Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash, and it makes a nice pasta substitute if you’re trying to add more vegetables to your diet and eat healthier. When you pull the interior apart using a fork, you get a noodle-like and stringy consistency that mimics pasta. The mild flavor of this squash tastes good with garlic scrape or marinara pesto. As a bonus, spaghetti squash growing is very easy as long as you have room for it in your garden. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about spaghetti squash growing below.
Spaghetti squash are very popular for their nutritional benefits, and they are one vegetable that is easy to grow due to being lower maintenance.
Defining Spaghetti Squash
As this is a type of winter squash, it’s not surprising that it has a hard rind with a longer shelf life. This is what winter squash have a reputation for. Other types of winter squash include butternut, acorn, buttercup, and delicata squash. They need a slightly longer growing period to mature, as this spaghetti squash growing guide will point out. The fruits get harvested much later in the season. If you store them at room temperature in a dry, cool place, these squash will last for months.
However, unlike other winter squash types, this one has a flesh that is not smooth and creamy. It’s stringy instead, and this makes it unique among this vegetable group. The skin on every oval-shaped squash is mooth. At maturity, it ages to a soft yellow color. This is how you know it’s ready to harvest and store or use.
History of the Spaghetti Squash
With the recent surge of Whole 30 and paleo diets, spaghetti squash growing took off as it was marketed as being gluten-free and a healthy alternative to traditional pasta. Most types of squash are native to Central, South, and North America, they easily cross-pollinate, and this allows for new cultivars to crop up all of the time. It is believed that this particular squash was originally from Manchuria, and this is an area that currently includes parts of China and Russia.
No matter the origins, this squash is a very low-maintenance garden plant that is easy to cultivate in your garden. The most challenging part of growing this squash is the unruly vines they develop as they tend to sprawl. You can train them to grow vertically to help keep them more compact. The flowers are very large and orange to yellow in color, and they’re edible. So, you can easily add the flowers to different recipes.
The vibrant yellow color gives you a wonderful pop of color to garnish dishes or to add to salads. They also work in decorative breads like focaccia. The fruit is 7 to 10 inches long at full maturity, and it can be orange, yellow, or white. The fruit comes with a hard, thick skin with stringy, soft yellow flesh that looks like pasta. They can weigh up to eight pounds, but more stay between two and three.
Spaghetti Squash Growing Quick Reference Guide
|Avoid Planting With:||Other squash and beets|
|Common Pests:||Squash vine borers, squash bugs, and striped cucumber beetles|
|Companion Planting:||Corn, beans, radishes, and marigolds|
|Hardiness Zones:||2 to 11|
|Height:||1.5 to 3 feet|
|Native To:||Central, South, and North America|
|Planting Depth:||One inch for seeds or crown depth for transplants|
|Plant Type:||Annual vining vegetable|
|Season:||Summer to fall|
|Soil pH:||6.0 to 6.8|
|Soil Type:||Fertile and organically rich|
|Spacing:||18 to 24 inches|
|Spread:||3 to 15 feet|
|Time to Maturity:||75 to 100 days – variety dependant|
Popular Spaghetti Squash Cultivars
Spaghetti squash is actually the cultivar group, and there are several varieties you can choose when it comes to spaghetti squash growing. We’ve picked some for a specific flavor profile or texture, and we picked others due to their ability to produce high yields while being more durable. They include:
- Angel Hair – This is actually a hybrid with a bright orange to yellow coloring. The egg-shaped, small fruits come with very fine strands that resemble angel hair pasta. You get a very nutty, sweet flavor, and the mature fruits weigh upwards of 2.5 pounds and are ready to go after 88 days.
- Goldetti – Goldetti is another hybrid option with bright golden skin and a deeper orange coloring on the flesh. It produces clydirical, long fruit that weighs between four and six pounds. Because of the spread and size, you’ll have to space each plant up to 24 inches apart. The fruits are ready to go in 100 to 120 days.
- Hasta La Pasta – This squash is popular due to the fun name, but it is also popular for the vibrant orange fruit. The plants are more compact with a 24-inch spread, and the mature fruits are only six to eight inches long and four to six inches wide. This is a hybrid cultivar that is ready to go in 73 days.
