Bountiful Trellised Squash! - Abundant Mini Gardens

Bountiful Trellised Squash!

Butternut squash from trellis

I love winter squash, especially butternut. But squash plants can take up a LOT of room in your garden.  One squash plant on the ground can easily exceed 15 feet across.  Because most of my gardens have been small, I didn’t grow many squash plants until I started to use trellises.

I now grow 2 large butternut squash plants in a 4 foot by 4 foot area, giving each of them large 4 foot wide by 7 foot tall trellises – and I can harvest as much as 40 pounds (one full bushel) of squash from that tiny area! But to produce this much harvest in a small bed requires fairly deep soil, as squash plants have massive root systems.

I prefer to use large, sturdy trellises that I can move around the garden as I rotate my crops. My current trellises are made from livestock panels cut in half with bolt cutters, supported on t-posts pounded into the garden bed, and secured with strong zip ties.

Squash plants growing on trellises

I plant squashes in late May. My sister is standing next to the two squash trellises in mid-July, and the plants have already reached 5-7 feet tall.

You have a choice of weaving the vines within the trellis to support them as they grow, or you can tie the vines to the trellis. I do a little of both. Just don’t expect the tendrils on the vines alone to support the heavy load of squashes as they mature.

This trellis is just over 4 feet wide and 7 feet high. I plant about 3 squash seeds at the base of each trellis, and thin them down to ONE squash plant that looks the most vigorous.  I train about 6-8 vines from that one plant to grow up each trellis. I don’t want to overcrowd them, as I want good ventilation to reduce disease, and I want it to be easier for me to search for squash bugs.

I cut off all other vines at the base of the plant. I don’t let any vines grow on the ground, as they tend to hide a lot of squash bugs. You will also see side-shoots form on most of the vines on the trellis, and I just prune them off, too. You will get plenty of squash from the main vines on the trellis. My plants usually grow 1-2 feet beyond the height of my 7 foot trellises, and just dangle down from the top.

Squash plants grown on trellises need more irrigation that those growing on the ground. The higher leaves lose more moisture to evaporation. In addition, because the vines are not growing on the ground, they cannot sink more roots into the soil along their vines as they are usually able to.

Butternut squash and some other winter squashes don’t need any extra support for their fruit, unlike melons (which do need the support of slings to keep from falling off the trellised vines). But I probably wouldn’t try trellising squashes that will exceed 10 pounds or so. But if you have success trellising larger squashes, let me know!

This year, in 2012, we had a wonderful growing season, and our squash ripened early. They usually develop mildew and die down by mid-September, but we picked this harvest just before Sept. 1st.

Butternut squash on trellis

These squash are ready to harvest.

Use a sharp pruning shear, and cut the squash carefully from the vines.  Leave about 2 inches of stem attached to each squash. If you break this piece off, the squash will usually rot early, instead of lasting all winter.  Eat them first. Don’t drop or toss the squash during harvest or storage, as they can bruise and won’t store as well as a result.

I didn’t find any immature squash this year. Mature butternut squash are a solid tan color, and the skin resists being punctured by a fingernail. I don’t usually do the fingernail test, as I just harvest the squash when the vines have died back or just before a frost. Immature squash are usually a pale green color. They won’t store well, and their flavor is poor.

Squash harvest

We harvested 17 squash from 2 plants on 2 trellises, growing within about 16 square feet of garden bed.

In the past, I have planted 4 squash in 16 square feet, training 2 plants each on the 2 trellises. I harvested about the same number of squash, but they ended up being much smaller fruit. So, for now, unless future experiments show me otherwise, I plan to grow just one vigorous plant per trellis, and enjoy larger squashes.

Bushel of squash

A full bushel of squash harvested from two trellises and 16 square feet of raised garden bed space.

These 17 squash weighed 40 pounds, and filled a bushel basket.  I spread them out in a warm, dry room in my house and will let them cure for a few weeks. Then, as the weather cools down, I will put them on shelves in a cool room for storage – usually around 55-60 degrees. These squash become sweeter after curing, and I usually start eating them by Thanksgiving, if not a couple of weeks sooner. If I haven’t finished eating them by the end of winter, they are still usually in good condition by late May or so.

