Squash may be one of the easiest crops to grow in your garden, producing large yields that can be stored away for the winter. You must pick the right types of squash for your garden so that you can harvest summer squash throughout the summer months and start to harvest winter squashes in the fall to store for the winter.
Everyone focuses on zucchini, but no one understands just how many different squash varieties there really are. Winter squash lost its popularity for quite a while, but now that more people focus on food preservation and healthy eating, they’re enjoying a comeback.
If you want to try growing a few different kinds of squash, let’s dive into their world to learn about types of squash plants and how to grow some of these different varieties of squash.
About Different Type Of Squash: Winter & Summer Squash
There are basically two different types of squash (summer and winter) with more than 100 variations on each type. Both are squashes, but they have key differences that you need to know before picking out the seeds to grow.
Here is how you can tell the two types of squash apart.
These squash varieties are called soft-skinned squash or tender squash. They have moist flesh and delicate skin that you can steadily harvest from early to late summer.
Most summer squashes are better eaten fresh; they taste great raw, steamed, sauteed, or baked. They don’t preserve well, maybe a week in the refrigerator. You can try keeping them in the freezer, but make sure to shred them first.
It doesn’t take too long for summer squashes to reach maturity. They should be ready to start harvesting 50-65 days after sowing the seeds. It’s usually best to harvest the squashes young; they begin to get tough if left on the vine for too long.
Winter squashes are the hard-shelled squash. You’ll harvest these squashes from late summer into fall and sometimes into the early winter, depending on when you planted the seeds.
Winter squashes have hard skin and firm flesh to be cured and stored throughout the winter. Centuries ago, our ancestors grew vast amounts of winter squashes because they can be stored for months in a root cellar after proper curing and cooked all winter long.
It’s usually not recommended to eat winter squash raw; they aren’t so yummy. Instead, you want to bake or roast them, turn them into a hearty stew or soup, or bake a pie.
Depending on the variety, winter squashes take between 60-110 days to reach full maturity after sowing the seeds. Once harvested, they won’t continue to ripen, so you have to make sure they’re fully matured.
How to Pick the Right Types of Squash to Grow
Before we start to look at all of the different squash varieties, let’s take a look at how you might want to decide which ones you should grow.
1. Pick Types For Your Area
Before you start gardening, it’s wise to know your growing area. How long is your growing season? When are your frost dates? What are the average temperatures that you see in the summer?
These are essential questions to discover before you garden because not all crops grow well in all regions. If you have a short growing season, you’ll need to find squashes with a shorter maturity time frame. If you live somewhere with a longer growing season, you have more options available to grow.
2. Think About What Your Family Eats
You always want to think about what your family eats. If your family loves zucchini, then make sure to include it. Include all of your family’s favorite first before diving into unknowns.
It’s okay to devote space to growing new crops that you’ve never tried before, but you want to make sure you always have the room for all of the foods your family eats the most before giving up space for new things.
3. Do You Want To Save Seeds?
If you plan to save seeds, you want to make sure that you grow the right types of seeds. You’ll need to grow heritage or heirloom seeds rather than hybrid seeds.
Hybrid varieties won’t grow true to seed if you try to save the seeds and grow them the following year. Chances are you won’t end up with the same plant that you grew in the previous year, and you might not even end up with edible fruits.
4. How Much Space You Have To Grow
Squashes are known for being rather large plants; some vines can reach over 14 feet long. So, if you don’t have tons of space, you want to make sure you grow varieties that won’t produce massive vines. There are more compact types of squash.
If you have all of the space in the world, then you don’t need to worry about this!
23 Types of Squash to Grow in Your Garden
We divided the different types of squash into their varieties: winter and summer. That makes it easier for you because there are so many different squashes that you can grow!
Summer Squash Varieties
Summer squashes are frost-tender, warm-season annuals, so you can’t plant them outside until the danger of frost passes in the spring.
Some gardeners start the seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings into the garden when the frost passes. You don’t have to start the seeds inside; you can sow the seeds directly outside in your garden.
Listed below are some of the more commonly grown varieties of summer squash for the garden:
1. Zucchini – Courgettes
The most popular summer squash grown in summer gardens is the green zucchini, also known as courgettes. It’s a solid choice and can grow in a range of conditions and climate zones.
Zucchinis are grown as annuals in USDA zones two through 11, making them something nearly everyone can grow. They need to grow in full sunlight for the best results, and they prefer rich, well-draining soil.
Zucchinis tend to be prolific. You might end up with so many that you need to give them away! The flesh is generally sweet, which is why you can use courgettes to make a dinner recipe or for sweet zucchini bread.
