Hi I'm Tricia an organic gardener I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Pumpkins and winter squash are easy and delicious crops to grow in your garden come on i'll show you how.
Pumpkins like rich sandy soil that is high in organic matter. I'm working some compost into the soil before I plant to loosen the soil and improve drainage. I'm also adding a good balanced fertilizer to the bed because pumpkins are heavy feeders pumpkins grow on very large vines. There are some compact bush pumpkins or semi bush types but for the most part expect your pumpkin to take up to fifty to one hundred square feet. Plan for one hundred and fifty square feet if you're growing a giant pumpkin. Like all cucurbits pumpkins are very frost sensitive direct seed them in hills after the last frost and when the soil has warmed up to sixty to sixty five degrees fahrenheit, space your hills three to five feet apart. To speed up the planting time you can put down some plastic mulch that will heat up the soil. When they sprout and have two true leaves thin to two to three plants per hill. Water the pumpkins deeply but infrequently drip irrigation is the best and mulch is a great way to conserve water. If you're using an organic mulch make sure that the soil temperature has heated up to about seventy five degrees before you add it because it does have a cooling effect.
As your squash grows be on the lookout for squash bugs there a serious pest and can be hard to control when their adults. Check your pumpkins and squash periodically for eggs, adults and nymphs they like to hang around at the base of the stem at the crown and if you see any pick them up and squish them. What will happen is they'll suck the juices out of the plant they'll leave little yellow spots on the leaves and then the leaves will wilt and the plant will die. You can put a piece of cardboard down and give them a place to hide and then later on the next day turn the cardboard over and catch them.
If you plan to save open-pollinated seeds pay attention to squash species there are four cultivated species that are considered pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash or gourds; cucurbita pepo are varieties like zucchini, acorn squash, howden pumpkins, jack be little pumpkins. Cucurbita maxima are the giant pumpkin varieties like Big Macs and Cinderella. Cucurbita moschata are varieties like butternut squash, dickenson squash and musquee de provence pumpkin. Finally there's Cucurbita argyrosperma which is squash like the cushaw pumpkin. Most of these species don't cross with each other, you can plant Howden which is Pepo and Cinderella which is Maxima and they won't cross but if you plant Howden with musquee de provence which is Moschata they will cross. To be sure that you get a true to seed cross-pollination pollinate a flower yourself and then bag it. Do your pollinating early in the morning just as the flowers open and before the bees are out cut a male flower and then cut all the petals off and then take the stamen and swirl it around into a female flower and then bag the female flower so no other pollinators will get in. The female flowers have a fat base and they appear later than the male flowers and towards the end of the vines.
Pumpkins are ripe when the rinds are hard and when they're fully colored whether that's white, blue or orange. Cut the pumpkins from the vine before the first frost make sure you leave a three to four inch handle, pumpkins without handles or rinds with wounds won't keep as well if that happens make sure and eat that pumpkin first. To extend storage life cure pumpkins in a sunny spot for ten days ideally the temperature should be between eighty and eighty five degrees and shouldn't go below sixty degrees at night. A greenhouse or south-facing window are ideal spots for curing pumpkins. Don't harvest your pumpkins wet and don't leave them in the field to get wet they need to be stored in a dry area at about fifty degrees fahrenheit. So grow your own pumpkins to make the best pumpkin pie and grow organic for life!