The sight of bright orange pumpkins signal the start of the fall season across the country. But in order to have orange pumpkins (or any other color of pumpkin) in the fall, work must actually begin in spring. Choosing the right variety to grow depends on how you want to use the mature pumpkins: to eat, carve for Jack-O-Lanterns, or simply to use as decor. However you are going to use your pumpkins, use these tips for planting and growing healthy, organic pumpkins.
Pick the Right Variety
There are many different pumpkin varieties that range in color from white to deep orange. Here are some of the more popular varieties for growing in a home garden.
- If baked pumpkin goodies is the end goal, grow Baby Pam, Autumn Gold or New England Pie Pumpkin. These varieties will weigh under 10 pounds when mature and have thin which make peeling easier.
- Good carving pumpkins to grow include Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Both varieties are easy to grow, reach a mature weight of 10-15 pounds, and have thick skins which allow for intricate detailed carving.
- Big Boys also make good carving pumpkins, but they grow very large. A good variety to grow for pumpkin contests.
- Decorative pumpkins varieties include Baby Boo, Blue Max, Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, and mini pumpkins.
Select a planting location that is in full sun. Prepare soil by working in 6 inches of organic matter, like compost or well-rotted cow manure. After soil is prepped and all danger of frost has past in spring, create small hills of soil that are 2 feet by 2 feet round and 12 inches high. Space hills 3 feet apart.
Hollow out a 6 inch deep hole in the center and fill with compost. Poke 2 pumpkin seeds in the center of the compost 2 inches deep, then water well. When seedlings reach 4 inches tall, remove the weakest-looking plant and apply a side dressing of compost or well-rotted cow manure to each hill.
If you are thinking of planting some companions for your pumpkins, consider growing corn, beans, squash, and marjoram alongside them. Marigold and oregano help keep pests away.
Pumpkins are always thirsty and need a steady supply of water throughout the growing season. For this reason, if you grow a lot of thirsty plants and veggies, consider a tripod sprinkler system.
Smart pruning is helpful. By pinching off some of the flowers, the plants’ energy will be directed to the remaining ones and create larger pumpkins. Extra-large prize winning pumpkins are the only ones allowed to grow on a vine.
Once the fruits have set, gently lift them up and place a layer of hay under them to keep them out of direct contact with the soil. This helps prevent rot and keeps the pumpkin’s shell looking good.
Harvest when vines begin to die and you can’t easily stick a fingernail into the pumpkin skin. Use sharp shears to cut the stem 1 inch away from the pumpkin. Place pumpkins in a warm location (70 degrees or above) for 2 weeks to cure prior to using.
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