You want to harvest zucchini when they’re tender and young. It might seem tempting to let them grow larger, and some might grow so fast that they’re the size of a baseball bat before you realize it. However, when they become too large, they lose their flavor and end up with massive seeds that aren’t as palatable.
2. Costata Romanesco Zucchini
Yes, these are still zucchini, but they’re different than the classic courgettes. Costata are Italian heirloom zucchinis with lighter green to whitish ribs that run down the zucchini lengthways. It creates a distinct look.
These zucchinis typically measure around 15 inches long, but it’s best to harvest them when they’re six to ten inches long for ideal flavor and texture. You’ll notice that Costata zucchinis have a subtle nut-like flavor that is mixed with sweetness. So, you can eat these raw or cooked.
3. Zephyr Squash
These squash are two-tone fruits that make them easy to distinguish in the garden. The fruits are long and straight and divided into two colors; yellow is on the top and pale green at the bottom.
One difference with zephyr squash is that the skins do tend to be tougher than classic zucchinis. However, when you cut into them, they have tender flesh with a gentle, delicious nutty flavor.
4. Patty Pan
Gardeners love patty-pan squashes! Not only are they utterly adorable, but they taste great as well. Patty-pan squashes look like little UFOs with scalloped edges around the middle. That’s why they’re sometimes called flying saucer squash.
Don’t let their looks fool you; they’re as easy to grow as typical courgettes. Patty-pan squashes grow as an annual in zones two through 11, and they need full sunlight for optimal growth.
You can grow them in a range of colors. Most commonly, patty-pan squashes are dark green, light green, or yellow. No matter what color you grow them, they all taste the same.
One difference to note is that they have tougher skins than other types of summer squash. That means you can cook them longer at higher temperatures without turning everything to total mush.
5. Straightneck Squash
The name indicates that these squashes are known for their long, straight shape. Straightneck squashes belong to the cucurbite pepo squashes, which all originated in the eastern United States, so if you live in that region, you can expect plentiful harvests.
Straight squashes typically are yellow. They have a watery, mildly sweet flesh and tender skin that is easy to cut. Some people call them yellow squashes.
6. Crookneck Squash
As you might have guessed by the name, these squashes have a crookneck rather than being perfectly straight. They have a bent shape that is narrower at the top than at the bottom. The skin is yellow, and it can either be bumpy or smooth.
Crookneck squash is a bush-type squash rather than the long vining types. So, if you’re looking for squash to grow that won’t take up too much space, this is one to consider.
Most of the time, you’ll harvest crookneck squash when they’re immature and tender, typically when they’re less than two inches in diameter. You don’t want them too plump. Even immature, you’ll notice that the crookneck squashes are tougher than other varieties, but they do have a milder taste.
7. Tatume Squash
Tatume squashes are an heirloom variety that originates from Central and South America. The plants produce green-colored, round squashes with pale or white flesh.
One thing to note about Tatume squash plants is that they produce long vines, so they aren’t too ideal for small space gardening. You cannot grow these in containers.
Tatume squashes are sweeter than courgettes or crookneck squashes. They grow best in warm climates, which makes sense considering when they originate. They do best when grown in full sunlight with six to eight hours of sun.
8. Tromboncino Squash
This is a squash that is often used as a winter squash despite being a summer squash. The plants produce a fruit that is a light green color with orange-colored flesh. These squashes are firmer than zucchini so that they can store for longer. That’s why some assume that tromboncino squashes are winter squashes.
When you cut open tromboncino squashes, you’ll find that the flavor is mild and yummy, making it an excellent choice for many recipes.
9. Round Zucchini
As you might guess from the name, round zucchini are essentially courgettes in a round shape. They taste basically the same, but the round shape is different and makes them easier for specific recipes.
You can find round zucchini in dark green, light green, and yellow, and they look like a grapefruit in size.
So, why grow round zucchini rather than the classic, long, straight varieties?
The main reason is that they’re easier for stuffing. All you have to do is cut off the top, use a spoon to dig out the inside, and you created a zucchini bowl. Some cooks use these as a healthy alternative to bread bowls.
10. Cousa Squash
Cousa looks similar to courgettes, but they have a more bulbous shape. This variety originated in the Middle East, so they’re typical in Lebanese and Syrian dishes.
You’ll notice that these squashes have a sweeter flavor and are quite tender with thin skins. Most recipes using cousa squashes are cored and stuffed; you can do this with a knife or an apple corer. There are also zucchini corers that you can buy.
Winter Squash Varieties
Similar to summer squash, winter squashes are planted after the danger of frost passes in your region.
