'Table Gold' is the author's favorite bush acorn. He sweeter and more flavorful than common vining green acorns.
Photo/Illustration: David Cavagnaro
If you have ten acres of garden, you won’t mind if winter squash vines sprawl 8 ft. in every direction. But if you have a small backyard garden, you can’t afford to be so generous. I’m often asked if the space winter squash takes up is worth the sacrifice. My answer is, yes, especially if you grow bush or semi-bush varieties. I include a handful of delicious ones among the hundreds of squash I grow for seed saving. With these compact plants, the return from even a small patch is high in both quantity and quality.
In addition to being both delicious and prolific, bush squash are also quick to mature - 75 to 85 days for most varieties, compared to more than 100 days for many vining squash. In areas with a short growing season, bush varieties make a winter squash crop possible. In areas with a longer growing season, they’re an ideal second crop. Late plantings have the additional bonus of avoiding some insect pests.
In a 4 ft. by 8 ft. bed, you can plant three hills of bush squash with two or three plants per hill. A planting this size might yield several dozen squash. Not bad from a plot the size of a sheet of plywood.