Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for July 9, 2018
Just as watermelons are a part of a traditional July 4th celebration, pumpkins are part of traditional Halloween decorations. I can always remember that as soon as I have tasted my first local watermelon of the season, it is time to start thinking about planting pumpkins.
When planting pumpkins with the desire to have a harvest date prior to Halloween, I work backwards to establish a planting date. When you look at variety information, you will see how long it takes to grow that variety and it will be listed as days from planting to harvest. If you look at the giant pumpkin varieties, they might list days to harvest as 120 days. That would mean that you need to plant back in June to be ready for the end of October. A lot of the medium to small varieties have harvest days of 70 to 100 days, which would give you a planting date as early as mid-July.
Be sure to give yourself some extra time, mature pumpkins will last for several weeks. If some of the pumpkins come in a little past Halloween, there are plenty of opportunities to use them for fall decorations and pies through Thanksgiving.
If you are trying to involve the next generation of gardeners, I do not know of another crop that breeds more excitement in children than growing pumpkins. They are fascinated with watching pumpkins grow and the anticipation of something that grows large, is colorful and can be carved.
Pumpkins will need a little room for their vines to grow and spread out.I would recommend that if you are planting on traditional rows that you plant every other row. This will allow enough room for vines to run. Or you can just make your rows 7 to 8 feet apart. Plant seeds in hills of 4-5 seeds per hill and then thin down to 2 to 3 plants per hill after they come up. For vining types of pumpkins plant your hills 4 to 5 feet apart within the row and for semi-vining or bush types plant your hills 3 to 4 feet apart.
Fertilize rows with 6 pounds of 8-8-8 fertilizer or the equivalent per 100 feet of row prior to planting. Sidedress with 2 pounds of calcium nitrate per 100 feet of row when vines start to run.
Giant pumpkin varieties are ones that win the biggest pumpkin contests and can get to 80+ pounds. Those recommended giant pumpkin varieties are Atlantic Giant, Prize Winner, Big Moon and Big Max.
What we consider to be traditional jack-o-lantern type pumpkins are usually classified as large (10-30 pounds) or medium (5-10 pounds). Large recommended varieties would include Howden, Connecticut Fields, New Moon (white), Lumina (white), Sorcerer (semi- vining), Spirit, Cargo, Charisma and Magic Lantern. Those medium sized pumpkin varieties to consider growing are Darling, Autumn Gold, Neon, Orange Smoothie (non-vining bush type), Early Abundance and Sunlight (yellow).
For those who want to grow small, decorative pumpkins (1 pound or less), try Baby Bear, Casperita (white), Wee-B-Little, Gooligan (white) Hooligan and Jack Be Little.
Pumpkins are mature and ready for harvest when they turn their characteristic color and the rinds are hard to penetrate with your thumbnail. Cut the vines leaving 3 to 5 inches attached to the pumpkin for a stem. Not only does this give you a more attractive pumpkin, but it also helps to give the pumpkin a longer shelf life.