Growing pumpkins is fun for adults and kids of all ages. We have grown them in all sizes, for pies, for jack-o-lanterns, and for decorations. You can grow them as small as one pound to as large as 800 pounds. Can you even imagine an 800 pound pumpkin?
Pumpkins are indigenous (means they originated) in North American. Native Americans used them as part of their diet and for household items for many centuries before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock. I read that they would cut strips of pumpkin and let them dry out, then use the strips to weave rugs and other items. Interesting, huh?
The miniature pumpkins are so much fun for small children because they can carry them around in their hands. They make beautiful fall table decorations and if you are having a fall wedding, you can make beautiful wedding centerpieces with the mini pumpkins in orange and/or white and then give one to each wedding guest as a wedding favor, killing two birds with one stone, and saving a ton of money, especially if they are grown in your own garden!
If you plan on growing pumpkins for a fall party or a pumpkin patch, you will want to grow a variety of sizes and shapes, but include plenty of good jack-o-lantern pumpkins in your garden to please children of all ages. To please the pie-bakers, don't forget the pumpkin pie varieties. To impress, try the Atlantic Giants!
Growing pumpkins is really simple. First, do not plant before the middle of May, after all danger of frost is gone. Pumpkins require a lot of room so you will need a big area. You should know they take between 90 and 120 days to mature, depending on the variety so make sure that you plant them at the right time to have them ready by early October for your fall needs. The package will tell you how long it takes for each variety to grow.
You will need to carefully count the days on your calendar before growing pumpkins. If you want a certain variety ready by October 15 and they take 90 days to mature, don't plant them on May 15 or they will be ready on August 15, in the heat of summer. Plant them around July 15. Similarly, if the variety takes 120 days to mature and you want them on October 1, plant them around June 1. This means you will need to mark your calendar on when to plant each variety or the pumpkins will be done too soon and may not last for when you need them, especially if you would like them to be out in the field or garden in October so kids can choose them from the pumpkin patch.
When you plan your patch, you will make little mounds or hills and plant three seeds per hill. The hills should be planted in rows. Each row should be four feet apart. Each hill should be three feet apart to allow the plants to grow. Pumpkin plants are vines and spread out a lot. Start with good soil in a spot that drains well. Till the soil and mix in some good compost. Most pumpkin plants will yield just two pumpkins, some more and some less.
Cover the seeds with about an inch of dirt. Water regularly in the morning. Avoid late night watering to avoid mold from growing on the plants. Don't get the leaves or fruit wet. Use a soaker hose to water the roots only.
Pumpkin growing is a bit easier if you keep your patch weeded. When fruits start to grow, it is helpful to place a thin piece of wood or some disposable plastic plates under the fruits so they do not rot on the ground.
You are not supposed to pick your growing pumpkins until the vines have turned brown and hard and the shells of the pumpkins are firm. Store them in a cool, dry, dark area and they will last.
Do not carve your jack-o-lanterns too early or the insides will grow moldy and you will have to throw them away. This has happened to us a lot over the years as our children would get excited and want to carve them weeks before Halloween. Wait until just a few days before Halloween to carve them and you should not have a problem.
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