Delicata Squash Information: Tips On Growing Delicata Winter Squash

Delicata winter squash is a bit different than other winter squash varieties. Contrary to their name, winter squash are grown at the peak of the summer season and are harvested in the fall. They tend to have a hard rind and can, therefore, be stored for future use in a cool, dry area for months. What makes Delicata winter squash so special?

Delicata Squash Information

All winter squashes are members of the Cucurbit family, which also claims cucumbers and zucchini amongst its members. Most varieties fall into three species groups:

  • Cucurbita pepo
  • Cucurbita moschata
  • Cucurbita maxima

Delicata winter squash is a member of C. pepo and is a relatively small variety of winter squash.

Additional Delicata squash information tells us that this heirloom variety was introduced in 1891. As with most winter squash, the Delicata’s fruit is grown on a vine most commonly, although there is also a bush variety.

Its fruit is cream colored with green stripes, oblong, and around 3 inches (7.5 cm.) across and 6 inches (15 cm.) long. Interior flesh is pale yellow and tastes much like a sweet potato and is, in fact, sometimes referred to as sweet potato squash or peanut squash. Unlike other winter squash varieties, the skin of Delicata is tender and edible. This tender skin reduces the storage time somewhat compared to hard varieties such as Butternut or Acorn.

If this sounds intriguing, then you probably want to know how to grow your own Delicata squash.

How to Grow Delicata Squash

Delicata squash plants have a short growing season and are mature within 80-100 days. They can be either direct sown or sown indoors for later transplant. The plants will attain a height of 10-12 inches (25.5 to 30.5 cm.) with a 24- to 28-inch (61 to 71 cm.) spread.

When growing Delicata squash, choose a sight that will receive full sun. The Cornell Bush Delicata requires only 4 square feet (0.5 sq. m.) of garden space, but if growing vining Delicata squash, allow at least 20 square feet (2 sq. m.) of space.

Dig a 3-inch (7.5 cm.) layer of compost into the soil. With this amended soil, create a flat topped, one square foot (0.1 sq. m.) round mound. Once daytime temps are routinely above 70 F. (21 C) for five to seven successive days, it is time to plant your Delicata winter squash.

Evenly space five Delicata seeds and press them into the soil at a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm.). Lightly cover with soil and pat down. Water in the seeds until the mound is soaked. Keep the mound moist until the seedlings emerge. Once the first set of leaves reaches 2 inches (5 cm.) long, remove and discard all but three plants. Continue watering as needed for the next month, whenever the top inch (2.5 cm.) of soil dries out. After that, water deeply only when the top 2 inches (5 cm.) of soil is dry.

To suppress weed growth and maintain moisture levels, spread 2 inches (5 cm.) of mulch in a 2-foot (0.5 m.) circle around the Delicata plants. When the plants reach 6-8 inches (15 to 20 cm.) tall, spread a layer of aged manure or rich compost 1 inch (2.5 cm.) deep by 4 inches (10 cm.) wide around the plants and then again when the first buds are plumping up, just before they bloom.

Keep the area free from weeds and inspect the plant for powdery mildew, and remove affected parts. Pick insects from the fruit, or for more major infestations, apply pyrethrin according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Delicata Squash Harvesting

With its delicious flavor and edible peel, Delicata is ideal for stuffing or slicing and roasting. With such a range of uses, you’ll be salivating for Delicata squash harvesting to arrive. To test Delicata for readiness, press a fingernail against the skin. When the skin is hard, remove the fruit from the plant with pruning shears, keeping about 2 inches (5 cm.) of the vine attached.

Although its storage life is a little shorter than hard skinned varieties, Delicata can be stored for about three months at room temp in a cool, dry area (50-55 F./10-12 C). Or, the fruit can be frozen. Simply cook the squash until soft, scoop out the flesh and pack and label in freezer bags. This will extend the length of time you’ll have to enjoy this delicious heirloom squash variety.

