When Should I Harvest My Butternut Squash? Timing Tips for Maximum Ripeness

Butternut squash is one of my favorite crops to grow in my garden. The sweet, nutty flavor can’t be beat! But it can be tricky to know exactly when to pick that perfect winter squash. Harvesting too early means you’ll end up with bland, watery squash. Waiting too long runs the risk that your squash will rot on the vine. So when is the ideal time to harvest butternut squash? Follow along as I share my tips for identifying ripeness, timing your harvest, and safely storing your crop.

How Long Does Butternut Squash Take to Mature?

The first step in determining when to harvest butternut squash is understanding its growth timeline. Butternut squash is typically ready to harvest 95-100 days after sowing. However, exact timing will vary depending on your climate and when you start your seeds.

Here are some typical timelines

  • If starting seeds indoors in early spring, expect to harvest squash in late summer or early fall.

  • If direct sowing in the garden after the last frost, expect to harvest in early fall.

  • In warmer climates with a long growing season seeds can be sown in late summer for a late fall/early winter harvest.

No matter when you plant, it’s important to track dates and watch for signs of maturity. Relying on dates alone could lead you to harvest too early or too late.

How to Tell When Butternut Squash is Ripe

The most reliable way to assess ripeness is to examine the squash directly Here are the signs to look for


  • Ripe butternut squash will be a deep tan or orange color. They should be free of any green patches.

  • Immature squash will have a mostly green rind with tan patches starting to emerge.


  • A ripe butternut rind will be hard. You shouldn’t be able to pierce it with your fingernail.

  • On unripe squash, the rind will still be soft and easy to puncture.


  • The stem of a ripe butternut will appear dry and start to brown. The vine will also begin dying back as the fruit matures.

  • On immature squash, the stem and vine will still appear healthy and green.


  • Butternut squash are ripe when they stop growing. Fruit will reach an average size of 2-3 pounds.

  • If squash is still rapidly increasing in size, hold off on harvesting.

By examining these signs, you can identify the perfect time to harvest even if it’s earlier or later than expected. Always go by the squash itself rather than relying on a calendar.

When to Harvest Butternut Squash

Now that you know what to look for, let’s discuss ideal timing for harvesting ripe butternut squash.

Before First Frost

It’s absolutely critical to harvest winter squash before your first fall frost. Even the slightest freeze can damage the rind and lead to rot during storage. Always check your local frost dates and be prepared to pick all mature squash before temperatures drop, even if the squash isn’t completely ripe yet.

After Full Color Change

For best flavor and storage quality, wait to harvest until squash have fully turned tan with no green patches remaining. This indicates maximum sugar content and ripeness.

Before Over-Maturing

It is possible for squash to become overripe. Signs include softened rinds, mold, and holes from pests or rot. Try to harvest on the early side of full color change to prevent decline in quality.

Morning Harvest

Research shows that harvesting in the morning maximizes sugar content in winter squash. For peak flavor, plan to pick first thing in the morning after plants have had a full night of ripening.

By harvesting in the morning after full color change but before frost, you can ensure your butternut squash reach their full ripening potential.

How to Harvest Butternut Squash

When your squash pass the ripeness tests, it’s time to carefully remove them from the vines. Follow these steps for safe harvesting:

Use Pruners or Knife

Cut the squash from the vine, leaving a 2-5 inch stem attached. Never break squash off by hand as this could damage the plant.

Avoid Bruising

Handle squash gently to prevent bruises, cuts and other injuries. Damaged fruit won’t store as long.

Leave Some Squash

Only remove ripe squash at first harvest, leaving younger fruits to continue ripening. Removing all squash at once stresses the plant.

Gather Fallen Squash

Occasionally squash will drop from the vine as they ripen. Inspect under plants and gather any fallen fruit promptly.

Check for Damage

Inspect harvested squash and separate out any with injuries, rot or holes from pests. Use damaged fruit right away.

