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The Difference Between Summer Squash and Winter Squash

A common question I get about summer plants is, “What is the difference between summer and winter squash?” It’s a little confusing, because both types are grown in the summer.

About Squash

The differences between these two types comes down to one main thing: summer squash is meant to be consumed fresh in the summer, while winter squash can be store in a cool, dry place for winter eating.


  • Both summer and winter squash seeds can be sown at the same time, after the last frost, and can grow until the first frost of winter.
  • I’m sorry to say that both are susceptible to squash bugs.
  • Some winter squashes can be harvested and eaten as summer squash, but summer squashes do not keep well.


  • Summer squash has soft skin, while the skin of winter squash is tough and hard.
  • Summer squash has a wider window for harvesting. Most can be harvested once it reaches a few inches or can be harvested when it’s quite large. Generally, the best flavor comes from smaller fruits. Winter squash must remain on the vine until the fruits are mature and develop hard, thick skin that cannot be pierced with a fingernail.
  • Days to maturity for summer squash is about 40-60 days while for winter squash it’s about 80-100+ days.
  • Summer squash is more susceptible to vine borers than winter squash. (although winter squash can be affected.)
  • Summer squash is generally a bush-type plant (yellow squash and zucchini), while winter squash grows as a vine (Acorn, butternut and spaghetti, etc.).

Dual Duty Squash

There are some varieties, such as the Tatume squash, that can be harvested early and eaten as a soft-fleshed summer squash, or left on the vine for winter storage. I love these multi-purpose plants for saving space in the garden and you will certainly find the Tatume variety in my garden this year.

Many people grow both summer and winter squash in their gardens. Be sure you know the difference between summer squash and winter squash in your garden so that you provide the right amount of space and trellising for a healthy crop. If you have tried growing squash in the past, but had problems with pests, get my ebook Organic Answers to Squash Problems to help you grow successfully this year!

What is your favorite squash variety?


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