Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Pumpkins are real stars in the fall vegetable garden. They can be eaten straight away once harvested, but if you plan to keep them for longer you’ll need to cure them first and store them correctly. In this video, learn how to grow, pick, cure, and store pumpkins. . We’ll also give you tips on how to protect pumpkins from pests and how to grow the “big one” next year!
Curing and Storing Pumpkins
You can tell if your pumpkins are ripe by looking at its stem. If the stem has died off and hardened, the pumpkin should be ripe. It will sound hollow when slapped, and if you push your thumbnail into the skin it should dent but not puncture it.
Harvest pumpkins before any hard frosts. Cut the stem with a sharp knife, leaving 4 inches attached to the pumpkin. This minimizes the risk of molds or fungal spores developing within the fruit. Brush off any dirt.
Lift and move pumpkins carefully by cupping the fruit in your hands – don’t use the stem as a handle! Keep pumpkins in a warm place such as a greenhouse or sunny windowsill for about 2 weeks, then carefully turn the fruits upside down and leave for another 2 weeks. This insures that the skins harden up properly. Polish your pumpkins with a little olive oil on a cloth to make them moisture-tight, and they’re ready for storage.
Store pumpkins in a dry, frost-free, well-ventilated shed or room at temperatures of up to 68°F. Place them on a thick layer of newspaper or straw on a wire rack to allow air to circulate. Don’t store them near other fruits such as apples, which emit ethylene gas that can speed up ageing. Check on your stored pumpkins them regularly.
5 Tips for Growing Huge Pumpkins
For the best chance of growing big, beautiful pumpkins, follow these 5 simple tips:
1: Rich Soil
Incorporate plenty of organic matter such as garden compost into the soil before planting. Feed every couple of weeks with a liquid seaweed fertilizer. Occasionally mulching with organic matter helps lock in soil moisture, and pumpkin vines will root into it and draw up more nutrients.
Plant your pumpkins 3 feet or more apart to give them plenty of space to grow. The more leaves there are the bigger the pumpkins will be, so don’t remove any before flowering starts.
3: Disease Prevention
Powdery mildew can be a major problem. As soon as you see any whitish, powdery or furry patches, cut off the leaves and compost or burn them.
Powdery mildew can be controlled with a simple spray of milk and water diluted at a rate of about 40% milk to 60% water, applied to both sides of the leaf. Spray liberally so that the leaves are dripping. Spray preventatively, before you see the signs of powdery mildew. Spray in bright light, and repeat every 10 days.
4: Protect the Fruits from Rot
Once the fruits begin to grow, place a barrier between the pumpkin and the soil to prevent it from rotting. Use straw, cardboard, or even bits of old broken pot to keep the pumpkin off the ground.
5: Promote Rooting
If you accidentally break a stem while the fruits are still growing, as long as it has not become completely detached from the rest of the stem, it can be repaired. Make sure the edges of the broken part are in contact with one another, then pile organic mulch on top. Make sure to cover the point where the nearest leaves grow from, and water it well. The plant will then be able to send down new roots and repair itself.
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