Clean and Dry

Gently wipe soil from squash with a dry towel. Avoid getting them wet as moisture encourages rot.

By carefully cutting, handling, and cleaning your crop, you can ensure quality and long storage life.

Curing and Storing Butternut Squash

Your harvest doesn’t stop after picking! Proper curing and storage is key for enjoying butternut squash all winter long.


After harvesting, allow squash to cure for 10-14 days in a warm, dry location. This hardens the rind and seals the skin to prevent rot in storage. Ideal curing conditions are 80-85°F and 80-85% humidity. Provide good air circulation so the rinds can fully dry out.

Cool Storage

Once cured, store butternut squash in a cool basement, closet or cellar around 50-60°F. Avoid humidity above 75% which can lead to mold. Always place squash on slatted shelves or crates for air circulation. Under proper conditions, cured squash will store for 3-6 months.

Other Storage Methods

You can also freeze, can, dehydrate or pickle butternut squash at peak ripeness to enjoy long term. Processed squash won’t store quite as long but can last 1-2 years.

Once you’ve mastered identifying ripeness, harvesting at the right time, and post-harvest storage, you’ll be rewarded with delicious, nutritious butternut squash all winter long. Trust me, all that patience pays off in flavor!

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Butternut squash needs 95-100 days to reach maturity. Time plantings accordingly.

  • Monitor color change, rind hardness, stem browning, and size to test ripeness.

  • Always harvest before first frost to prevent damage.

  • Pick in the morning after full tan color develops for peak flavor.

  • Cut squash carefully, leaving stems attached for storage.

  • Cure squash for 10-14 days under warm, dry conditions.

  • Store cured squash for 3-6 months in a cool basement or cellar.

  • Freeze, can or dehydrate extra squash to enjoy year-round.

When to Harvest Winter Squash Tip #3: Color

Compared to younger, immature squash, the skin on yours will look a little dull, and the color should have grown deeper over the season. The vines and leaves will be yellowed and fairly dead-looking. This is normal!.

When and How To Harvest Your Winter Squash

I love writing this blog for so many reasons. One is that I can use this platform to try to make you laugh by telling stories about the bad things that happen to me as a farmer. I get to answer gardening questions from friends and volunteers at Petaluma Bounty in a more public and in-depth way. This may be a more important reason.

I’ll do my best to answer on this blog if a question really stumps me and makes me want to look into it further, or if I get asked the same question more than once in a week. For example, this one is for Caroline in Petaluma and Christopher in Sebastopol, two passionate gardeners with great vegetable plots who asked me, “How do I know when it’s time to harvest my winter squash?”

How to Tell if Butternut Squash is Ready to Harvest! Simple Tips to Help You

When should butternut squash be harvested?

It’s best to leave the majority of your crop on the vine until late September or October to ensure the thick skins necessary for winter storage, but make sure you have your butternut squash harvest in before the first frost. When picking butternut squash, carefully cut the fruit from the vine with a sharp knife.

Are there any health risks to eating Butternut squash?

Butternut squash is a healthy vegetable. However the potassium content may be a reason for some people to limit the amount they eat. Individuals who are taking beta blocker medication need to be aware of the high potassium foods they eat. Those on diuretics should also limit their intake. People with kidney disease should watch how much butternut squash and other high potassium foods they are eating to avoid hyperkalaemia or too much potassium in the blood.

When should you harvest squash?

Look for squash with dull and not glossy or shiny skin. Wait until late September or October to harvest the majority of your crop, ensuring thick skins necessary for winter storage. Harvest before the first frost to avoid damage.

Should you harvest butternut squash if it rains?

Therefore, if heavy rains are inbound for an extended period, consider harvesting your butternut squash growing now to prevent damage. However, avoid harvesting when the fruit and vines are wet, as this can introduce excess moisture and increase the risk of rot during storage. Harvesting butternut squash only requires the right tools and technique:

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