If you have a short growing season, or it’s too late to plant winter squash, you may be wondering if there’s a way to get winter squash harvests sooner. A lot of seed packets will say “100 days” or “115 days”, which is a very long time to wait for a harvest.
While you can’t really make a winter squash ripen faster, you can plant fast-growing varieties (often labelled as early varieties) which can get you a harvest much sooner, in some cases as early as 70 days from transplanting.
|Winter Squash Variety||Type||Days to Maturity||Growth Habit|
|Early Butternut||Butternut||85 to 90 days||Semi-bush|
|Early Acorn||Acorn||75 to 85 days||Semi-bush|
|Butterbush||Butternut||75 to 85 days||Bush|
|First Taste||Buttercup/Kabocha||85 days||Vine|
List of Fast-Growing Winter Squash
A fast-maturing hybrid that doesn’t skimp on flavor
Considered one of the best-tasting early butternut squash varieties, Early Butternut been an All-America Selections (AAS) winner since 1979. It produces medium-sized squash of at least 2 lbs on a semi-bush plant, and is notable for having a small seed cavity, so it’s mostly flesh. Very popular variety.
Semi-bushy growth with productive yields of delicious, dark green acorn squash
The Early Acorn is a prolific hybrid with a bushy growth habit with a spread of 48 to 60 inches, which means it can be planted more closely together or individually in large containers. The 2- to 3-lb dark green squash have a nutty, sweet flavor and smooth texture.
Considered the quintessential bushy butternut variety
Tight on space and time? Burpee’s Butterbush is another very early butternut variety that matures even sooner than Early Butternut. It’s a compact bush squash with a spread of less than 40 inches, so it’s possible to grow it in containers or in smaller gardens. Expect anywhere from 3 to 5 medium-sized squash on each plant. Decent yields for such a compact squash.
A new compact, prolific variety of acorn squash with orange pumpkin-like fruit
An orange acorn squash that looks like a small pumpkin, Goldilocks is a new variety that became an AAS winner for 2021. Besides its excellent flavor, it has high yields on a compact, bushy plant and excellent disease resistance. It’s a new variety, so seeds may be hard to find, but this list will be updated with new vendors as they stock up on these seeds.
A delicious, highly prolific kabocha variety of squash
Days to Maturity: 85 days
Type: Buttercup/Kabocha squash; hybrid
Growth Habit: Vine
Get seeds: West Coast Seeds (Canada, but may ship worldwide)
A Japanese kabocha-type/buttercup-type squash, the First Taste is an early variety that produces loads of large squash over 2 lbs. Very early for a vining-type squash. The fruits are dark green with pale green stripes, and are kind of flattened, like a squashed pumpkin (no pun intended), which is typical of buttercup squash. This squash is such a prolific grower that you may end up with multiple harvests starting in late summer all the way to your first frost.
Large, prolific spaghetti squash fruits on a sturdy, bush-like plant
Spaghetti squash is notorious for taking a long time to mature, but Pinnacle can give you a harvest in less than 90 days from transplanting. The squash themselves look bright yellow-orange and the flesh is super stringy and delicious like spaghetti squash should be. One notable thing is that Pinnacle’s semi-bush plants produce rather large squash, on average around 3 lbs.
Why Winter Squash Takes Longer to Grow than Summer Squash
Summer squash is harvested before it fully matures. Zucchinis, for example, are actually unripe squash. If you leave a zucchini on the plant long enough, the skin will get tough and brown, and it will form large squash seeds inside. Unfortunately for most summer squash, the texture and taste isn’t quite as good when they’re ripe, although they can still be cooked in recipes.
Winter squash, on the other hand, is only harvested after it’s fully ripened. Because of this, most winter squash varieties take at least 95 days from transplanting before they produce squash ready for harvest, and some varieties can take up to 120 days.
Fortunately, there are fast-growing varieties of different kinds that you can grow in your garden. Another benefit of these early winter squash varieties is that most of them also grow as a compact bush or semi-bush rather than growing long vines. Some of the ones listed above are therefore excellent for container growing.