squash questions

Hello,
Can squash just split open on their own? I came home last night and checked the plants, noticed there was a small (1") slug "chewing" away at the bottom of the biggest squash growing off of the vine. I got rid of the thing, and I think maybe I left the squash with the downside up. Came home for lunch, checked, and the squash had a very large split (half way around) in it. Don't know if something came along and did it or if it did it on it's own.
Also, how do you know when squash are ripe? I've never grown anything before, so I don't know. The types I planted were Vera Cruz Pepita, Mayo Blusher, and Calabaza del Norte. I haven't found out what they look like when they're ready. The squash that split open was about seven inches in diameter, and was dark green. It kind of looked like it'd quit growing. I was wondering if maybe it was mature and my moving it caused it to split or something.
Thanks!
-Charles
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Zach said:

May have been the change in exposure to the sun. (Only a guess.)

before harvest. This is a cushaw type squash and it won't be ripe until the rind is hard and the stem dries as hard (even harder**) than wood.
The other two are C. maxima type squashes. These are ripe when the stem becomes dry and corky and the rind will be too hard to pierce with a fingernail. 'Mayo Blusher' is supposed to blush with pink when fully ripe.
All of these squashes would be long-season types, 100+ days from planting to ripening. Around here, the squash vines would be dying off exposing the ripe fruit to the diminishing sun (with threat of frost looming) when the squash ripen.
**The stems of cushaws, pumpkins, and butternut squashes usually take a couple of years to break down in my compost pile. Similarly sized chunks of branches rot enough to pulverize far sooner.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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