How to Grow the Perfect Pumpkin for Fall
Food| | By Brian Delpozo
As fall approaches, pumpkins will once again start taking over the American diet. Pumpkin spice will be everywhere, from lattes to cookies. The healthy fruit can also be available in any gardener’s yard with just a bit of planning, plenty of sunlight, and some hard work. While the growing season is nearing an end, there’s still enough time to get some grown before Halloween.
Like almost every specimen in a good garden, the first step to growing pumpkins in ensuring the soil is correct. Pumpkins need warm, nitrogen-free soil for their best growth, preferably with a pH between six and 6.8. In cooler climates, the soil should be warmed with a piece of black plastic for a week or two before planting.
Placement is also important, as pumpkin vines grow quickly and to large sizes. To ensure they don’t fully take over a given garden, the pumpkins should be planted toward the outside of the garden, three to five feet apart from each other.
The next step in proper pumpkin growing is setting up a water schedule system. Pumpkins need a great deal of water, especially when flowering. However, foliage on the plants is very susceptible to fungus and mildew if left wet. Therefore, the best option is to set up a drip system that channels water directly to the soil, avoiding the foliage entirely.
Once your soil is ready and watering system established, actual growth can begin. In the first few weeks, some gardeners pinch the tips out of main vines when they reach about two feet long to get more pumpkins. This can produce a sturdier vine that can set more pumpkins during the growing season. On the other hand, if the goal is fewer, larger pumpkins, pinching off any new flowers that form once there are three to four fruits on the vine is a smart way to go. To avoid rotting, slip a piece of cardboard, newspaper, or other similar material between the fruit and the soil.
Once they’re ready, it’s important for pumpkins to be harvested before frost. The fruit is ripe when the outside is fully colored, skin is hard, and the stem begins to shrivel and dry. To harvest, the stems should be cut with a sharp knife, and lifted from the bottom. Pumpkins should never be lifted by the stem; as the pumpkin won’t store well if the stem becomes broken.
Once picked, flowers should be cured for roughly two weeks in order to ensure the skin hardens. Pumpkins should then be stored in a cool place, arranging them so they not touching. The ideal storage space has a temperature of 50 degrees.
Following these steps will lead to a garden full of delicious and visually appealing pumpkins ready for the fall.