One may think the timing on this blog is a little late, kind of like closing the gate after the cows have escaped but….since the spotlight is on pumpkins at this time of year, let’s talk about how to grow a great pumpkin and store this knowledge up for the spring. We may even do a reprise of this as the warmer weather draws nigh in the early months of the new year with suggestions for good pumpkin varieties.
Here are some things to consider when mulling over pumpkin cultivation:
- Pumpkins are very frost sensitive (as are squash, zucchini and cucumbers).
- In our climate, we usually have to start them indoors because we average round 115 frost free days, so be sure to investigate pumpkin varieties that have a maturation time between 85 and 125 days.
- Miniature and large pumpkins often share the same maturation times.
- There is a difference between pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins, so look for those features as well.
Preferred locations look like:
- Full sun – 8 hours of sunshine
- Lots of room – pumpkin vines take a LOT of space
- High quality, well draining soil – pumpkins hate to have their feet soggy
When to plant:
- Again, because pumpkins are very frost sensitive, it’s a good idea to start them indoors in 4” pots at the beginning of May to give them a good start and then to transplant them out in the garden after the last threat of frost has passed – which is THE $64,000 question – our Grandpa John Wallish says June 9 is safe – we can probably get away with the 1st week of June.
- Watch for night time temperatures & cover them if the temperature looks like it will be flirting around 5 C.
- They don’t have to be to be planted in a mound of soil – a mound is only needed if there is poor drainage.
- Water only when needed – otherwise leave it alone
- Water in the morning so it dries during the day & it is not damp at night
- Too much water = powdery mildews or rotting
- Avoid water on the leaves because that as well can lead to powdery mildew
- Decrease watering as they begin to turn orange, no more watering is needed 7-10 days before harvesting
- Blossoms do need to be pollinated, bees usually take care of that but you can use a paint brush to pollinate
- Beetles sometimes bug pumpkins, pick them off & drop them in a jar of vinegar or just squish them
How to tell your Pumpkin is ready:
- Look for the a very bright orange color or whatever the end color should be, sometimes they are yellow or white but they all start off green.
- The vine has begun to age – starts to look dry, stems begin to twist.
- It has a hard outer shell.
- Leave about 4-6” of stem so the pumpkin will dry well.
Take this and store in your memory banks for spring, home grown is always tastier and more fun.