Kitchen Gardening

Small Winter Squash for Small-Space Gardens

Small-space gardeners rejoice!

'Honey Nut' baby butternut squashes will look like their full-size cousins when mature, but will measure only 4-5 inches long and weigh around one pound.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Last gardening season I was delighted to be able to harvest a full-size, ripe and ready spaghetti squash. As in one spaghetti squash. There just isn’t enough room in my small-space vegetable garden to grow as many winter squash plants as I’d like, even if I train them up a tall trellis.

That one spaghetti squash was a good one, but one winter squash isn’t enough to justify an entire gardening season’s worth of work.

But this year, there are about a dozen butternut squashes growing on long vines that I planted in a container. That’s because these plants are made for growing in small spaces.

New to the Renee’s Garden seed catalog, ‘Climbing Honey Nut’ baby butternut squash is a personal-size winter squash that’s sure to catch on with small-space growers. The company sent a package of free seeds for me to try, and I’m pleased with the results so far.

I worried about the 110 days to harvest, considering that’s stretching the growing season around here. But even though I waited for warm June weather to plant, the squash plants seem to be right on schedule. Each of the dark green gourds is between 4-5 inches long and still growing. When finished each will weigh about one pound.

I trained the vines to grow up and over a trellis in the large container. Just as advertised, the vines are healthy and productive. I have to say, the mini squashes are much cuter than their larger cousins. And when the time comes, I think they’ll be easier to prepare than the larger butternut squashes, too.

Just like all winter squashes, these will need to stay on the vine until they develop a tough outer shell. I’ll have to be patient and wait for the these pint-size squashes to turn from green to tan and for the vines to die back before harvesting.

Before cutting from the vine, I’ll try the old fingernail test for winter squash. If the rind is tough enough to resist piercing with a fingernail, the squash is ready to harvest. It’s important to leave a good amount of stem on the squash, too. The stem helps to protect the fruit from fruit rot pathogens during storage.

Then each squash will need about a week or more to cure in a cool dry space before they’re ready to store for winter.

If all goes well, I hope to add these little Honey Nuts as a delicious surprise to the Thanksgiving menu.

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