Squash vines are big boisterous plants that sprawl for metres in all directions. To save space, consider sending the vines up a trellis, fence or other support out in the sun. One “hill”—a circle of ground about a metre across, liberally enriched with compost and/or old manure and a palm full of bone meal—will hold a couple of squash plants: not much space taken up at ground level, but lots above ground once the growth of the vines takes off.
Starting from seed
Wait a week after spring’s frost-free date before sowing five or six butternut squash seeds in each hill, with a view to removing all but the strongest two or three. Alternately, start seeds in 10- to 15-centimetre pots—two seeds per pot, thinning to one plant—in your sunniest window about three weeks before transplanting (on the same schedule as seeding above).
Protecting young vines
If yellow-and-black cucumber beetles threaten, protect young vines with a floating row cover until the big yellow flowers appear, then remove the cover to allow for pollination. If bees are few in your area, or simply to ensure that fruit will form, hand-pollinate by carefully transferring pollen from male flowers (those on thin stems) to female blossoms showing the squash-in-miniature just behind them.
For the best sweet taste, leave butternut squash on the vine as late as possible, cutting them just before a killing frost is predicted. The tan, hard-skinned fruit will keep for many weeks in a cool dry place.