Grow Your Own Bright Orange Veggies For Tasty Cooking
Subspecies: Cucurbita maxima, C. pepo, C. moschata, C. argyrosperma
Pumpkins are a warm season vegetable that can be grown across most of the United States. In addition to their most well know function, serving as Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, growing pumpkins is also great for making pies, baby food, quick bread, cookies and soup.
Although it is used for decoration, the pumpkin types usually used for Halloween can also be eaten. There are more sweet tasting and smaller varieties known as ‘pie pumpkins.’ The quality and texture of these varieties are more suited to baking.
They are usually planted in time for a pre-Thanksgiving harvest, or canned and sold in grocery stores. Read on for our full guide on how to grow pumpkins in your own garden.
Pumpkins are a somewhat sensitive and easily stressed vegetable. Seeds do not germinate in cold soil, and the seedlings are easily injured by frost. Do not plant before last frost has passed, or before the soil is completely warmed. Plant pumpkins for Halloween from late May in the north to early July in the far South. If pumpkins are planted too early in the season, they become soft and may rot before the holidays.
Vining types of pumpkins from 50 to 100 square feet per hill. 4 or 5 seeds should be planted at a depth of 1 inch. There should be 5 – 6 seeds per hill, and 6 feet between the hills. Once plants are growing well, the 2 or 3 weakest plants should be removed from each hill.
The semi-bush varieties only need 4 feet between hills, and should be limited to 1 or 2 plants per hill.
Miniature varieties should also be planted at a depth of 1 inch, but can be planted in rows. Plant in rows with 6 – 8 feet between them, and plant 2 seeds at 2 foot intervals down the rows.
Bush varieties differ only in that plants should be thinned to one plant every 3 feet down the row.
Pumpkins need to be kept weed free. Roots are close to the surface and the hills or rows should be hoed with great care.
Pumpkins will tolerate dry spells of up to a week if temperatures are high, and two weeks in cooler climates.
Pumpkins are ready for harvesting when their color develops into a deep, solid hue. For most varieties of pumpkins this is a deep orange. If vines are affected by disease or severely damaged by pests the pumpkins should be cut from the vines and stored in a warm place until late October. Take care to include enough of the stem with the pumpkin when harvesting. Pumpkins without stems will not keep well. Gloves are recommended for harvesting as the stems can be abrasive to bare skin.
Pumpkins come in varieties selected for taste, appearance and ornamental value.
Choose sweet flavored varieties for canning and baking. Ornamental pumpkins will be marked as such or labeled ‘miniature and decorative.’
Lumina is a beautiful white pumpkin. They are suitable for carving or painting.
Most of the pumpkin varieties have long, far reaching vines. If there is not enough room for vines to sprawl, choose a bush variety.
The standard, and time tested, pie varieties are the Small Sugar pumpkin and the New England Pie pumpkin.
Connecticut Field is the common standard field pumpkin for size, shape, and carving.
Pests are generally not a problem as pumpkins are hardy and grow quickly once they are established.
Harvest pumpkins with at least an inch of stem intact or the pumpkin will go bad quickly. Pumpkins that will not be used soon should be stored whole (uncut) in a cool dry area. Too much humidity will cause the pumpkin to turn soft or rot.