If you have the room, pumpkins are well worth growing. We put them in the second part of our rotation. The planting method is essentially the same as for cucumbers: plant a single row down the center of a three-foot bed, spacing the plants every two feet. It’s best to choose a bed at the edge of your garden as the plants will run (and having them run out over lawn or common areas saves space in the garden central. In cool climate areas, yields can be increased significantly if you lay drip tubing along the center of the bed, put a shovelful of compost at each planting spot, then cover the bed with black plastic mulch for a week or two before planting.

Once the frost-free date has arrived, we make a small cross-like incision at each lump in the plastic, and press two or three seeds into the compost heaped there. If we have started plants indoors—you can sow the seed two weeks earlier in a large soil block or a 50-cell plug tray—we set one plug in each spot. Immediately after planting we cover the bed with a floating row cover to keep out flying insect pests, and then turn on the drip irrigation for an hour or so to thoroughly wet the soil around the seed (or plant).

Once the plants flower we remove the covers. From that point on, a few cucumber beetles may find the plants and take up residence, but by then the plants are growing so fast that not even a cuke beetle can hold them back. We used to spray them with a mixture of rotenone and pyrethrum, but eventually decided it was not only too much trouble for the amount of control we got, but basically unnecessary.

There are a few new cultivars of  pumpkin that grow on compact bush plants, but with most cultivars the vines will run ten, twenty, even thirty feet or more, so it makes sense to plant them, as noted, either at the edge of the garden, so they can run outside its borders, or next to the corn, so the vines can run through the corn patch.

Pumpkins should be left on the vine until frost threatens, or the vines die off. They should be allowed to firm up their skins so that they will store well. If you have a hard time nicking the skin with your fingernail, the fruit is ready.

After harvest, pumpkins should receive a few extra days of sun-curing before being put in storage. Some gardeners wipe the outside of the fruits with a very mild, dilute bleach-and-water solution (10:1) to kill any bacteria that might lead to rot while in storage. Though there is wide variation among cultivars, if stored at 40-50F/4-10C in a dry, airy place, most pumpkins will keep four to six months.



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