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From giant pumpkins that weigh hundreds of pounds to miniature pumpkins that fit neatly in the palm of your hand, there’s a pumpkin for every gardener. Growing pumpkins is easy, though it can require ample space. Give pumpkins—especially the large ones—plenty of room to spread. There’s a reason they call it a pumpkin patch: These autumn treasures need room and grow several feet out in all directions. Traditional orange jack-o’-lantern pumpkins are fun for carving, but it’s also fun to try other colors: white, buff, blue-green, and scarlet.
Note: Pumpkins are a type of winter squash, and most of the “pumpkins” used for commercial baking are other types of winter squash.
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garden plans for Pumpkin
Pumpkins are big—sometimes ungainly—plants, but they can have a bit of charm with their large, dark-green, shield-shape leaves. Plan your pumpkin patch with care: Unless you select only the compact, bush-type varieties, you'll find your pumpkin plants will quickly take up quite a bit of garden space. Happily, if you don't have horizontal space, you can let your pumpkins grow vertically on a sturdy trellis, arbor, or pergola. The way the pumpkins hang in the air is fascinating.
Because pumpkin plants are relatively deer-resistant, thanks to their bristly leaves and stems, they can be useful for planting around the perimeter of the vegetable garden as one way to help deter four-legged critters.
If you want good harvests, be sure to plant pumpkins in full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun per day) with well-draining soil. If your ground has a high sand or clay content, amend it liberally with organic matter—such as compost, peat, or coir—to fuel your pumpkin plants' rampant growth. This is especially important if you're growing giant varieties.
Because pumpkins are heat-loving plants, place seeds or transplants outdoors after soil temperatures remain above 60 degrees F. If you put them out too early and it's still cold, your seeds or young plants will sulk in cool weather and potentially rot before they grow. If you're in a short-summer area, start your pumpkin seeds early indoors—three to four weeks before you'd normally plant them outdoors—to get a head start on the season.
If you grow pumpkins in rows, space your plantings 3 to 6 feet apart. Protect pumpkins from pests like squash vine borers by using floating row covers in spring until the plants grow too large for them.
Leave pumpkins on the vine until the skin turns the appropriate color for the variety and the rind feels hard when pressed with your thumbnail. Harvest before a hard frost by cutting the stem from the vine with a sharp knife, leaving a 2-inch stub on the fruit. Place the harvested pumpkins at 80°F to 85°F for two weeks to cure them. For longer storage, place them in a dark location at 50°F to 55°F.
Pumpkin Harvesting Tip
Leave pumpkins on the vine until the skin turns the appropriate color for the variety and the rind feels hard when pressed with your thumbnail. Harvest before a hard frost by cutting the stem from the vine with a sharp knife, leaving a 2-inch stub on the fruit. Place the harvested pumpkins at 80° to 85°F for two weeks to cure them. For longer term storage, place them in a dark location at 50° to 55°F.