As you can see, they're quite interesting – does anyone know what they are? Are they simply looking for a new cane / net to latch onto and grow up?

Finally, we have some bud-like things forming on the stems, as so:

Are these the beginnings of the squashes? As you can see, there's quite a lot going on in this pot – any advice would be most welcome!


  1. Ah, I've been here! We were puzzled by all this too, expecting them to be like courgettes. I know someone advised you before not to grow them up poles, but we have, and it is working really well. The curly things they put out, they use like cucumbers and peas and other climbing things do, if you put a pole by the, they will find it and start wrapping themselves around it, pulling up - that is why we thought that poles would be a good idea, and save space. After all, if it works for cucumbers and melons...each of those green things is a potential squash. What will happen is that they will start to look like tiny green squashes, and eventually, each one will have a big yellow courgette-style flower one which needs to be pollinated, then the flower drops off the end of the baby squash and they start growing and going yellow. Eventually we will start suppporting ours with slings of cheap tights/netting, but be warned, some of ours are heading for 7 ft!

  2. Yeah what PG said. The flowers buds you have pictured looks like male flowers the female ones will have the tiniest mention of a butternut behind it. You appear to have a trailing variety, which will in all likeness takeover your balconey or aim to do so.

    In the future if you really want to grow a winter/ summer squashes on the balconey look for what they call bush varieties. A bush variety of butternut which I have heard is quite dependable in the English climate is 'Hunter'.

    But there are many more winter variety squashes out there that you can try. 'Patty pans' are mainly grown as a summer squash but if the fruits are left to mature on the plant they can also be harvested as a winter squash and store quite well I've been told, I plan to grow them for both winter and summer uses next year.

    A squash I'm growing this year that is a bush variety is 'Celebration'. It is certainly a bush variety and looks like it will work extremely well in a large pot/ bucket. It has barely moved from where it was planted and has 5 developing fruit on it.

    The pot you have it in looks a little on the small side for your squash which is why it is so thirsty (the roots have probably filled the pot), if I was you I would also feed it very regularly because they are also very greedy plants.

  3. Thank you both for such detailed advice! I asked this question on the London Gardeners' Network too ( and have had a similar response. Do you think that the plant will bear any squashes in a pot this size or should I try and re-plant it?

  4. I think this late in the season repotting it would only encourage it to put on more leafy growth first. What I would do would be to pot it up probably in a pot next size up from what it is in, therefore the roots would get to grow but not by much. With its roots more restricted it should then panic and get stressed enough to produce female flowers becauseso it would be thinking it needs to complete its lifecycle.

    Continue to feed and water but I would feed with a tomato feed so again to encourage flower and fruit production.

    I'm crossing fingers and toes for you to get at least one fruit off of it :0)



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