It is the time of year where pumpkins are upon us. Between the recent Halloween holiday and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, pumpkins are taking the spotlight at this time of year. Pumpkin drinks are being consumed in every coffee shop and pumpkin pies are on the list for Thanksgiving dinner. They are also great in soups and breads. At the time it is safe to say pumpkin is everywhere, but the real question is does pumpkin belong in your garden?
Pumpkins are actually pretty easy to grow although getting them started requires good seeds much like any other vegetable. Truth be told, but even though pumpkins are plentiful right now, this is not the time to plant them, but since the spotlight is on them, we might as well think about them in relation to our future gardens. Pumpkins should be planted after the final frost has passed and the temperatures are in the 70’s, which is not the weather we are facing in the immediate future. Luckily pumpkin seeds can be store for quite some time, so those that you store now should present no problem when it comes time to plant in the spring or summer.
If you are contemplating growing pumpkins, there are a few things you should know about the process. For one, pumpkin seeds are one of many that can be started inside. If you have a short growing season, but want to squeeze in some pumpkins, starting them inside then transplanting later is the way to go. When your pumpkin plants are ready to move outdoors, you will need to be prepared with their new home. Pumpkins do need a fair bit of room as their vines can be quite lengthy; a long bed usually suits them just fine. If you are planting actual seeds instead of transplanting, be sure to place seeds in the center of your growth area. Your pumpkin plants will need to get plenty of sunlight and have good drainage; standing water is not a friend of pumpkins.
The ideal time of year for pumpkin planting is late spring/early summer. This will give you pumpkins that mature in time for Halloween and the Thanksgiving holiday when they are most widely enjoyed. Depending on the pumpkin variety you plant, they can take between 80-120 days to reach full growth potential. Speaking of pumpkin varieties, if you are planning to buy seeds from a retailer, but very careful. Pumpkin seeds from large scale stores can sometimes be a bit of a mystery in that they are simply labelled as pumpkin instead of the individual species of pumpkin. This means you may be in for quite the unwanted surprise when pumpkins come up in the fall if you did not luck into the exact variety you wanted. Pumpkin seeds should be planted at a depth of about two inches and will usually sprout within 10 days. Watering should be done deep but only as needed; take care not to overwater.
Disease can be an issue for pumpkins in the form of fungus known as powdery mildew, which looks just as it sounds, or downy mildew. This can kill the entire vine if left unchecked, so be sure to keep an eye out so you can nip it in the bud should it occur. Keeping water off of leaves and watering early in the morning will help prevent this. Other pumpkin problems include pests such as Aphids, Four Line Beetles, Squash Bugs, and Striped Cucumber Beetles. Many of these can be removed by hand and dropped into a bucket filled with soapy water. It also helps to have lady bugs on the payroll to help you out.
When pumpkins are ready to harvest, they will appear vibrant orange in color and should be hard to the touch. Simply cut the stem and use your pumpkin as you wish. Although the planting of pumpkins is still several months away, it is never too soon to start planning. Make arrangements to free up bed or garden space in advance and get busy learning about the type of pumpkins you might like to grow. Take advantage of the pumpkin time that is upon on us, collecting and storing seeds so you will be able to have pumpkins of your own to enjoy next year!