Friday, November 20, 2015

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Pumpkins!

Even since before the days of the seasonal “PSL” craze, pumpkins have been a staple of the autumnal spirit. Beginning every October, when we slice-n-dice ‘em into silly-faced heads, these sturdy orange veggies are with us right through to the last slices of pumpkin pie of our holiday meals. That’s why this installment of #GrowYourThanksgiving is all about pumpkins!

Before you decide whether or not you’d like to add pumpkins to your home garden, keep in mind that pumpkins require a lot of moisture, compost-enriched soil, and a long, warm growing season (generally 75-100 frost-free days). This means you’ll need to begin planting them by late May in northern locations to early July in extremely southern states. That said, pumpkins are easy to maintain if you have the space.

Selecting a Site
  • -Pick a site with full sun (light shade is fine) and lots of space for sprawling vines. Vine varieties need 50-100 square feet per hill.
    • -If you don’t have that much space, that’s okay! You can plant pumpkins at the edge of your garden and direct vine growth across the lawn or sidewalk. Doing this will also help keep the pumpkin’s vines, which can grow pretty aggressively, from taking over your garden.
    • -You can also grow pumpkins in big 5-10 gallon buckets or (carefully) on a trellis!
    • -Or, you can consider growing miniature pumpkins!
  • -Pumpkins are pretty greedy feeders. They’ll require very rich soil that is well-drained and not too soggy. Mix lots of compost and aged manure into the planting site before you sow your seeds or transplant.
Pumpkins demand warm, fertile soil for growth, and your soil pH should be 6.0-6.8. Plan to give each vine at least a 3-foot diameter mound, or hill, of warm, enriched soil. You can test your soil every year or two to determine how to amend it for ideal pumpkin growth. In cool climates, you can warm your soil a week before planting by covering it with a piece of black plastic; then, cut a hole in the plastic and plant through the hole.

Pumpkins need ample water when flowers and fruits are forming. It’s best to use a drip system or soaker hose to directly water soil at the base of the vines to avoid wetting the foliage. Try to water early in the morning; most vines will wilt under the bright, hot afternoon sun, but if you see foliage wilting before 11:00 a.m., that’s a sign that they need water. Pumpkins are also heavy feeders; regular treatments of manure or compost mixed with water will sustain good growth, and fertilize on a regular basis.

The first few flowers on pumpkin vines will be male blooms. Their pollen attracts bees so that when female blossoms begin to open, the bees will have the pumpkin vines on their daily flights. Bees are essential for pollination, so be mindful when using insecticides to kill pests.

Some gardeners promote branching to get more pumpkins by pinching the tips out of main vines when they reach about 2 feet long. For a higher yield on a vine, remove all the female flowers (those with a small swelling at the base of the bloom) for the first 3 weeks. This will produce a sturdier vine with more, albeit smaller, pumpkins. If your goal is fewer, larger pumpkins per vine, once you have 3-4 fruits on a vine, pinch off all the remaining flowers as they form. Encourage an even shape by carefully turning the fruits as they develop.

Pests and Diseases
Squash bugs and cucumber beetles are common, especially late in the summer. You can contact your local County Extension office for dealing with pests specific to your area. Be on the lookout for other pests, like aphids, or fungal diseases like Powdery Mildew and Anthracnose. Slip a thin board or piece of cardboard beneath the fruits to prevent possible rot.

Harvest and Storage
  • -Toward the end of the season, remove any leaves that shade ripening pumpkins.
  • -A pumpkin is ripe when the outside is fully colored, skin is hard, and the stem begins to shrivel and dry.
  • -To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners.
  • -Do not tear the stem. About 3-4 inches of stem will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.
  • -Before storing, cure pumpkins by setting them in the sun 10-14 days to harden the skin.
  • -Store cured pumpkins so they don’t touch in a cool place (ideally 50-55℉).
  • -Under ideal conditions your cured pumpkins should store for 2-3 months.

#GrowYourThanksgiving with Pumpkins
Pumpkins are such a Thanksgiving staple that it’s likely you already have a pumpkin dish as a part of your traditional meal. Now imagine a slice of your favorite pie made with pumpkins from your very own garden...yum! Or, if you’d like to do something new with your crop, why not try a delicious Pumpkin Risotto or a savory Pumpkin Cheesecake? When you wake from your food coma the morning after, you can enjoy this baked Pumpkin French Toast. And don’t forget the seeds! You can roast them with salt or cinnamon for a tasty snack.

Be sure to keep following our blog and and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips for your garden and ideas on how you can #GrowYourThanksgiving!

No comments:

Post a Comment