How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Spaghetti Squash
If you love growing vegetables in your home garden, then you might want to consider planting spaghetti squash this year. "Not only is spaghetti squash low in starch, its flesh peels apart in strings like spaghetti, making it a healthy alternative to traditional pasta when cooked," says Matt Mattus, author of Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening ($25.99, amazon.com).
Unlike summer squashes, such as zucchini, which are harvested when the seeds are still immature and the skin is tender, horticulturist Amy Enfield of Bonnie Plants says spaghetti squash is a winter squash that should be harvested when the seeds are fully mature (and the skin has hardened). "Spaghetti squash has a long grow time, often needing 90 to 100 days after planting to mature," she says. "The fruit should be pale, golden yellow when harvested."
To ensure your crop has the best chance at growing to maturity, we asked a few gardening experts to share their top tips on when to plant spaghetti squash, grow the fruit, and harvest it.
When and Where to Plant Spaghetti Squash Plants
According to Enfield, spaghetti squash should be planted in the spring and grown in a spot that receives full sun, or at least six hours of sunlight a day. "Make sure you give it plenty of room to grow, or alternatively, add a sturdy trellis and encourage the vines to grow up rather than out," she says.
Venelin Dimitrov, a product manager at Burpee, suggests planting your spaghetti squash at the edge of your garden. "Because the vines are aggressive, this will allow the vines to grow outwards," he says.
The Best Soil for Growing Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash requires well-drained, nutrient-rich soil, which is why Enfield recommends working at least 3 inches of organic matter, like compost, into the soil before planting. "If you have heavy or poorly draining soil, it's a good idea to grow spaghetti squash in a raised bed," she says.
When it comes time to plant the seeds, Christopher Landercasper, the director of farming operations for Sonoma's Best Hospitality Group, suggests making small mounds of dirt and planting the seeds about 1 inch deep into the top of each mound. "Having the mound makes it easier to find the plant for watering later in the season when the vines become a jungle," he says.
How to Water Spaghetti Squash Plants
Since moisture is key when growing spaghetti squash, Enfield recommends providing them with an inch or two of water every week. "Whether from rain or watering, the soil should be kept consistently moist throughout the growing season," she says. "To help reduce evaporation from the soil while the plants are young, lightly mulch around the plant." To avoid any mildew problems, Mattus suggests watering your spaghetti squash in the morning, or with an automated drip system, so the foliage can dry off before the sun sets.
When and How to Harvest Spaghetti Squash
If you're harvesting your spaghetti squash before the seeds are mature and before the skin is hard, Enfield says you're doing it wrong. "Spaghetti squash fruit will change from white to pale yellow, to golden yellow when it is ready to harvest, and are normally 8 to 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches in diameter," she explains. "They should be allowed to ripen as fully as possible on the vine, but must be harvested before the first fall frost, because 'frost-kissed' winter squash does not store well."
How to Maintain and Prune Your Spaghetti Squash Plant
As long as your spaghetti squash is given plenty of room to vine, Enfield says pruning shouldn't be necessary. "However, after the peak of summer, once fruit is present, you can remove any remaining blossoms from the vines," she says. "This will encourage the plant to direct all of its energy into the growing fruit."