Well-grown squash from my garden tastes better than anything I can get in the stores. The rich flavor has spoiled me, and I now refuse to buy store squash because I am so disappointed in the taste. Growing squash on trellises has been very successful for me. I urge you to give it a try yourself!

~ Debra

Related Article:   Growing Watermelon on Trellises


  • Eva says:

    I’m going to try this! Looks like we’ll be building trellises this spring!

  • Maria says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am in the process of putting my trellis together, and I was wondering how long are the t-posts you used?

    • Debra says:

      About a foot of the posts need to go underground (including the flanges), and the post needs to be high enough to support about 2/3 the height of the trellis (if you use the semi-rigid cattle panels). So, if you want to support a 7 foot high trellis, the posts should be about 6 feet long.

      • Maria says:

        Debra, thank you! I just harvested four beautiful butternut squashes.

  • jane manby says:

    Hi there
    We grow a lot of squash here in England. Never tried up trellis before but will be doing now. The very best butternut ones we grew were from seed we claimed from a squash we bought from the supermarket. Everyone told us we would not get good results but this became a monster. Like all squash the flowers can be eaten, not much in flavour but add vitamin C and colour to a salad. The small fruit like all squashes can be eaten like courgettes and are quite flavoursome in stir fry. The unripe fruit at the end of the growing season works well in stir fry too rather than waste them. We have a small garden and limited access to organic fruit and veg, it is just out side our budget so we waste as little of the organic veg we grow as possible. Thankyou for the article we will be trying this.

  • lisa says:

    Thank you Debra for all this information. I am wondering if you have tried going Delicata Squash on a tellis?

  • maureen williams says:

    Hello Debra.

    My name is Maureen and I live in CT. Thank you for this wonderful site; it’s very informative.
    I’m growing acorn and spaghetti squash in my garden in small containers on top of the soil. I didn’t realize that these plants need/have a long root system. I was going to take them out of the containers, but when I lifted the pot I noticed that the roots have grown out of the pot and into the garden bed. Should I still take them out of their pots and plant in the soil or should I leave them as is? Also, I have 4 plants on a trellis that is 8 ft x 8 ft. Is this too small of a structure to keep the plants healthy and happy? 🙂

    Thank you for your advice in advance!
    Happy Gardening!

    Best regards,


    • Debra says:

      Hi Maureen! At this point, I’d leave the plants where they are. And given your plants relatively limited root system this year, that size trellis may be fine. Have fun!

  • Deb says:

    Hi there,
    This summer I decided to plant a garden as an activity for my 3 yr old grandson and I to do together. This was going to be a trial and error thing, as I am not a good gardener (I can kill a cactus)…I’ve been trying to find answers to a couple questions…First, as I said, I’m not a good gardener. We have acorn squash growing HUGE (good thing its not a cactus!), problem is, when we planted them, I had absolutely no idea I could grown them on a trellis. Now they’re all over the place. Is it possible to stake them now to get some off the ground or is it too late? My other question is this…I know there are more male than female blossoms, but they don’t seem to be growing the actual squash (the 2 or 3 that have began are gone the next day from chipmunks). There are plenty of bees around to pollinate so I don’t understand this….

    • Debra says:

      Congratulations on starting a garden! You might be able to trellis your squash plant this late in the season, but it will be challenging and difficult. You may also break off some vines in the process. If you’re desperate, it might be worth the effort, though I don’t really recommend it this late.

      As for the fruit, it sounds like you may need to bag the fruit once they are pollinated. Squirrels and chipmunks really love the young tender fruit. One of my other readers had good success bagging his squash fruit with pieces of window screening. Good luck!

  • Chris says:

    Hi Debra,

    I’m doing something similar, and I was wondering if you limit the number of vines per plant, or squash per vine? I’ve been reading about pruning watermelon to one per vine, and I’m wondering if the butternut will benefit from this as well

    • Debra says:

      The plants will naturally limit the number and size of their fruit, based on the quality of soil, size of the root system, number of leaves, and available moisture. Your goal is to encourage the vines to fill the trellis without overcrowding the leaves. You want most of the leaves to have good access to sunlight and ventilation. I’ve had some trellised watermelon vines produce 3-4 ten pound melons each, and my butternut squash up to 6-8 fruits each. Have fun!