- Orangetti – You’ll get a semi-bushing habit with this plant, and the fruits come with a bright orange skin that looks like a pumpkin skin. It has a very sweet flavor profile, and they form cylindrical fruits that weigh up to two pounds when they’re mature. They’re ready to go in 65 days.
- Tivoli – Any gardener who has a small space can get spaghetti squash growing with this option. It’s a hybrid that is compact and short-vinied, and it produces cylindrical, pale yellow fruit with a mature weight of four or five pounds. It’s a great choice to plant in container gardens, and it spreads up to 60 inches wide and 24 inches high. They’re ready to go in 98 days, and they won the All-American Selections award in the vegetable category in 1991.
- Vegetable Spaghetti – Finally, we have a heirloom cultivar on the list. The fruits are a light cream color or yellow with a larger growth habit. They’re ready in just 80 days, and the seeds are very easy to source.
No matter which variety of spaghetti squash you choose to grow, they start out as small green fruits that grow to different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Spaghetti Squash Growing Conditions
Spaghetti squash is a fairly heat-tolerant and easy-going plant to have. As long as you plant them early enough in the year, give them space to spread out, and look out for pests, you should have a nice crop. The following spaghetti squash growing conditions will help maximize your yield.
Don’t apply a fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen content because this leads to longer vines with very little fruit. Instead, pick an organic granular option that has slightly higher phosphorus levels. Phosphorus is great for promoting fruit and flower production, and all you have to do is sprinkle two tablespoons of organic granular fertilizer around each plant. Wait to do this until the plants reach six inches tall. When the vines begin to flower, apply three tablespoons around each plant near the base.
Liquid fertilizers are another option you can use, but you’ll have to reapply it every three to four weeks throughout the active growing season. To apply this fertilizer, you’ll mix it with water according to the instructions on the label and drench the soil around the base of each plant.
You should plant your spaghetti squash in the spring and grow them in a spot that gets full sun for a minimum of six hours a day. You should give your squash plenty of room to grow or have a sturdy trellis by each plant to encourage the vines to grow vertically instead of outward. It works well if you plant your squash at the edge of your garden because the vines are very aggressive, and this will give them room to grow outwards, away from your other plants.
One aspect of spaghetti squash growing is the soil, and they prefer to be in a very nutrient-rich but well-drained soil. You want to work a minimum of three inches of organic matter, like compost, into the soil before you plant anything. If you have poorly draining or clay-based soil, you may want to switch to growing in raised beds. When it is time to plant your seeds, you want to make small mounds of dirt and plant them at a depth of one inch into the mound. Having a mound makes it a lot easier to find the plant to water when the vines grow and spread.
The vines will need to stay well-watered throughout the seasons when it comes to healthy spaghetti squash growing conditions. Mulching with a three-inch thick layer of grass clippings, straw, or shredded leaves will help the soil retain moisture between watering sessions. However, during drought, you’ll have to water the vines. You want to water by hand so you can target right around the root zones while keeping the foliage as dry as possible. This is important because this squash is prone to developing issues with fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Dry foliage is key to keeping it at bay.
When you water by hand, you’ll want to apply a gallon of water to each seedling’s root zone, roughly five gallons around each young plant vine, and 10 gallons for each mature vine. Let the water slowly soak into the ground, and don’t pour it on all at once because you’ll get a lot of runoff that is wasted. If the soil is extremely dry, you may want to give them a second watering session with an equal amount of water roughly 30 minutes later to allow it to really soak in.
Squash do require a decent amount of water, but it’s tricky to water them because you want to keep the foliage as dry as you possibly can, so many people water by hand.
Spaghetti Squash Growing Guide – Seed Planting Options
You sow your seeds to a depth of 1 to 1.5 inches with spaghetti squash growing, and there are a few different techniques you can use when it comes time to plant the seeds. These techniques include:
This technique will work out well for gardeners who have lots of growing space and good drainage. Most spaghetti squash varieties will produce vines that get eight feet long or more, so you want to space your seed holes three to four feet apart and put two seeds in each hole. Once the seeds sprout, you’ll thin out the weakest seedling at the base and keep the one strong seedling in each hole. Mulch a six-foot wide area around the planting holes using untreated grass clippings or straw.
