Growing spaghetti squash is easy and will keep you in low-carb deliciousness all fall. Find out why and how to grow spaghetti squash this season. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of space. There’s a hack for that!)
It’s 5 o’clock and once again there’s no meal plan. The mostly-empty fridge seems to laugh at your empty belly and brain. Wouldn’t it be magical if everything you needed for dinner were *right there* in your garden waiting? Put away your wand — go pick a spaghetti squash and dinner’s back on track!
Why to Consider Growing Spaghetti Squash
I am a HUGE fan of this miracluous, dinner-saving squash. Plus anyone trying to cut back on carbs or grains will find this home-grown noodle replacement a lifesaver.
Spaghetti squash is a wonderfully versatile vegetable that can take the place of higher-calorie, higher-carb noodles in a number of delicious dishes. It’s been enjoying a boost in poplarity of late, thanks to the low-carb craze sweeping the interwebs. Once a pretty niche veggie, this low-calorie, high-fiber cucurbit — that’s a garden geek way of saying in the squash and cucumber family — has become better known, though not always easy to find.
Growing your own means you can basically source your whole dinner from the garden. How awesome is that?
Even if you haven’t jumped on the veggie-noodle spiralizing bandwagon yet, spaghetti squash lets you bake up veggie noodles without needing to buy new kitchen equipment. Always a good thing in my book.
Spaghetti squash’s mild flavor means it works in all kinds of recipes, from your basic sub for grain-based pasta to yummy pad thai and lots more. Check out the huge range of healthy spaghetti squash recipes I’ve collected for you for inspiration.
Growing your own spaghetti squash is pretty straightforward, a good thing for the newer gardener. It’s one of the crops you can direct-seed, so no fussing with seed starting unless you feel like it or have a very short growing season.
Spaghetti squash belongs to a category of squash called “winter squash,” though you’ll be harvesting your first spaghetti squashes by late summer. Winter squashes include things like butternut and acorn that tend to ripen later and get consumed in colder months.
Summer squashes are those more tender varieties like zucchini, which need to be stored in the fridge and don’t last as long. Spaghetti squash falls somewhere in between, ripening earlier than other winter squashes and not storing as long, though it doesn’t require refrigeration.
How to Grow Spaghetti Squash: Choosing Seeds
Unlike some crops where you have dozens of varieties to choose from, many spaghetti squash seed packets will just say “spaghetti squash” (like this one from Seeds of Change), but they do come in a few different sizes and colors. Johnny’s seeds carries three varieties, which will produce different size fruits in varying quantities. Smaller varieties will have more squashes per plant (14) than larger ones (4-6).
Consider how many squashes you’ll realistically eat before planting a whole bunch of spaghetti squash vines. They are awesome, but most of us won’t go through 40 in a season. Correct me if I’m wrong!
Best to plant more than one, though, in case one of your vines has problems. You can always give away extras to people who will be super-impressed by your skills.
You might consider staggering planting times by a couple weeks to extend your harvest, or you may find yourself with more spaghetti squash than you can eat before they spoil. Choosing varieties with different amounts of time to maturity would also accomplish this, but you’ll find yourself with a lot of extra seeds. Again, you can always share with friends, or go in with friends on a seed order and swap seeds for the greatest variety.
You can also see if there’s a seed library or seed exchange in your area. You can swap seeds or “borrow” seeds for a season, replacing them with seeds you harvest the next.
You’ll want to save some for yourself, though — roasted spaghetti squash seeds are delicious. One of the many ways to cut food waste and eat root to stem this season!
The Nuts and Bolts of Growing Spaghetti Squash
Sun and Soil requirements
You need a good amount of sun to get spaghetti squash to ripen. If you’re planting in a shadier place, it’s probably wise to choose one of the 45 vegetables that grow in shade instead.
Spaghetti squash plants prefer rich, well-drained soil. Work 3 inches of compost into your soil before planting to give them plenty of nutrients.
You can direct-seed your squash plant after the danger of frost in your area has passed and the soil has warmed. You can also start your seeds indoors a few weeks beforehand if you prefer, but it’s not necessary unless you have a really short growing season. Transplants may be planted two weeks after last frost.
To direct seed, there are varying methods. I prefer using the mound method and planting only the number of seeds as I hope to have plants. I do 2 seeds per mound, one on either side, with mounds about 3 feet apart. You can also plant 3 per mound and pinch off the weakest-looking plant if you’re concerned about germination.
If you want to plant in simple rows rather than mounds, plant each seed 2-3 feet apart.
Training Spaghetti Squash Vines
If you have a smaller garden and want to conserve space, start thinking vertically. Though most people leave squash vines trailing on the ground, you can train them up a trellis or fence as you would with something like cucumbers. The vines will produce tendrils that will grab onto whatever supports they can, and your squashes will grow suspended from the vine.
This is actually an advantage, because your squashes stay off the soil, where moisture and bugs can lead to rot. Growing vertically also helps protect against powdery mildew, since you can water the roots without getting leaves wet more easily than if the vine trailed on the ground.
Growing Spaghetti Squash: Caring for Plants
Mulch the soil to conserve moisture and suppress weeds, and pull weeds as you see them. Keep your plants well-watered, an inch or two per week. Avoid watering the leaves, aiming water at the base of the plant instead. This will help prevent downy mildew, which many squash plants fall prey to as the season winds down.
Once the plants get going, help their tendrils reach the trellis if you’re using one, and they’ll take care of themselves from there. You can use plant ties to hold them in place if you like.
Toward the end of summer, pinch off any flowers that form to encourage your plants to put their energy into ripening the fruit you do have. As you approach your first frost date, pull any very young squash that won’t make it to maturity.
How to Grow Spaghetti Squash: Dealing with Garden Pests
Spaghetti squash vine is pretty tough, and not as prone to irreparable damage from those garden banes, vine borers, as zucchini plants, but they can still be a problem. If you’ve ever had these buggers get into your squash plants, you know how heartbreaking it is to watch your squash vine wither and die just as it should be churning out immense quantities of food for you. (Um, yup, been there.)
You want to keep these nasty creatures from laying eggs on your vines, because once they do, your plant’s days are numbered. To prevent vine borers from ruining your crop, use these squash vine borer prevention and control strategies.
How to Harvest and Store Your Home-Grown Spaghetti Squash
You can begin harvesting spaghetti squash when the stem begins to crack and the squash deepens in color. You can test for maturity by poking the skin with your fingernail. If you can puncture it, it’s not quite ready. To harvest, cut at the stem, leaving at least 1/2″ attached to your squash. Be sure to harvest all squash before the first frost, as they are sensitive to cold temperatures.
Store mature spaghetti squashes in a cool, dry place. I’ve read they can store for a couple months, but my experience has been that they should be used within a few weeks to avoid rot.
Here’s how to cook spaghetti squash plus lots of amazing recipes to try! What’s your favorite way to cook spaghetti squash? Have you tried growing your own?
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Photo credits: BarbaraLN, Sarah Marriage, DocteurCosmos