Winter squash and pumpkins can send out vines that are 10 to 20 feet long. This can be a bit challenging for a raised-bed garden. The solution is to either grow them on a trellis (use a mesh bag or fabric to help support the heavy fruit), or plant them on an outside corner of your raised bed and let them ramble onto the grass. You may need to do a little pruning to keep them in bounds.
Like summer squash, winter squash need rich soil that’s been amended with compost. They need warm weather and warm soil to grow and produce well. In most cases, it takes 90-100 days from planting seeds until the squash are ripe. Cold climate gardeners may want to get an early start by planting seeds indoors about 3 weeks before the last spring frost. Plant 2 seeds per 3” pot, and cut off one if both grow.
Transplant into the garden a week or two after the last spring frost. You can warm the soil by covering it with clear plastic, which works better than the traditional black plastic as long as you seal the edges with soil to contain the heat.
Some winter squash and pumpkins – the bigger ones, generally – will only produce a couple of fruit per plant. The seed catalog or seed packet should tell you what to expect. Pumpkins are always fun for kids, but not always good for pie. If you want Jack-o-Lanterns, you can grow any variety; for pies and soups, look for “pie pumpkins”, which have sweeter, more flavorful flesh.
Butternut squash is a high yielding winter squash and almost the entire fruit is edible. Most other types of squash and pumpkins have thick skins, large interior cavities and lots of seed. Delicata squash are tasty and just the right for two servings. Buttercup and acorn squash produce medium-sized fruits and are good for storage, as are most winter squashes. Hubbard squash are great for soup, but often get to be 15-20 pounds, which can be too much of a good thing.
Harvest winter squash in the fall, before it can be damaged by frost. It should be stored in a cool, dry indoor room – under the bed is fine. Winter squash will rot very quickly in the cool and humid conditions of a cellar or garage.