Mound or Hill Planting
If you have poor draining soil, this technique can work well for you. Build a mound of compost mixed with soil that is three to six feet wide and 8 to 10 inches high. Plant three or four squash in the top of the mound, making sure you space them several inches apart. Mulch around your mound and the surrounding area using untreated grass clippings or straw to help retain moisture, keep the squash off the ground as they develop, and limit weed growth. When you have spaghetti squash growing in this way, the vines will spill over the sides of the mound over the mulch.
Squash Round Planting
This is another good technique for any gardener who doesn’t want to give a lot of space for their spaghetti squash growing area. You build cylinders using chicken wire that are roughly four feet wide by three to five feet tall. During the fall months, fill them with layers of manure, leaves, grass clippings, leftover potting soil, compost, and other organic matter. You can build your squash rounds on the lawn, patio, garden, or wherever you have space. When spring comes around, sow three or four seeds in each round. You’ll notice your organic materials settled a bit by now. The vines will grow up and out top of the cylinder and fall down the sides.
Spaghetti Squash Growing – Diseases and Pests
You have to monitor your plants as part of your spaghetti squash growing routine for signs of diseases or pests. Certain pests or diseases can wreak havoc on the plants, and they can destroy them if they get bad enough.
Fortunately, there are just a few diseases that can impede your spaghetti squash growing habit, and they include:
Erwinia tracheiphila is what causes bacterial wilt, and cucumber beetles usually spread it. It’s most common in cucumbers, as the name suggests, but they can still be a problem for squash. Wilt typically gets isolated to a single plant or just a few plants, and the leaves of any impacted plant usually turn brown or dull green. The most effective method of control for this disease is to get rid of the cucumber beetle. You have to remove and destroy any infected plants. You don’t want to compost them either as it can spread further.
Powdery mildew has a reputation for infecting healthy plants. However, it’s actually caused by higher humidity levels or improper watering. You want to ensure that your plants are growing in soil that drains very well, and you don’t want to directly water the leaves. If it’s possible, try to use a drip irrigation system to reduce how much moisture you get on the foliage when you water. Powdery mildew looks like a powdery, white spot on the plant’s foliage. You should remove and destroy infected leaves to prevent it from spreading.
Powdery Mildew can be a big problem for your spaghetti squash growing attempts, especially since you have to destroy the infected portions of the plant to prevent it from spreading.
Pests are the biggest issue to contend with when it comes to spaghetti squash growing. The top ones that can hurt your crops are:
Squash bugs are one of the top pests, and you have to get rid of them very quickly to negate the damage. You can pick them off individually, but applying diatomaceous earth is an option to keep them away from your spaghetti squash growing area. You can use it as both a proactive and reactive approach to this pest.
Squash Vine Borers
Squash vine borers may not be as common as bugs, but they can quickly kill your plants. They are the clearwing moth larvae, and they look like maggots. They feed through the stems, and this is where the name comes from. If you think you have a problem with these bugs, look at the base of each plant for holes. You can’t save an infested plant. However, you want to cut open the stem, kill the larvae, and pull and destroy the impacted plants.
Striped Cucumber Beetles
Striped cucumber beetles are much less likely to attack squash than cucumbers, but they still create issues from time to time. When possible, you want to add floating row covers to your plants to protect them. If you spot beetles, pick them off your plants and apply something that has pyrethrins or neem oil in it.
Harvesting and Preserving
Once you harvest your squash, you can easily keep them for several months until you’re ready to cook them and eat them or use them in soups or as side dishes.
Harvesting this squash as part of your spaghetti squash growing routine is very different from picking common summer squash. You want to leave the fruits to harden on the vine. Immature fruit will be pale yellow or white, and they’ll turn orange or yellow later. With white cultivars, you can check the ripeness when you notice the connected vine starting to brown. Ripe fruit also looks much more dull while young look shiny.
You can harvest the edible blossoms after they open. Older flowers will be larger, but younger ones will have a more nutty, tender flavor profile. They’re suitable for long-term storage because they come with hard skins. So, if you pick it and store it properly in a dry, cool plae, you can enjoy it all winter. If you cure it, the fruit can last between three and six months. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator as the humidity can lead to much quicker decay.
This quick spaghetti squash growing guide outlined the main points you should consider when growing this vegetable. It’s a winter squash, so this means that it’ll last much longer to allow you to enjoy it for months after you harvest it.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.