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Grow Great Pumpkins

Original Publish Date: 
March 9, 2015

By Blair Bryant

Metro Gazette Guest Writer

Growing pumpkins can be a fun and rewarding project for people of all ages. Pumpkins can be used for carving, decoration, and many different recipes. The seeds can also be roasted for a healthy snack. The pumpkin is a classic American icon and a staple of tradition.

Picking out what variety you prefer is the first step. Three of the most popular are the Connecticut Field, Jack O’ Lantern, and the Small Sugar pumpkin.

The Connecticut Field is the largest of the three mentioned varieties. They need plenty of water and rich soil. Unfortunately, the Connecticut Field pumpkins don’t do well in extreme heat, so keep this in mind if you live in a hot, humid climate. It’s a good idea to plant this variety with corn to offer the fruits a little shade. The Connecticut Field variety is good for carving as well as pies.

The Jack O’ Lantern variety is just as its name implies. They are great carving pumpkins with a deep orange color. These pumpkins are a long time favorite for those who enjoy celebrating Halloween.

The Small Sugar pumpkin is one the smallest breeds, but it is also one of the toughest. They can handle heat well and are very resistant to rot. These little cuties are perfect for children, and they make nice little jack o’ lanterns. The Small Sugar pumpkins are also a favorite for autumn decoration. Because of their small size, they are often seen on mantles, shelves, and end tables. These pumpkins are also widely used to accent bundles of corn stalks in yard decorations. As their nickname, “the pie pumpkin”, indicates, this variety makes some of the best pies.

After you pick out the seeds you prefer, it’s time for planting. Always wait until the danger of frost is over. Then, prepare the soil. Pumpkins are planted in hills, and be sure to mix in some organic material into the hills. Bags of compost can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, hardware stores, and home and garden centers, or you can use your own compost. You can also put some aged manure under the bottom of the hill for extra nourishment. I’ve had success with horse or rabbit manure. Most seeds require a planting depth of 1”, but this depth doesn’t have to be exact. Plant about 5 or 6 seeds. When the plants come up, thin the hill down to the 2 or 3 strongest plants. Keep the weeds out as much as possible early on. When the vines start to run all over the place, it’s hard to do weeding. The pumpkins are ready to harvest when the skin is tough and not easily dented with your fingernail. Pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dry place that is out of the direct sunlight. They can be stored for several months or longer. Check on them every few days and remove any pumpkins that are starting to rot.

If you decide not to keep the seeds when carving or cooking, then just throw them in your yard. Wild birds love them, especially cardinals.

With a little work and the right soil, you can enjoy a pumpkin harvest that will brighten up your autumn and top off your Thanksgiving feast.

Blair Bryant lives in Granite N.C., has 27 years of pumpkin growing experience and is the author of 3 books of fiction about “country folks”.