  • Bonny says:

    Thanks. Last year I read this article and was inspired to grow my pumpkins and butternut squash on trellises. I was very pleased with the results. So we put out even more trellises this year and used cattle panels to make two arches between my raised beds. Very beautiful. So far I have yard long beans and cornichons growing up and tiny pumpkins and malibar spinach
    Just starting. So exciting. Thanks for getting me started!!
    Now next question…….do you trellis cucumbers? I’m guessing you do but do you pinch them to a certain number of leaders ? Or do you restrict the number of vines in a certain space?
    Anxiously anticipating your reply. Always enjoy your articles.

    • Debra says:

      Yes, you can definitely trellis cucumbers. You want to allow the vines to fill the trellis without overcrowding it. Too many vines and leaves will shade other leaves and reduce healthy air circulation.

  • GardenNouveau says:

    Debra… I actually just read the comments for the answer. I also just purchased your book on Amazon.

  • GardenNouveau says:

    I am very grateful for your detailed post. I read that you move these around the garden and I wondered which direction you site the panels e.g. north/south.

  • Jonas says:

    Very impressive butternut squash! That’s one of my goals this season, as I’ve never tried butternut before. I’ll be doing some in large pots and some in the ground, and tracking the progress on my blog,!

    Thanks again!

    • Debra says:

      Hi Jonas, I’ve grown some butternut in large 20 gallon Smart Pots. They produced much less than normal – only 1-2 fruit instead of 7-8. I would recommend growing varieties of squash that have been bred to produce well in containers. They usually have much smaller root systems that better tolerate the limited space in pots. Best wishes!

  • Rob says:

    Debra! Last year we made the mistake of too many squash plants and underestimated how big they got on the ground. So this year we have moved to raised garden beds. I currently have a 8ft x 4 ft that is about 10″ deep. Is it possible to put 1 squash plant at each end with a trellis and then have them grow vertically and utilize the middle for other plants?

    • Debra says:

      Hi Rob, yes you could do that, though smaller plants between them may get shaded out when the vines grow tall. Try planting quick maturing varieties there. Best wishes!

  • Kay Jay says:

    Thanks for your site, Debra. I successfully grew butternut last year after buying a seedling on a whim. I have a tiny yard and it was perfectly happy growing up a cheap dollar store trellis tied to my wooden fence. Considering I’m still a beginner with what’s probably poor soil, and I really didn’t put much effort into it, I was very happy with 3 excellent large squashes at the end of the year and I’d definitely grow it again. Cheers!

  • Vicki says:

    Hi Debra,
    I recently found your website and have gotten lost reading all your valuable information!! I have been gardening for years but the last two years have moved to raised beds (4) and have installed drip irrigation in all the beds, using compost/vermiculite/peat mix for growing medium. Last year’s garden was amazing for the most part – my tomato plants were 10 feet tall, pepper plants were 8 feet+. I trellised my cucumbers, butternut squash, green squash, and yellow crookneck squash. The yellow crookneck did awesome – 3 plants produced through September with 5-6 squash per week throughout. The other plants, unfortunately did not fare as well. For the very first time I had squash bugs and cucumber beetles (which killed my cukes). The butternut did alright, but only 8-9 squash total. The green squash was planted late and did ok as well. I have 3 questions. (1) the leaves on all the squash that was trellised turned brown and died as the plant grew up. All the plants continued to grow and looked great at the new growth, but the older leaves all died all season long. I attributed most of that to the fact they didnt have the extra shoots to get water and nourishment – they were very tall – 6 feet up and wrapped around the beds several times. I’ve seen photos of other gardens though, and the leaves were green, even the trellised higher leaves. I’d love your opinion as to why the leaves died. (2)Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent the squash bugs and cucumber beetles this year? I was so frustrated with them – I picked them off, used organics to get rid of them from Captain Jack’s spray to nematodes added to the soil (can’t verify there was even any in the mixture because you can’t see them!). I have garden fabric and can cover them, but because they are trellised that is hard to do….again, any suggestions? (3) I plan to plant some squash this year against my fence – in a different area. I was looking at a raised bed online that is only 6″ tall and am not sure if that is wise. Can I dig down below the bed to give it more depth or would it be better to get a higher bed? I signed up for your lessons that you emailed to me and will be watching them over the next couple of weeks…if you have any thoughts on my posting, I would love your input. Thanks!!