Grow Squash Vertically on Trellises

Vining squash plants are notorious for spreading all over the garden. Some gardeners refrain from planting squash due to space restraints. Growing squash vertically solves this problem plus gives plants protection from pests and diseases.

Best Varieties for Vertical Growing

Any vining variety of squash can be grown vertically, but the heavier winter squash varieties can be a challenge. Heavy squash can break off the vine prematurely even when supported by slings. The vertical structure or trellis would need extra support also if the heavy squash is grown on it. Try growing these lighter vining squash varieties vertically:

  • Zucchini
  • Acorn
  • Yellow, summer
  • Delicata

Best Trellis Types

Garden trellis plans abound online and in books. From simple to sophisticated, there are trellises to meet every need. Squash plants require trellises made of heavy duty material. There are different ways to construct strong trellises.

Tunnel Trellis

The 4 by 16 feet cattle panel is perfect for making a tunnel trellis. Simply, pound two t-posts into the ground about three feet apart in the area where you will plant the squash. Do the same in the adjacent bed or row. Place the cattle panel inside the four t-posts forming an arch. Securely attach the panel to the t-posts.

Basic Trellis

Cattle panel fencing can be used to make a basic straight, upright trellis. About every four to six feet pound a t-post in the ground. Securely attach the fencing to the t-posts. The metal fencing can be cut to the desired size with wire cutters.

Circle Cage Trellis

Cattle panel fencing can also be used to construct a circular cage. Use wire cutters to cut the fencing to the desired length. Simply bring both ends together and attach in several places. To prevent the cage from falling, pound a t-post or sturdy stake in the ground against the cage. Then attach the cage to the t-post or sturdy stake.

Growing Vertically

As squash plants grow, gently weave the vines in and out of the fencing. Squash may require support as they become heavy. Slings made with old pantyhose or fabric can be helpful with supporting the squash. It may be necessary to tie the vines to the fencing also. To prevent damage to the vine, use old pantyhose or fabric that stretches as the vine grows.

Growing the squash vertically is the same no matter what type of trellis is used. The same spacing, water, soil, sunlight, and nutrient requirements of growing on the ground should be followed also. The only difference may be less fruit rot, pests, and disease.

Origins and Characteristics

Delicata squash belong to the same species as acorn and spaghetti squash. Burpee Seed Co. began selling delicata seeds in 1891. The vegetable was popular in the early 20th century. However, its vulnerability to disease and yield problems led to its demise in popularity. Unlike other winter squash, delicata rind is not very tough and is edible. It is easily recognizable due to its dark green stripes, cream-colored skin and elongated shape. Varieties include the award-winning disease-resistant “Cornell's Bush Delicata” developed at Cornell University, “Sweet Dumpling” which is good stuffed, “Sugar Loaf,” an oval-shaped variety and ”Honey Boat,” which is very sweet.

How to Grow Winter Squash

Last Updated: March 4, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

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Hubbard, Butternut, Acorn, Delicata and Spaghetti squash are some of the many varieties that show up in supermarkets in the fall. Pumpkins fall into the same category, but some are good eating while others are fibrous and/or watery. Like so many vegetables and fruits on the market, the commercial varieties are often chosen for criteria other than flavor, but there's a huge variety of types that you can grow yourself.


Delicata squash is a type of winter squash with a distinctive long shape with longitudinal stripes. Also known as the carnival squash for its colorful appearance, often bright yellow, orange and green. It is named "delicata" because of its skin, which is thin enough to be either easily peeled off prior to cooking, or eaten once it has been cooked.

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable, in the same family as summer squash. Unlike summer squash, though, winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.


Winter Squash are quite frost tender and cannot be planted until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Don't put them out before the temperature reaches 65 degrees F daily.

Winter Squash are sprawling plants, notorious for taking up a lot of room so do not plant them in the middle of the intensive garden. They take a lot less space if grown vertically on trellises or cages, but then of course they cast a considerable amount of shade. Generally it is best to plant them in hills at the edge of the garden and let them run off into unused space. The site of an old compost pile by a wire fence is perfect. Once established they can compete with almost any plant, so long as their roots are in good soil and they are well fed and watered.

