Nothing can take over the garden, the yard, the world faster than a happy winter squash plant, which leads some gardeners to ask “Can you prune squash vines?”

prune squash vine

Is your squash vine taking over the garden—or maybe the world?

Individual squash vines can grow 10 to 12 feet long and a squash plant may have several branches on it, spreading and sprawling over whatever space they can find. Like many urban gardeners, I’ve turned to trellises and other vertical supports to get those darn plants to grow up rather than out—though because of the weight of the fruits, I resort to slings and lots of old nylons and T-shirts to hold the fruit on the vine.

The good news is you can prune squash vines — with some caveats.

Of course, you don’t have to prune squash vines. If you have the room, let them go wild and you’ll be rewarded with tons of winter squash. In that case, you may want to prune off the end of the vine in early to mid August to make sure the plant puts all its energy into ripening squash rather than growing extra foliage and fruit. The video below from the Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener shows how to do that and why.

But if the squash is running roughshod over everything else in the garden in July, get out your pruners. You should know that if you prune squash vines you will reduce your harvest. Every branch you snip off means fewer fruits at the end of the season. To prune squash, look for vines that are not the main stem and snip them off. I mostly take off those that are growing where I don’t want them to grow—onto the patio—making sure that they do not have good fruit on them.

Choose Bush Varieties

Another option is to choose a bush or semi-vining variety of winter squash. These still require some room, but not nearly as much as a vining winter squash. Varieties to consider are Burpee’s Butterbush, Baby Butternut or Gold Nugget. These still will take up 10 or so square feet in the garden, but are easier to manage than the sprawling varieties. And, you won’t have to prune them.

What is your favorite winter squash?

6 Comments

  1. Mary L Ouditt on July 24, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    Butternut !

  2. Lisa Anderson on July 24, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Do the same tips apply to pruning cucumber vines?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on July 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Yes, you can also prune cucumbers.

  3. Anita Oakman on August 1, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Does anyone know of a good website for identifying squash? I have what looks like a cross between butternut and a blue Hubbard growing in my garden, but would love another pair of eyes, or six, to help identify it.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on August 3, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      There are a number of plant ID apps and websites (check out our Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Northern Gardener for a rundown) You could try this one: https://plantsam.com/fruit-vegetables/ Another option is to ask your county extension service to see if a Master Gardener could help with the ID. Good luck!

  4. Deb on August 1, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Bon Bon squash are delicious! Dual purpose use . I use as pumpkin in all recipes too

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