I have a butternut and spaghetti squash, and I don't know when they are to be picked. Also, my watermelon and cantaloupe have several blooms, but no fruit is setting.

Is there a spray or what can I do to get the fruit to set?

— Kim

There are several clues you can use to tell when winter squash, such as your spaghetti squash and butternut squash, are ripe.

The first clue is color. Butternut will turn a light tan color, and spaghetti will turn a golden yellow when they're ripe. If there is any green to the skin, they're not ripe.

The second is to look at the stems that connect the squash to the vine. When they turn dry and brown, they're telling you that the squash is about as ready as the vine can make it.

The last clue is to test the hardness the skin of the squash. On winter squash, the skin dries out and toughens when it's ripening. If you can't press your thumbnail into the skin, the squash is ripe.

I wouldn't rely exclusively on one sign. Keep all three of these things in mind when you're determining when to pick.

Most winter squash take 90–100 days to ripen, so you might have to be patient before harvesting.

You also will need to be patient with your watermelon and cantaloupe plants. These plants have separate male and female flowers.

They're easy to tell apart. There's just a skinny stem leading into the male flower. The female flower will have a miniature fruit at the base of the flower. You need both to set fruit.

The first thing that often happens is that the plant will start blooming with just male flowers. This is temporary, but until the female flowers open, you won't get fruit.

The flowers are pollinated by bees and sometimes flies. If you're doing a lot of spraying (especially with Sevin, which is extremely toxic to bees), you might not have enough of these busy little workers to get the job done and the result is poor fruit set.

Usually, it's just a matter of waiting, and the plant will get its act together and start setting fruit.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506, or email info@bookcliffgardens.com.

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