When To Harvest Squash: Best Time To Pick Winter Or Summer Squash

A Bowl Of Colorful Squash
(Image credit: CherylCasey)

Squash plants are popular with home gardeners, but questions can arise around when to harvest squash. Is the best time to pick squash the same for all kinds of squash? Is the size of summer squash or winter squash a factor in when to pick? Read on to find out.

When to Pick Summer Squash

Summer squash includes any squash that has a thin, tender skin such as:

The size of summer squash can become rather large, but you will enjoy them more if you pick them small. The best time to harvest squash of these varieties is while they are still small. The size of summer squash when it is ready to be picked is around 6 inches (15 cm.) long or wide, if it is the patty pan variety. Beyond this size, summer squash begins to develop a think skin and becomes bitter. The flavor is not the best for cooking. Frequent harvesting will also encourage the plant to produce more fruit.

When to Pick Winter Squash

Winter squash includes any squash that you can store through the winter. Popular types are:

Winter squash are used when they are fully mature. This means that the best time to harvest squash of this variety is at the very end of the growing season, right around the time of first frost. If by chance your vine is damaged by pests or weather that forces you to harvest early, other indicators of a winter squash that is ready to pick is to tap on it gently. If it feels solid and sounds slightly hollow, than it is ready to be picked.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.