Step Aside Pumpkin, Winter Squash is now All the Rage

Now that the Halloween rush is over, all those hard hours spent in pursuit of the perfect pumpkin to carve and seeds to roast, is in the history books for one more year. All of your hard work is now destined for the compost pile before it melts down on your porch, to be worked on by squirrels, chipmunks and whole raft of fungal organisms. While Halloween is over, the need for continued Fall decorations is still in full swing.

Winter squash fruit from trial at South Charleston.



Recognizing that there is more to Fall than pumpkins, the Integrated Pest Management Program planted a demonstration trial at the Western Ag Research Station in South Charleston to highlight the advantages of winter squash, perhaps the perfect Fall edible ornamental. Besides looking just as bizarre as some of the modern hybrid pumpkins and needing to carving to further enhance them, these multicolored fruits are highly edible and packed with vitamins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and loaded with fiber. For any pumpkin grower who hasn’t tried to grow these yet to spice up their market stand, they are just as fun as pumpkins and require exactly the same horticultural care.

There were 11 entries from two companies in the trial, with emphasis placed on winter squash that looked decorative, were rated as highly edible, and had storage life from 2-6 months. Disease resistance isn’t usually an option for most of these hybrids, but given that they are squash and not pumpkin, seem to be less prone to most diseases except for bacterial wilt. This trial was one of the highlights for growers who attended the annual pumpkin field day but due to some bad weather and mouse damage, we had to replant this trial which delayed mature fruit set in about half of the hybrids. So here is a look at the mature fruit and a few back of the envelope calculations as to number per acre and yield.

While specific trial data was collected, because it was not replicated or randomized, all calculations for yield and fruit size should be seen as estimates taken from one site, under a specific set of weather conditions. When making decisions about hybrid selection for 2018, this information should be combined with other trial data from around the state or region. This trial was not irrigated, and received above average rain fall for this location based on historical records.

To obtain average fruit weight, 3-5 fruit of each hybrid per plot representing the largest, smallest, and average sized fruit were chosen and weighed. All other marketable fruit in plot were counted and used in yield calculation, which was based on a 15’ row spacing, 35’ length of row, with plant spacing 3-4’ apart.

Rough estimates for yield and number of fruit per acre based on data collected at South Charleston.

If you have additional questions about the trial, contact me directly at

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