The biggest difference when it comes to growing winter squash is that you’ll let the fruits mature on the vine for as long as it takes. Do not harvest them young; winter squash is typically harvested in the fall.
The growing conditions needed for winter squash are similar to what is required for summer squash, but these plants tend to have a more massive vining habit. They can spread out everywhere!
If you want to grow these squashes but don’t have enough space, they can be trained to grow up a support system to save space. You also could plant them with corn, and they’ll grow up the corn stalks.
Below are some different winter squash types that you can grow in your garden:
11. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is one of the most popular winter squash types and the most recognizable type of squash aside from zucchini. The skin is a pale orange-yellow color with a pear shape; it’s larger at the bottom with a thinner neck. They tend to weigh one to two pounds.
Butternut squashes take around 110 days to reach maturity, so if you have a shorter growing season, you’ll need to start the seeds indoors. They typically require five to seven days to cure before eating.
It’s good to know when harvesting that the more orange the exterior, the drier and sweeter the flesh will be. So, let it ripen on the vine for as long as you can. Despite having a harder skin, it’s easy to peel, but you can leave it on if you’re roasting the halves of the squash.
People love butternut squash! It tastes similar to sweet potatoes once cooked so that you can use it for a variety of recipes. People love butternut squash in soups or blended recipes, roasted, or even in a stir-fry.
Butternut squash is great for long-term storage as well. You can expect them to last around three months in the right conditions in a root cellar or similar environments.
12. Acorn Squash
Here is another winter squash varieties that you might recognize. They’re available in most supermarkets in the fall.
Acorn squashes are small and round, coming in a range of colors. It’s most common to find these squashes in a dark green color with orange markings either on the bottom or sides. Most measures around four to seven inches across and weigh one to two pounds.
You’ll want to harvest your acorn squash before there are too many orange marks on the skin. The more orange you see, the tougher and more fibrous the flesh becomes. That makes it less appealing to eat and enjoy.
When you cut open an acorn squash, the flesh is a yellow-orange color, but the flavor is most remarkable. It has a sweet, nutty flavor that, once you try it, you’ll love and makes these squashes incredibly versatile in the kitchen. You can find thousands of fantastic recipes; you’ll never run out of ways to cook them.
This varieties only takes around 85 days for acorn squash to mature from seeds, and you’ll need to wait seven to ten days before it’s cured to eat them.
The only downside to growing acorn squash is that they aren’t meant for storage. In most situations, acorn squashes only last about one month after harvesting, so save your other ones and enjoy all of these first.
13. Sweet Dumplings
Who doesn’t want to grow squashes named sweet dumplings? Anything called a dumpling is adorable, and that’s how most describe these squashes.
Sweet dumplings are small and compact with a whitish-yellow skin and green stripes. You can eat the skin if you want; it’s a personal choice. Compared to other winter squash, it’s much tenderer.
One thing to bote about these squashes is that they are fast-growing and have long vines that creep everywhere. You want to grow them in gardens that are spacious and have full sunlight for optimal growth.
As their name suggests, sweet dumplings have a sweet flavor; the taste and texture are similar to sweet potatoes. You can find dozens of ways to use these in recipes.
Sweet dumplings store well throughout the fall and winter. In the right conditions, you can expect them to last for around three months.
14. Calabaza Squash
You can find many different calabaza squash varieties ranging in color from green to beige and even light red. All have bright orange flesh with a very hard skin, making it an ideal squash for long term storage.
You want to plant these squashes somewhere that receives full sunlight for at least six to eight hours per day. They prefer rich, well-draining soil for optimal growth. Calabaza squash plants produce large, vigorous vines that can spread as long as 50 feet. So, only grow this variety if you truly have the space for them.
You can use Calabaza squash in many of the same ways that you can use other squashes. They can be steamed, roasted, sauteed, and pureed.
Some gardeners refer to kabocha as the Japanese pumpkin because they originate from Japan.
Kabocha squashes are small and squat with dark green skin. When you cut them open, you’ll find a bright orange flesh that tastes like a pumpkin and sweet potato blend.
You can find a lot of interesting Japanese recipes using kabocha. One of the preferred recipes is to cut the squash into chunks for tempura, but that’s not all you can do with it.
One downside to kabocha squash is that it won’t store as long as other types. You want to use them within a month of harvesting, so don’t grow too many of these.
16. Red Kuri
You won’t find red kuri, often called uchiki, in your local grocery store! This is another Japanese winter squash that looks like a small, bright orange, onion-shaped squash. Grown in the right conditions, these plants grow heavy harvests.
Red kuri squashes have a slight chestnut-like flavor; they’re mild and sweet, making them versatile for different recipes. The flesh is dense, so it holds together well when cooking, but you’ll find that you can blend the skin easily for soups or puree.