    • Debra says:

      Hi Vicki, I’m sorry you’ve had such problems in your garden. Those issues are not unusual. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to diagnose things long distance. It’s very common for squash to develop powdery mildew which will eventually kill the older leaves, while the young leaves are still green. It happens to my plants, too. I just give them the best growing conditions possible, so that they can finish ripening the fruit before the plants eventually die. Make sure your plants are receiving adequate water throughout the growing season. Trellised plants lose moisture much faster than those on the ground. I just hand pick squash bugs (a pain, I know), though I’ve noticed that I’ve had fewer problems with them as my soil has improved. The biggest problem with cucumber beetles are the diseases they can spread. It’s a good idea to grow disease-resistant varieties. I would definitely give your squash plants more than 6 inches deep soil. You can improve the soil below the raised bed to add depth, or create a taller raised bed. Good luck!

  • Zane says:

    Do you think this method would also work well with yellow summer squash and zuchini?

    • Debra says:

      Not generally, I think. They have shorter vines, usually between 3 and 6 feet. Those short vines can be staked up, but their leaves are often so huge that these vines still usually take up a lot of space in the garden bed. You can try, if you wish. Gardening is all about experimenting. Good luck!

  • Karen smith says:

    Would you also position a frame trellises so that they are wide sides face north and south?

    • Debra says:

      If you set up a trellis on the north or south side of your garden bed, the wide sides will naturally face north and south. I recommend that positioning most of the time. However, there may be reasons a gardener may want to put trellises on the east or west side of garden beds, but there are some issues that you need to be aware of before doing that. It’s too much to go into in this comment area unfortunately. However, I do into great detail about trellis positioning and many other recommendations for vertical gardening in my Kindle book on Amazon: The Abundant Mini Garden’s Guide to Vertical Vegetable Gardening

  • Bonny says:

    Just harvested my butternut squash. 11 squash total 30 lbs. from two plants trellised. We used what we had which was fencing 40″ high and 10 feet long. Thank you so much for showing me how to do this. I had no idea. I also have a crop of “Seminole Pumpkins” trellised the same way. They are still producing flowers, but have set 8 – 6″ pumpkins and the vines look good.
    Do you spray for mildew? And do you compost vines with mildew ? Is inevitable that the squash and pumpkins will get
    mildew? Thank you so much for the great info. I am truly a fan after this harvest and excited that the fences will be ready for peas in the spring.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Bonny! Congratulations on your harvest! That’s awesome. It’s nearly inevitable that these plants get mildew in late summer/fall. I don’t have the patience to try spraying all of my huge trellised plants, so I just focus on growing the most vigorous plants possible so they can produce a full crop before the plants die from the mildew. It’s generally recommended to dispose of diseased plant vines, as most folks’ compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill the disease. Best wishes with your garden!

  • Linda says:

    Hi Debra! I live on the West Coast of Canada in North Vancouver. This year we’ve had unprecedented heat and the squash are going crazy! I planted Festival Winter Squash (sometimes called Celebration) in my community garden plot, assuming that as a semi-bush variety, they wouldn’t sprawl much. Uhhhh, wrong! Not only have they sprawled , they have also climbed (without my help) onto my bean trellis–pretty much taken over 40 square feet and rising! My main interest is in maximizing my veggie harvest, I decided to let them ramble in hopes of setting more fruit on all those rambling vines. They are starting to look promising. Now the real cool thing about this abundant growth in drought conditions is that the water they receive is coming from an inverted gallon glass (apple juice) jar (one per hill), filled once a week….Drought watering in urban settings! Spread the word:) I need to take some photos and post on my website…..but currently too busy running between gardens… I am also growing a giant pumpkin vertically (in a sling) and cukes…..which is how i came across your site…..Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Susan says:

    This is only my second year growing winter squash and my first year growing on a trellis. I have two raised beds with cattle panels arched over the two beds. I am growing butternut in one bed. They have been growing very prolifically, setting many fruit. We have had an extremely hot summer and the vines wilt terribly every afternoon now that they are so much larger, but they have been recovering well in the evenings until just recently. I have started to lose leaves each day now closest to the roots and moving outward. The leaves and stems wilt, turn yellow and die. I’m afraid I’ve been over watering due to the high temps and the afternoon wilting. The vines still are growing well and have good color. Have you had any similar issues with your trellised squash? Could it be some other problem I haven’t thought of? I’m not that experienced with growing squash in general. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Susan! Congrats on your garden, but sorry about your squash problem. Squash will sometimes temporarily wilt in hot sunlight, even with good growing conditions, but it will be worse if they are crowded too closely with other plants. So, extra space is always a good idea. I give each of my squash plants at least 8 square feet of deep soil.

      Make sure your soil is being watered very deeply (at least 6″ deep). Squash shouldn’t normally need watering more than 2-3 times a week, at most, except in extreme conditions. I do mine weekly, but I rarely exceed 90 F. If you live in a dry climate, you may have high salt levels in your soil. In that case, you may need to periodically soak your soil at least 18″ deep to drive the salt below most of the plant roots.

      You should also check to see if your squash plant is infested with squash vine borer. Look for holes with sawdust coming out of them near the base of the plant (bottom 18″ or so). Good luck!

  • Amy says:

    Thanks a lot for information! I was misinformed that only ground crawling side shoots are bearing fruit. I have have small space and the only way to grow them is up into the sky. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Debra says:

      You’re quite welcome, Amy! Best wishes with your garden.

  • Tina says:

    Does the trellis method work for yellow squash (crookneck) and for zucchini? I’m trying to find a way to prevent the powdery mildew that seems to be inevitable every year come mid to end of July. How tall if a trellis would I need and what kind of material should it be made of? Thank you in advance.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Tina! Some people do trellis bush squashes like zucchini or yellow squash. However, their vines are pretty short – generally only 3-5 feet. And their leaves are often huge, so I’m not sure how much space would be saved by growing them vertically. As for the powdery mildew, that’s a very common problem with many squashes. Trellising has NOT helped with that problem in my garden, unfortunately. Unless you grow a resistant variety or regularly use an organic fungicide, PM is likely to show up on most older plants. Some gardeners choose to plant new bush squash every month, and remove their older plants once the mildew strikes. I focus on growing my butternut vines as vigorously as possible, to try to get a mature harvest before PM kills the plants. Good luck!

  • Tim says:

    Hi Debra,

    I just came across your article. You mentioned that you were wondering about growing larger squash w/o slings. I have done so for the last 2 years and only lost one fruit (though it was also munched on by a critter so that may have contributed to stem breakage). I’ve grown Musquee de Provence (a C. moschata) for the past 3 summers. The fruits range from about 12lbs to a little over 20lbs. No slinging needed, though if your vines aren’t attached well the vine may get pulled to the ground and then you lose the benefits of the trellis. For materials, first I just trained the vines around a 2.5ft tall garden fence that keeps my dog out of the garden. The second year (last year) I used a series of ropes tied b/w green garden poles I’ve set into concrete bases throughout my garden. This allows me to just move the ropes to rotate crops and the concrete footing provides an excellent support. Moschatas (which includes butternut) are pretty resistant to bugs and disease, so the trellising may not be as necessary for them to perform (but does save space!!!)

    This year I’m trying a wooden trellis that’s 8ft tall and 4 feet wide in an A-frame style – so far I have a Warren’s Red Turban vine (C. maxima) at about 5.5 feet up it. The other side has a Triple Treat (C. pepo) Seems to be doing well. Since these varieties are susceptible to the dreaded squash vine borer and the various dieseases, I’ll get a real test of how trellising can help manage pests.

    As to my yields in the absence of slings… I harvested 14 fruits from 4 vines (not including the one I lost, which was probably mature). The Musquee de Provence typically yields about 3-4/vine, so I definitely was right around expected.

