Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a spooky carved pumpkin on your doorstep. While it is always easy to find a pumpkin in the fall it can be a lot of fun for you and your children to grow your own. When to plant pumpkin seeds depends on where you live. Since pumpkins are warm weather vines if you live in Northern areas you will want to plant them after all danger of frost in your area has past. This would usually be in mid to late May but if you live in the South you can wait until July to plant your seeds.
Pumpkins are indigenous to North America and are also known as Winter Squash. Although orange is the traditional color for pumpkins white and green varieties are available as well. Over the past decade, consuming pumpkins is much more popular. We’re probably all familiar with the Thanksgiving staple pumpkin pie but it is also used in chili, smoothies and even as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Every child has probably tried toasted pumpkin seeds and you can even dip the flowers in batter and fry them up too! You may not know this but the pumpkins you use for carving are not the same ones that you eat. There are different varieties that are used for consumption purposes so you’ll want to know which variety your planting depending upon whether or not you’re eating or carving.
When you are planning your pumpkin patch it is important to remember that pumpkins take up a lot of room. The vines grow 1 to 2 feet high and can spread up to 10 feet or more. If you are growing corn, pumpkins can be grown between the rows of corn stalks and in doing so they act as mulch and keep the weeds down and the soil moist. You’ll plant your seeds 2 inches deep and eventually you’ll need to thin out the seedlings to a ratio of 2 to 3 plants every 5 to 10 feet or so. Pumpkins require lots of water and fertilizer so you’ll need to fertilize them monthly and keep an eye on them during the dry spells of the summer. They are susceptible to diseases so it is a good practice to not plant them in the same place 2 years in a row.
One of the other nice things about pumpkins is that they are hardy and somewhat flexible. They can tolerate some shade something other squash varieties can’t do and even if they lose leaves or the stem gets cut, the pumpkin will continue to grow anyway. The pumpkin is ready to be harvested when it has an orange color and the exterior is hard and you can hear a knocking noise when you knock on it with your fist. Leave the pumpkin on the vine until the first significant frost is imminent and then cut the stem about 2 to 4 inches above the fruit. You can leave the pumpkin in the field for a few days to cure but if frost is forecasted you’ll want to put the pumpkin in the shed or garage overnight.
Although it’s May just close your eyes, picture your front door decorated with mums, cornstalks, and a pumpkin; the pumpkin you’ve grown. Now go out there and start planting!