The pumpkin is a vegetable crop that is part of our culinary habits. Growing pumpkin is very easy. In spite of this, one must know the basic techniques in order to yield the best results possible. The pumpkin’s annual growth cycle is very fast. Harvesting is done only six months after planting. Under the best conditions, pumpkins can be stored for several months.

How to prepare the ground, how to treat diseases … so many questions that deserve answers. Here are some solutions to help you plant pumpkins successfully.

Description and origin

The pumpkin is an annual herbaceous plant native to Central America. It is a creeping plant of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae). It was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century. Several varieties of pumpkins are grown for their edible fruits. Their weight can vary from less than two pounds to over 500 pounds (one kilogram to 200 kg). Some varieties of pumpkins produce fruits that are used to make gourds and calabashes. The pumpkin is also used as piece of decoration during Halloween. The leaves and flowers of several pumpkin varieties are also edible. The pumpkin, which possesses culinary and curative properties, can be consumed in soup, pie or purée.

Growing and maintenance techniques

Pumpkins can only be propagated by seed, and can be grown almost anywhere in Europe. You have the choice of sowing in nurseries or in pots, before transplanting, or directly sowing on the ground. If you live in a region that has a cool climate, you can sow from March to April. Sowing in mid-April is recommended because transplanting is ideally performed three weeks after sowing, at the latest. After this period, the pumpkin seedling tends to grow in the pot with overly dense and fibrous roots. This makes growth resumption in the ground very difficult. Place three seeds in the pot, and select the best one for in-ground planting. Transplanting or direct seeding is conducted in May. For direct seeding, the technique is the same as the one used for growing in containers: three seeds are planted and, once the shoots have emerged, the strongest one is left to grow while the other two are removed. Seeds germinate after 5 days, and the shoots emerge completely within a week.

The pumpkin particularly appreciates warm areas that are exposed to the sun. For the plant to grow, the temperature must be at least 53.5 ° F (12 ° C), the ideal being between 59 and 68 ° F (15 and 20 ° C). If it’s too cold, the use of plastic tunnels is recommended. Prefer light and well-drained soil to plant the pumpkin. An amendment of manure or compost is also required. Seeds or seedlings are planted in holes that are spaced 3 to 6.5 feet (1 to 2 m) on all sides. After planting, fill the hole with soil mixed with compost and pack gently. Then, water abundantly. Thereafter, watering should be frequent and regular (every day), because the pumpkin has a great need for water. When watering, avoid wetting the foliage to reduce the risk of spreading disease.

Towards the end of June, when the plant is sufficiently developed, it can be mulched. Mulching allows you to reduce by half the watering frequency, while keeping the soil moist and at an ideal temperature. Mulching also helps to keep the fruit dry and free of rot. For a vigorous plant and quality fruit, it is recommended to prune the pumpkin. You can do this by pinching the main shoot above the fourth leaf. Also pinch the shoots above each fruit. Finally, prefer quality over quantity, and keep only two or three fruits per plant. A wooden plank can be set under the fruit to protect it from moisture and rot during its growth.

Of hardy nature, the pumpkin is relatively resistant to disease and insects. The most common insect attack are those of aphids and leaf beetles. The latter is treated with rotenone (insecticide extracted from the root of an Asian tree). The most common diseases are, however, anthracnose and powdery mildew that attack the foliage. Several fungicide treatments are available, both in terms of curing or as preventive measures. Organic treatment against powdery mildew consists of spraying a mixture of garlic, micronised sulphur and baking soda. This treatment can be repeated every week. Watering at the base of plants, without touching the leaves, trimming, and proper spacing between plants are all factors that help reduce the risk of disease.

Harvest and preservation

Pumpkins are harvested in the fall, five to six months after planting. The fruit reach maturity towards the end of September. However, wait until October to pick them, and do so when the stalks are dry and when the foliage has withered. Be careful not to scratch the pumpkins while picking them. Even though its skin is thick, an injury is an open door to an attack of fungi and mould. If it is damaged, eat the fruit within the week that follows. Once picked, pumpkins can be stored in the cool, on a flat surface that is sheltered from humidity. The ideal temperature for storage is between 53.5 and 68 ° F (12 and 20 ° C). Under these conditions, some pumpkin varieties can be stored almost a whole year.

Related posts:

  1. Planting and maintaining cherry trees
  2. Planting raspberry bushes successfully
  3. Techniques for growing oak
  4. Organizing and maintaining garden paths
  5. Growing and maintaining tulips

Published in Autumn vegetables by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011