    • Debra says:

      Tim, thank you so much for sharing your experience! It’s incredibly helpful to know that we can grow some larger squashes without slings. You had a great harvest!

      Here’s a heads up about growing maxima and pepo varieties on trellises with their susceptibility to borers. One way to deal with borers is to let squash vines form additional roots along their vines where they touch the ground. They are not able to do this while trellised, so you’ll need to take some extra care about the borers. One possible control method is to use a needle and syringe to inject BT into the interiors of the stems of the vines that are located within 2 feet of the ground. I’d love to hear how these new varieties grow on trellises for you, and what method you use to help control the borers. Good luck!

      • Tim says:


        thanks for the additional advice, I will put it into practice. I usually have even let my moschata vines touch the ground every so often near a node and allow them to grow some extra roots. it’s helpful if a critter (we have a lot of deer) does manage to munch through a part of the vine.

        I never thought of using BT. I will have to do that. I’ve got the lower part of the vine wrapped in foil as recommended at various sites.

        Is your book available in print form? I only saw a kindle offering.

        • Debra says:

          I’ve heard of using the foil, too. Have you tried that before? As for the book, no it’s not currently available in paper. Sorry!

        • Tim says:

          The only non-moschatas I’ve grown before are zucchinis (pepo) and really haven’t had any issues with SVBs – I’ll get the late summer or early fall blights and the squash bugs on those, but they are usually so productive it doesn’t matter. The moschatas I’ve grown (the Musquee de Provence) and a mongrel cross that my dog must have pooped out in the garden for me, which was also clearly a moschata, are very resistant.

          So, no, I haven’t tried the foil option as I’ve never really needed to. The maxima I’m trying to grow is the Warren Red Turban (I still need to find out if David Warren who originated it is a distant ancestor of mine). We’ll see how it does.

        • Tim says:


          you were right, the maxima I had growing on my large trellis did fall prey to the SVBs (had one lovely fruit growing – boo!). I had a few back up smaller vines growing on the ground, that also fell victim, but seem to be recovering (no fruit set yet). as such I’m letting my moschatas take over that trellis since they are resistant and flourishing.

        • Debra says:

          Oh, how disappointing! That’s why I stick to moschata squashes in this region. I’m even growing Tromboncino squash (a moschata) for my summer squashes. They’ve worked out very well. Hope your remaining plants produce well for you!

  • Diana says:

    Hi Debra,
    It’s my first time growing any kind of veggies. I accidentally found a sprouting butternut squash seed inside a squash I bought at the store so I decided to plant it. It’s now doing quite well and I’ve found your article very helpful and I formative! I’ve been growing my vine in large pot with a 6 foot by 3 foot trellis, it has one main vine and I’ve pruned it down to 4 side shoots. I read that the root system can get pretty extensive, do you think a 20 inch wide by 18 inch deep pot will be ok to sustain the plant for the course of the growing season? The main vine is now about to surpass the height of the trellis 🙂

    • Debra says:

      Hi Diana! Congratulations on starting your first garden! That’s a pretty large pot. I’ve successfully grown and harvested squash in that size container, though they produced much less than normal because their massive root systems were stunted inside a container. I do recommend that you use a liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks to help it out. Most organic fish emulsions are very high in nitrogen (like 4-1-1), but you can sometimes find brands that are also higher in phosphorus (like 3-4-1) – which would be helpful for a fruiting plant like squash. Have fun!

  • Kathy says:

    I’m a newbie at veg gardening. Last year I tried trellising butternut, mini cantaloupe and cukes. I was winging it and it didn’t work out so well for the squash and melons – the vines dried up and the plants suffered from mildew and bugs before that. End result was one butternut and a couple unripe mini melons from each plant. On the bright side, the cukes were very happy and productive. I’m glad I found your article for this year’s attempt at vertical growing. Great info, gives me hope. I look forward to reading more from you. Thanks so much!

    • Debra says:

      You’re quite welcome, Kathy. Better luck with your garden this year!