17. Hubbard Squash
If you’re looking for winter squash that you can store for several months in your root cellar, look for a Hubbard squash. There are many different types of Hubbard squashes, and they vary in appearance and coloration, but they all tend to be perfect for extended storage.
No matter which of the varieties you buy, Hubbard squashes all tend to be large with an orange-colored flesh and thick, tough skin. You’ll need to remove the skin to add these squashes to different recipes, but it does peel easily.
So how large is large?
Some Hubbard squashes can weigh up to 50 pounds – seriously. When they reach those sizes, they’re often used the same way you might use a pumpkin – filling for pies and purees in other dishes.
Due to their large sizes, Hubbard squashes require at least 100 days to reach maturity after seed germination. When the vines start to dry, it’s time to harvest. Then, they need ten days to two weeks to cure. Always leave a two-inch section of the stem on the fruit when storing.
The tough skin is vital for long-term storage. Once cured properly, you can expect Hubbard squashes to store in the right conditions for up to six months. If you harvest them in early fall, you might still have a few available in the early spring – that’s awesome!
18. Delicata Squash
Some people refer to Delicata squash as sweet potato squash because it has a cylindrical shape similar to potatoes. Delicata squash has a pale yellow and green striped skin, and the rind is more delicate than other winter squashes. That’s how it got its name.
While the thinner skin makes this variety not the best for long term storage, it means that it’s relatively easy to work with and prepare. The flesh looks and tastes similar to a sweet potato, and the skin is also edible. Delicata squashes have the perfect shape for stuffing with delicious cheeses and meats – yum.
You can store Delicata squash despite the thinner skin, but you must make sure you cure it correctly. Whole squashes can be stored for three months.
19. Spaghetti Squash
Here is another type of squash that is easily identified. While spaghetti squashes come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, you typically find them at your local grocery store with either a yellow or orange-colored rind.
On the outside, spaghetti squash doesn’t look too impressive. They are a solid color, but the magic happens when you cut them open. The center contains large seeds and solid flesh that looks similar to other squashes. However, when you cook it, the flesh falls into ribbons or strands that look just like spaghetti.
Spaghetti squashes have enjoyed a comeback in popularity within the last five to ten years. People discovered this low-carb, healthy alternative to spaghetti, and you don’t even need a spiralizer.
You can store spaghetti squash for one to two months in the right conditions. While that’s not as long as other varieties, it’s better than nothing.
20. Buttercup Squash
If you like to grow unique, heirloom plants, buttercup squash is an excellent choice because there are many different cultivars to try in your garden. All of them are identifiable by their squat, compact form.
Buttercup squashes typically have dark, green skin with lighter stripes. They’re heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh. The flesh has a mild, sweet flavor to use in savory and sweet dishes. It works well baked, steamed, or mashed.
One thing to note is that buttercup squashes do store well. In the right conditions, these squashes last for around three months.
21. Banana Squash
If you want to add some fun looking squashes, you can find exciting heritage varieties of banana squash. They are typically large and elongated in shape no matter what cultivar you decide to grow.
Banana squashes are known for reaching substantial sizes and weights. The skins tend to be orange in color, but some are pink, red, or blue hues, so it can be fun to grow different varieties.
One reason to grow banana squashes is that they’re a great long-term storage squash. When cured and stored correctly, banana squashes store for up to six months.
22. Turban Squash
You probably can guess how these winter squashes got their name – they look like turbans. All turban squashes share the same shape in common. Turban squashes have a smaller round bump at the blossom end on top of a large, round shape.
Not only are these squashes delicious, but they also can double as decorative squash because of their bumpy skin and wide range of colors. Unlike decorative gourds, you actually can eat these, so leave them out for decoration, then make some yummy meals with them.
Turban squashes have a mild flavor, so they work well as a substitute in many recipes. You can pair it well with a range of ingredients.
23. Carnival Squash
Chances are you’ve never heard of carnival squash, but once you try it, you’ll want to continue to grow it. Carnival squash is a hybrid squash, a cross between an acorn and a sweet dumpling squash.
That means they are smaller in size with attractive stripes and variegated exteriors. The flesh is a pale orange that tastes similar to butternut squash. The sweetness makes it a versatile squash to grow in your garden.
You can try roasting or steaming carnival squash. The only thing you cannot do is store it for too long. Carnival squashes only last around one month in proper storage.
Try Growing Squash This Year
As you can see, there is more to squash than just zucchini. There are so many different types of squash that you can grow in your garden, from the summer to winter squash. Try growing several of these squashes in your next growing season to find your favorite ones!
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.