Pests & Diseases
Squash are susceptible to several pests and diseases. The most prevalent diseases are wilt, mildew and rot. Good crop rotation and weeding is important to mitigate disease.
Planting early, before virus-carrying insects arrive, or later in the season also reduces diseases and crop defects such as fruit rot and streaking.
Pests include aphids, pickleworms, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers. Soil-based pests, such as beetle grubs, wireworms, and other larvae, can damage young plants by depriving the soil of nutrients and feeding on roots.
Squash are most vulnerable to pests as seedlings and during flowering, and most susceptible to disease after bearing fruit.
Plants produce male and female flowers, which must be pollinated to bear fruit. Pest control should avoid destroying good insects, such as bees.
Squash flowers are less attractive sources of pollen and nectar to bees than other flowers, so competing flowering plants should be removed from growing areas.
Storage & Packaging
At maturity, winter squash (and pumpkins) should be cut from the vine and allowed to cure for 2 weeks at warmer temperatures (at least 70°F).
The curing process will reduce weight by about 10 percent due to water loss, but healthy fruit will heal and the skin will harden. Exposure to cold at this stage will damage squash and reduce shelf life.
Caution should be used to prevent rough handling or pressure from packaging, as this will cause bruising. A healthy butternut squash—not exposed to chilling injury—can be stored for 3 to 4 months.
Summer squash should be harvested before full maturity and hard seeds. It can be harvested several times per week from staggered plantings and delivered to market immediately.
If necessary, summer squash can last 3 to 4 days at 45 to 50°F and 85 to 90% humidity, but will quickly breakdown afterward.
References: Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, Michigan State University Extension, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Cooperative Extension.