|Pumpkins are not only popular during the fall season, they're also used to make butter, cookies, soup, bread and mouth-watering pumpkin pies for many special occasions. They're grown during the warm season anywhere in the U.S. and are part of the squash family.
Pumpkin is a tremendous source of the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which benefits the skin, bones and vision. One advantage of growing pumpkin is that it can be stored by canning or freezing. You can save pumpkin to use for special occasions throughout the year. Be sure to do a little research if you're not familiar with how to can or freeze pumpkin. There are certain steps you must take for this to work.
Planting Your Pumpkin Seeds
Plant your seeds after frost is no longer a threat. The soil must be warm, fertile and moist. If you're planting pumpkins for fall, start near the end of May if you live in a cooler climate and the beginning of July in the deep south where temperatures become very hot. Planting too early (especially in hot climates) can cause the pumpkins to rot or become soft before fall.
Space your seeds out by at least five to six feet between hills. Rows need to be at least ten to fifteen feet apart to allow plenty of room for the vines to grow. You can thin out your hills once the plants began to develop to get rid of weaker plants and make more room for the healthy ones. The seeds should be planted around an inch deep, with four to five seeds per hill.
Miniature pumpkins require less space. You'll need to plant them two feet apart in a row, with the rows being spaced by six to eight feet. These also need to planted with a depth of one inch.
Protecting Your Pumpkin Plants
Be sure to do shallow weeding periodically, and keep plenty of moisture on the plants. Irrigation works well during dry periods in the summer. Use insecticides sparingly because it can kill bees which are needed for pollination of your pumpkin blooms. Only use insecticides during the early evening hours to prevent the poison from penetrating the inside of the blossoms where bees land.
Harvesting Your Pumpkins
When your pumpkins become a dark solid color (orange in most cases) and the rind has hardened, they're ready for the picking. Harvest time is usually near the end of September or beginning of October before the first frost arrives.
Pumpkins should be cut from their vines using pruning shears, leaving at least three or four inches of the stem attached to the pumpkin. The stem becomes a "carrying handle" for the pumpkin. You should wear gloves while pulling your pumpkins from the vines to prevent injury.
Once you've harvested your pumpkins, you should decide quickly what you'd like to do with them. Do you want to give some pumpkins away? Sell them? Use a few for fall decorations? Some for cooking? Those that will be used for cooking need to be prepared and frozen if you plan to use them throughout the year.
Pumpkins are fun to grow and make a great addition to any garden. You can grow your own beautiful plump pumpkins using the simple steps above.