Growing Turban Squash

Turban squash, also known as Turk’s Cap, is a winter squash that is so alluring it steals focus from pumpkins any day. We pilfered one from the Heirloom Expo last year, saved the seeds, and grew them out this spring.

Not knowing how the squash was grown (whether it was grown the proper distance from other squash varieties of the same species to prevent cross pollination or not), we took our chances to see what we would get. So far, it’s a mixed bag, but it’s all good.

Turks Cap or Turban Squash is a beautiful keepsake from the event.

Turks Cap or Turban Squash from the Heirloom Expo

To Grow

Seeds should be planted on hills 6 feet apart, so the guidebooks say. We do things differently around here because we have sandy soil. Hills are for clay soil. Depressions are for sandy soil. We also don’t space our squash that far apart. We grow 3 different types (a pepo, a maxima and a moschata so they don’t cross pollinate) in the same 4×4′ bed, spaced apart on the points of a triangle. Works like a charm every year. Plant seeds 1″ deep in well-amended soil. We added worm castings and compost, and feed monthly with compost tea.

Female flowers create a fruit that's flat on one side.

Female flowers create a fruit that’s flat on one side.

Our squash grows together and soon the leaves form a living mulch to retain moisture, even without mulch. There is a…shall we say…chaos to this method of planting. Vines are everywhere, leaving no place to walk. It’s worth it.

Vines tumble 10 feet out of bounds on all sides.

Vines tumble 10 feet out of bounds on all sides.

The first thing you’ll notice about Turban Squash is gigantic leaves, the size of large lily pads.

Note the pruning shears placed for reference.

Note the pruning shears placed for reference.

As with all squash, these plants are susceptible to powdery mildew and other fungal infections, as well as squash borers. Luckily we don’t have squash borers here, but we have fungal issues in spades. We cut off affected leaves at first sight of disease. Apparently you can bury the vines to establish secondary root feeders, and increase fruit size. We’re letting nature take its course.

Producing prolifically so far.

Producing prolifically so far.

Signs of cross pollination (or just plain poor pollination) are present in some fruits that seem to be missing the signature acorn-shaped bottom section.

Other traits are showing up in the fruits.

Other traits are showing up in the fruits.

The majority of the fruits, however, are breeding true to type. We’ll save seeds from those and bring them to our local seed library.

Perfectly shaped!

Perfectly shaped!

When is it ready?

As with all winter squash, we’ll just wait until the vines die back to harvest. If you live in a place where winter frosts end your gardening season, you may need to collect fruits before frost, and start seeds indoors ahead of time to ensure a longer season. Turban squash grows to maturity in about 80 days, but we’ve seen listings for up to 110 days.

Come fall, we’ll have plenty of squash for decorations and eating. Try growing heirloom squashes like these this season. You’ll enjoy their beauty long after the season ends.

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5 Responses to Growing Turban Squash

  1. Tony Ryan says:

    I have very healthy squash vines that have many flowers. When the fruit gets the size of a billiard ball it rots and falls off. What am I doing wrong?

    • Christy says:

      When blossoms or young fruit drops, it’s usually a nutrient deficiency. Phosphorus and potassium are responsible for fruit and flower development, and if the soil lacks it (or more likely that it is bound up in soils and unavailable to plants) the fruit will not grow to maturity.

      We recommend feeding your soil food web with biologically active compost and compost tea to help microbes unlock bound-up nutrients. You can also add organic fertilizer that is higher in the 2nd and 3rd number on the box (that’s phosphorus and potassium). We use sea bird guano for phosphorus, and kelp meal and kelp emulsion for potassium.

      It’s always a good idea to test your soil first so you can calculate the right amounts to add. Remember that more is not better. The right amount is key. You can get simple soil test kits from many garden supply catalogs, and you can send soil samples into most University Ag departments. Good luck and keep us posted.

  2. Elaine says:

    Why are mine green striped with cream colour instead of yellow and orange like in the pictures?

    • Christy says:

      Elaine, there are variations in Turban Squash appearance. I have seen some with white stripes and no green, some with green and no white. Some darker orange than others. Is it possible that the seed you are using came from a source that somehow cross pollinated with another squash variety before this grow-out? Also the squash is very light in color while it’s growing. It only darkens into its mature color toward the end as the vines are dying back. If they are still growing, be patient and let the vine die back before harvesting.

  3. Brenda Lauzon says:

    How do you save your seeds, in order to plant the following season. Do you keep them moist or dry them out and put them away?

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