Dirty Business: A Failed Experiment and Preserving Butternut Squash

If at first you don't succeed...blame someone

There's more where this came from.

About a month ago, I wrote a post about an experiment I was trying in a technique called solarizing.  The object of this experiment was to find a natural way to eliminate weeds and the eggs and larvae of certain pests.  If executed properly, it is supposed to pasteurize the soil and keep it fairly pest and weed free for up to five years.  It failed:

I don’t think the technique itself is the problem but rather a combination of my own mistakes and an unusually wet and cool summer.  Well, I guess “unusually” is probably a misnomer considering that this would actually be considered “usual” weather 25 or 30 years ago, but here we are.  So, it never got hot or sunny enough for long enough to get the soil hot enough for this process to take effect.  Plus, I harvested the onions and garlic about two weeks later than I should have which didn’t help matters.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give this a shot again next year.  There is one thing that is under my control to fix which is the timing.  I need to make sure I harvest the garlic and onions on time next year so this process can get to work during the hottest part of the summer.  The thing that isn’t under my control is the weather.  Will it go back to being crazy hot and dry like it has been the last several years?  Or will we have another cool and wet summer?  I guess I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Mrs. Butcher harvested the majority of the butternuts last week.  It was easily the highest yield we’ve ever had in all the years we’ve grown these squash.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that we have a ton of squash that we need to keep from going bad before we can eat them.  However, this is one of the reasons why we grow butternuts rather than other types of winter squash:  they will last a very long time if treated properly.  Preserving butternuts is a very simple process—one that is quick enough that Mrs. Butcher had started and completed it before I even knew she was doing it, so I don’t have any pictures.  But, here’s what you do:

Fill a large bowl with water and a splash of bleach.  Dunk each squash in the bleach solution and wash clean with a sponge or cloth.  Allow the squash to air dry, then store in a dark, cool and dry place.  Periodically turn them to keep an eye out for any soft spots or growing mold, but generally speaking these should last for months.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. Sorry about the failed experiment – better luck next year!

    Very clever on preparing the squash for winter. I imagine they will last a long time.

  2. I’ve read a lot of good stuff about solarizing, so I’m glad you’re persevering. I’ve had a lingering problem in places with fungus and supposedly it helps, but I’ve never bit the bullet to try it.

  3. Squash soup…

      • May I recommend Apple Butternut Squash Soup? I’ve invented my own and it’s to die for but there are an infinite amount of recipes online (none of which are nearly as good as mine).

  4. I wonder if the terracing makes the solarizing more difficult?


    I imagine the edges of the terracing also make it a bit more difficult- those are likely to have a bit of a shadow at certain times of day, which would reduce the overall sun reaching the soil.


    Maybe possibly trimming the plastic down to fit a little better, and either “tucking” it under the earth/edge of the terrace, or using something like wire stakes/staples to hold it down.

    I’m just thinking having a larger volume of air, and more gaps for air exchange might lessen the effect.  This might be insignificant in a big flat plot, but on something with a large edge/area ratio like your terraces, might make a difference?


    Anyways, I’d like to hear what you decide to do, and how it works out next time around.


    Is the dilute bleach dip just to kill any surface fungi/bacteria?

    • Yeah the nature of the terraced beds has definitely posed more than one challenge and this is among them.

      Correct. We’re essentially killing off any mold or bacteria that would grow and rot the squash.

  5. Oh! I’m making pickled butternut squash hopefully Saturday, but after canning it has to set up for like 3 weeks so I won’t know anytime soon if it turned out good.

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