Grow Pumpkins in Time for Halloween

Passing Along Some “Traditional Wisdom”

There’s an old rule-of-thumb in the south that says if you want to have fresh pumpkins in time for Halloween, you better start your seeds by the 4th of July.

You might be tempted to disregard this bit of traditional wisdom and dismiss it as an “old wives’ tale.”  But you better think twice about that if you want to carve up any fresh homegrown pumpkins for Halloween this year.  Like many “old wives’ tales,” there is some truth to this one – on July 4th, we are 122 days away from October 31st.  And that’s the perfect time frame to get yourself some gargantuan gourds (with a few days to spare – just to be safe).

You can carve them up really spooky, make some goofy gourd clowns for the kids, or buy one of those fancy, intricate stencils if you’re really into it.  But if you want to use pumpkins that you grew at home yourself… now’s your last chance to get started.

Read more: Use Decoy Plants to Trap Harlequin Bugs

Grow Pumpkins of All Varieties

There are more varieties of pumpkins than you can shake a witch’s wand at.  And for the most part, they’re not too hard to grow.  Pumpkins do seem to like plenty of water, so plant them somewhere where they’re not likely to be neglected for too long.

Check your favorite seed catalogs and you’ll find that there are many alternatives to the traditional orange pumpkin.  You’ll find an assortment of colors from white to red and some beautiful patterns of green and yellow.  There’s a huge variety of sizes, too.  And, if you’re concerned about the dreaded squash vine borer, you can choose a variety from the species Cucurbita moschata, which has solid stems and is resistant to the borer.

Across the board, you’ll find that most varieties of pumpkins require somewhere in the range of 90 days to 120 days to mature and fruit.  So, if you’re in a warmer climate and frost won’t be an issue before Halloween – now’s the perfect time to get started.  But, double check anyway, and make sure that the time left until your average first frost is enough to accommodate the variety you choose.

If you have your heart set on a big orange pumpkin, just like the ones you knew and loved as a child, check out the “Big Max” variety that’s available from Baker Creek Seeds.  These plants grow very quickly, and reliably produce big fruits over 25 lbs, much like the ones you’ll see for sale in the fall at your local supermarket.  .

Read more: How to Outsmart the Squash Vine Borer

Too Late For You?

If you grow in a northern climate and your first frost happens long before Halloween, then you probably started your pumpkins earlier this spring.  For you all up north, we found a nice guide online from the Oregon State Extension Service that spells out all the basics of curing and storing pumpkins and winter squash, so that your gourds will be in good shape when the time comes to carve them up – whether you’re carving them for jack-o-lanterns, pie, or both!

There’s not too much to it – the trick is in the temperature.  If you’re planning to store your squash, make sure you have a spot available where they won’t get too cold or wet.  As for the part at the end about wiping the surface clean with bleach… well, we’ll leave that up to you.

You can download/read the original PDF here: Storing Pumpkins and Winter Squashes at Home


Thanks to Oregon State University Extension Service, and N.S. Mansour, for sharing their helpful handout about storing pumpkins.  You can find the original document online here: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/documents/ec1632.pdf

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