  • Dave L says:

    Hi Debra,
    I experimented last year inspired by your website with success. I am going to expand this year (for me supplies were about $20 for a 6 foot tall 4 foot wide trellis). My question is about positioning to the sun. Do you have your trellises going north/south or west/east? Thank you!

    • Debra says:

      Hi Dave! I’m glad your garden did well last year. You can face trellises either way, and there are pros and cons for both. However, I think having trellises going east/west (with the wide sides facing north/south) generally offers the most benefits – and that’s how our trellises are positioned. I go into a lot more details about the advantages and disadvantages of different layouts in my book: The Abundant Mini Garden’s Guide to Vertical Vegetable Gardening. Best wishes for your garden this year!

  • Gordon says:

    Do I need two plants or will the flowers from one polinate each other?

    • Debra says:

      Hi Gordon! As far as I know, you don’t need two squash plants for pollination. However, you do need both male and female blossoms opening on the same day AND bees or other pollinating insects visiting them. With just one plant, there are fewer blossoms available for cross-pollination, so you might end up with somewhat fewer fruit. If you want, give one plant a try and see how it goes for you! Good luck!

  • Lia D says:

    Thanks for the info! This is my first year growing winter squash and they are doing so well! Huge and abundant. I grew some on teepees but mostly have let them sprawl. So it is OK to prune them back? I hate the thought of cutting back potential fruit. Concerned that my vines (pumpkin, spagetti, butternut) are sprawling too much but I hate the thought of “loosing” potential fruit! Thanks!

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Lia! When I train 6-8 vines from one butternut squash plant to go up a trellis, I prune each vine to stay only 6-8 feet long. Then I prune off all other side-shoots on that plant. Despite all this pruning, I still often harvest 20 pounds of fruit from one plant. Most of my fruit is set early in season, and keeping the plant to a reasonable size by pruning doesn’t seem to affect my harvest very much. So, I say go ahead and prune your plants back a bit!

  • Dan Baker says:

    Hi Debra,
    This is my first year growing trellised butternut squash and have referred to your article several times already. My plants are about 3 feet tall already (as I got a late start) growing up their cattle panel. I am starting to notice several immature blossom sites close to the ground. Is there an optimal number of blossoms per plant and do I need to pinch some flowers/immature squashes off. Also, not sure what you mean by the side-shoots or vines. Still just have one main vine crawling up the trellis grabbing on to whatever it can. Thoughts?


    • Debra says:

      Hi, Dan! Congratulations on your first trellised squash plants! Squash plants start out with one main vine. Then it starts growing more vines (side shoots) at the base of every leaf – where you will also find a tendril and a blossom. If you let all these side shoots grow, it will overwhelm your trellis. You want to keep just enough vines to fill your trellis, and no more. I usually train one vine vertically for every 6 inch width of the trellis (one vine up each vertical rod on the cattle panel).

      Don’t worry about the number of blossoms on your vine. You might start out with just male blossoms for a while, before the females show up. Although I’ve read of some people pinching off excess baby squashes, I’ve never done so. In my experience, the plant will set as many fruit as it can handle, and then – while the first batch of fruit is growing rapidly – it will drop any new fruit that tries to set, as the plant is focusing all its energy on the first batch and can’t handle growing additional fruit. (This is my experience. Maybe other people’s plants behave differently.)

      After the first batch of fruit is nearly mature, the plant is then willing to put more energy into setting new fruit – but these late fruit always start too late to fully mature before frost in my climate. They are good to eat young, though, like summer squash. People with very short, cool summers may want to pinch off any late fruit that may form, so the plant can focus all it’s energy on ripening the early ones. Good luck!

  • Lucinda says:

    Thank you Debra, What state are you gardening? I am in Missouri.

    • Debra says:

      I’m in mountains of southwest Virginia – cooler than most of the rest of our state, but we’ve already had a handful of days in the 90’s in June this year (but none last year!).

  • Lucinda says:

    I was searching info to see if I needed to sling butternut. Your information has been very helpful. This is my first year to trellis my squash and I am seeing that it is the answer to keeping squash bugs under control. I think I have too many plants after reading your post but I have so many squash growing that it is too late to reduce plants. Do you fertilize through the season?

