Have you ever grown a pumpkin? Sometimes you get volunteer pumpkin vines growing from the leftover Jack O’Lantern you tossed into the compost pile last year. Those can be grown right there in the compost pile, if you leave the compost pile alone and don’t turn it.
But, it’s more satisfying to actually grow a variety that you’ll use in cooking. The diversity in pumpkins is amazing!
So many varieties. There are pumpkins with hulless seeds (great for making baked seeds for snacks), decorative pumpkins, white pumpkins, tiny pumpkins, pie pumpkins, warty pumpkins, GIANT pumpkins and those suited for Jack O’Lanterns.
Fall is the season that we all think about pumpkins but if you want a good harvest you’ve got to start thinking about pumpkins a lot sooner! Buy seeds now through spring, plant in early summer as some varieties need a full four months (or more) to mature.)
Amended soils work best of course. Add some compost!
In many zones, you can plant pumpkins the same time as you put out your tomato plants. Soil temp needs to be around 70. Sow the pumpkin seeds in well-drained soil in a sunny spot following planting directions on the seed packet.
Those big leaves on the pumpkin vine help shade the fruit from burning in the sun and help to control weeds. Pumpkins should be deep watered (at the base). Consider a drip irrigation system.
If you find squash bugs on your pumpkin plants, just pick them off. Consider sprinkling some DE on the plant to help with the squash bugs, but don’t use insecticides! The plant needs pollinators to set fruit.
If your ground is seemingly always wet, consider setting your fruit onto a paper plate to keep the fruit from rotting on the wet ground.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest when the colors develop and the stem turns from green to a tan color. Cut the stem 3-6 inches from the fruit and allow the pumpkin to ‘rest in place’ for a couple of days to dry out.
After you harvest the fruit, don’t waste it! Pumpkins will store in a cool, dry, dark environment for a couple of months giving you time to experiment with different recipes. If you’ve never had a piece of pumpkin pie made from SCRATCH, well you’re in for a treat.