Don’t plant out until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up and the temperature reaches 65° F daily (when the Apple trees blossom.)

The plants need an evenly moist soil for maximum productivity. The best way to water squash is in the morning with a soaker hose or drip irrigation, as wet foliage can easily lead to fungus diseases, especially with cooler nighttime temperatures.

Water moderately early in development and heavier after fruits form.

High nitrogen. Moderate potassium. Moderate phosphorous. Squash have a very vigorous root system, which may go down 6 feet in its search for nutrients.

Tricia shows you how to grow Pumpkins and Winter Squash.

Tricia shows you how to build a variety of quick and easy vegetable trellises. Garden vertically this year, trellis tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, beans, and peas.

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Probably let it grow and prosper until around the time you're expecting your first cold nights. It may change color to tell you when it's ready. Then harvest it, cut it up in serving-size chunks, and wrap and refrigerate the pieces. It will keep for quite a long time.

I can't remember the test for ripeness for winter squash, sorry. How about posting a picture of it?

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

Do you have other squash/pumpkins growing in your garden (or maybe in nearby gardens)? If so, any of them that are Cucurbita pepo will easily cross with the Delicata.

Won't taste good right now at all. They need to harden and ripen. The flesh will be firm and golden or orange, like a pumpkin or an acorn squash.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

I'd also be inclined to just let it grow and see how it turns out!

Product Information

  • Squash should be grown in the warm season when soils are at least 70°F.

  • Direct seed in the spring once soils have warmed.

Planting Delicata Winter Squash

  • In Zones 9 and 10, you can direct seed or transplant out your squash. We recommend direct seeding into freshly irrigated soils.
  • To direct sow, plant seeds in debris-free, well-worked soil that has been deeply watered. Cover with 1″ of finely sifted soil.
  • If you are planting seeds in starter pots, plant seeds into thoroughly moist high-quality seed starting soil. Place seeds on top of the soil and cover with 1″ of finely sifted soil.
  • Once your squash has germinated and the first set of true leaves show, fertilize with an organic liquid fertilizer. When the plants are 3-4″ tall you can plant them out into the garden. Space at least 12″ apart.

Growing Delicata Winter Squash

  • Squash should be planted into deeply irrigated, fertile soil. In Zones 9 and 10, adding tons of compost will help create a healthy soil structure and keep soil moistures in.
  • Mulching heavily around your plants will also help with weed suppression and moisture retention.
  • Pollination is key to producing squash. You should hand pollinate your squash if you doubt you have good pollination.

Harvesting Delicata Winter Squash

  • Squash are best harvested at peek ripeness. There are two ways to know that your fruit is ready, this is by knowing what kind of squash you are growing.
  • Summer Squash is eaten when it is young and tender. You want to be able to pierce the flesh of the squash with your nail. These are crops like zucchini and scallop squashes among others.
  • Winter Squash is a squash that will mature with a hard outside and can keep for several months through the winter. Hence the name! These squash you want to fully mature on the vine.

Growing Squash in Containers

  • Squash plants like to grow across the ground but alternatively can be grown up a trellis if hanging fruit are supported. If growing in a container, make sure your container is at least 20″ deep. Keep in mind containers will dry out faster because they have more surface area and less soil to hold onto moisture. Mulch heavily on the top layer of soil in the pot to keep the soil from drying out or heating up too much.

Southern California Pro-tips

  • Mulch heavily around your squash plants to ensure the soil does not dry out or overheat.
  • Do not overhead water as this promotes foliar diseases.
  • Grow at least two squash plants to ensure good pollination.

Companion Flowers/Crops

  • Squash are aggressively growing plants that look wonderful with cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers.

Additional Learning Resources

  • New to starting crops from seeds? Please watch our Seed Starting Presentation to learn the basics!
  • Learn about growing all our crops on our YouTube page!
  • Having pest issues? Check out in-depth information for pests that can be an issue to squash at the UC Integrated Pest Management site.

Watch the video: Planting Delicata Squash

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