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Lucinda! Squash plants are heavy feeders, and benefit from very fertile soil. My soil is rich enough that I don’t usually need to side-dress more fertilizer during the growing season. However, some types of soils (those with low CEC) can’t hold onto nutrients for the entire season – no matter how much you apply in the spring. In this case, heavy-feeder crops will benefit from additional fertilizer during the summer. To learn more about soil fertility and fertilizers, check out this article: Best wishes with your garden!

  • Pegerita says:

    Oh I see you cut off side shoots allowing a few stems.

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Pegerita! Yes, I let each squash plant grow about 1 long stem (vine) for each 6 to 8-inch width of the trellis. So a 4-foot wide trellis may carry up to 8 main vines from one squash plant. Then I remove any other side shoots that try to grow. I think 6 plants on a 9 feet wide trellis is too many. If you have decent soil, three plants would probably work out great. Certainly no more than 4. Good luck!

      • Kathy says:

        I’m new to vegetable gardening and am growing winter squash and melons vertically. I want to prune them back but I don’t really know what I’m looking at. All I see is a mess of stems and leaves and flowers. Can you help me understand the parts of a winter squash plant (maybe you have a diagram?) … What is a vine, what is a side shoot, what should I prune away if I want to keep 3 “vines.” Thanks a lot!

  • Pegerita says:

    Thanks Debra. I have built a trellis that is 8 foot tall by 9 feet wide. I am hoping to plant 6 butternut squash but think that may too many after reading your thoughts. The trellis goes over in a great big arch to the other side. On the other side I have cucumbers planted. I read that you only allow one stem to grow cutting off all runners. Is that correct?

  • Faye Gonzalez says:

    Thanks so much Debra. You have been a fountain of good info.

    I especially like the idea of allocating sq ft trellis space. Since my fence/ trellis is 8-9 feet tall I can plan accordingly. I have experience gardening…but not sq ft gardening…so this is very helpful. My plan is to allocate 120 square feet of my 400 sq ft garden to this method for my squashes. I also plan a few table king bush acorn squash in the middle section because they take far less space. Thanks again. I will follow your advice. Faye G.

    • Debra says:

      You’re welcome, Faye! Glad to be of help. Have fun!

  • Faye Gonzalez says:

    Yes..I think so. I have 18 feet of trellis, so it sounds as if will this will accommodate 5 plants. Does that sound right? Also, how far away from the trellis should the placement be?

    • Debra says:

      Faye, that partly depends on how tall your trellis is. With a trellis 6-7 feet tall, one large squash plant per 4 foot wide trellis works out great. But if your trellis is only 5 feet high, then each plant might need a little more width to grow on. I try to give each of them at least 25 square feet of trellis space. Most squashes are incredibly vigorous plants, and can easily take up even more space, but I keep mine pruned to the size of trellis that I give them. It’s up to you. There are no hard and fast rules.

  • Faye Gonzalez says:

    How do you get 6-8 vines from one plant? I thought you get one vine per plant. Please explain this to me. Thank you

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Faye! Each plant sends out several vines (long stems). Each stem (vine) keeps branching out into even more vines. Does that make sense?

  • dm says:

    do you know about using welded wire as cattle panels are quite expensive . Thank you so much in advance !

    • Debra says:

      I’ve used welded wire fencing quite a lot for small trellises. I made wood frames and secured the welded wire to the frame. The 2″x4″ holes are much smaller that those in livestock panels, so it’s more difficult to weave squash vines with larger leaves through the smaller holes. When I use welded wire, I mostly tied my vines onto that type of trellis. Also, the holes are also so small that my pole beans have difficulty wrapping around the wires on their way up.

      If you look at the trellised squash on my Photos of Gardens page, you’ll see a successful trellis made with welded wire. Absolutely go ahead and use it! Just be aware of some of its limitations. Enjoy your garden!

    • Dan Baker says:

      Thanks for your comments and especially the “anatomy lesson” about the side shoots being at the base of every leaf along with a tendril and a blossom. I have a feeling that my plants are just not mature enough at this stage to truly see what is going on. However, I think it will be wise to choose those side shoots that will be candidates for pruning as they mature.


  • >