How to Grow, Cure and Store Pumpkins

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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.

2: Space

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.

Want to properly space your pumpkins for a better harvest next year? Get a free trial of the Almanac Garden Planner—which includes a free newsletter packed with expert gardening tips.

Reader Comments

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Squash vine borer

I have tried growing pumpkins for many years but the squash vine borer always seems to outwit anything that my husband or me try to do! We have tried covers, planting in different areas, cutting out the worm etc. Is there anything else that can be done?

Squash Vine Borer (SVB)

I have dealt with the SVB. Living in central New Jersey, this pest has one generation per year,
laying it's eggs in late June/early July. Plant your pumpkin (squash) seeds when the SVB is feeding -
second week of July here. There is plenty of growing season left to raise and grow your pumpkins
(squash) without this destructive pest. Good luck.

Volunteers

Every few years, I have volunteer pumpkin vines. I let them grow and just leave them alone. Two years ago, one vine covered over an eighth of an acre and produced 8 pumpkins. They all weighed over 40 pounds except for the last one...it weighed 36 pounds. I processed them all but the last one and ran out of freezer space and people to give the pulp to! I gave that one to the deer! They were all wonderful, sweet and tasty...makes the best bourbon pumpkin bread EVER. I was wondering what KIND of pumpkins they were. The leaves grow hip high and are bigger around than a #1 washtub! They have white streaks and splotches all through them. The pumpkins are bright orange.

Another year, I had one which grew three pumpkins...one weighed about 60 pounds, one was 37 pounds and one was 28 pounds. I called the newspaper...it was getting close to Halloween...they sent a photographer down and the photo in the paper was titled (what else) 'The Great Pumpkin.' It was a lighter peachy orange color...I was told it was a Candy Roaster? I'd like to know what the last ones were and if the name 'Candy Roaster' could have been right on the first one. This has happened several other times over the past 30 years but the none of the others spread like the last batch and did not have nearly as many pumpkins!

I still have frozen pumpkin...bourbon pumpkin bread anyone? I absolutely LOVE to watch the vines grow...they are spectacular! Even if they didn't bear fruit, I would still leave them alone and just let them grow because they are so wonderful! I don't ever remember putting any seeds where they grew so it is all a mystery to me. A wonderful gift from God.
Can you answer my questions?

Sounds delicious

I’m glad you got to enjoy such a bountiful season! And yes you’re so right about it all being a gift from God! Any chance you can share your recipe for that delicious sounding bourbon pumpkin bread?

how many pumpkins per vine?

Thanks for this very helpful video! Do pumpkin plants ever produce more than one fruit?

pumpkins per plant

Yes, pumpkins grow multiple fruits per plant. Select just two or three pumpkins per plant and remove all the others to focus the plants energy on your chosen fruit.

powdery mildew

Growing for the first time (my sons first grade school project). Completely clueless about the process other than the short paper he brought home with his seedling. Planted the seedling in May. Did not catch the powdery mildew in time, started probably late June. Saw it, but thought it was part of the growing process (I know, I know. I will freely admit there are no green thumbs in this family). Most of the plant is affected. There are already 4 pumpkins, roughly 5-6 inches diameter, that are fully orange, with a couple more smaller green ones. We cut away the affected leaves and also most of the secondary vines that housed them. It's early August. Question 1...should we just leave the pumpkins on the vine? Will they continue to grow after they are fully orange? Question 2...when is the appropriate time of year to plant? Did we plant too early in May? Question 3...Tips for when we try again next year?

Pumpkins.

How long does it take before I will see pumpkins. Have flowers.

We're beginner pumpkin

We're beginner pumpkin growers, we planted my sons seedling in May. Started getting flowers in June, but didn't see any bulbs for the first several flowers. But they came, eventually. If you have flowers that's a good sign, they should start coming in soon.

Pumpkin flowers

As in life, the ladies arrive a bit later but are none the less wonderful. Male flowers first, the females- enjoy your pumpkins!

Pumpkin

I have flowers but no pumpkins yet. Not sure what to do.

Videos

I much prefer to read an article than to watch a video. I miss out on a lot of information because everyone has a video. Is it possible to obtain a transcript of this video? Thank you!

Agree

I much prefer things in writing as well, much easier to save a refer back.

Green pumpkins

I live in Northern Canada and have a short growing season, one of my 3 pumpkins turned orange and the other 2 are still green turning orange slowly. Is this safe and will they be edible once they turn orange? This is the first time I have grown pumpkins and am very happy with the results. I have them stored in my porch at this time.

Green Pumpkins

Yes, once the pumpkins turn solid orange, they will be mature and ready for eating.

Pumpkins

This answered all my questions and I also learned how to harden them off didn't know that. It is only august and I have a very large pumpkin that is already turning orange on the end. I was afraid that it would ripen to early, but now I know how to hold it over until Halloween. Thanks so much for the info.

How to grow, cure and store pumpkins

The illustration are perfect and the explanation matching the illustrations. However we could add some value by adding more information on how to identify a fully mature pumpkin that is ready for picking because that is where people mess up with the life span of pumpkin. Thanks

I liked the video, very

I liked the video, very informative, does this also apply to the Buternut squash

Curing and Storing Squash

Yes, definitely, these tips apply to Butternut Squash.  They’re so closely related that the care is pretty much identical.

ty,this was the first year my

ty,this was the first year my sister and i planted pumkins,and we have one that weights about 100lbs the steam where you cut it is creaking what should we do

growing giant pumpkin

Wow!! What color are the leaves that are attached to the stem that is creaking? Most pumpkins, when nearly ready have leaves that look really tatty and ones which start to die back. If this is the case and the pumpkin is turning orange all over I wouldn’t worry too much. Try to give it a tap and see if it sounds hollow, if it does that is another way of seeing if it is ready. If, however, it is still growing bigger and the leaves are still green and vibrant then you could try binding the stem together with something strong like duct tape to keep the moisture in and to strengthen it. I have done this with plum tree branches that are groaning and splitting under the weight of fruit and as a temporary measure it lasts quite well.  Even if it is not quite ready it should come to no harm as long as it is cured correctly.

This is a straight forward,

This is a straight forward, easy to follow video. Thank you so much for making it. Very helpful!

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