CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Glory of Pumpkins

Posted by: Jennifer Bousselot, Affiliate Faculty, CSU Department of Horticulture

To anyone interested in gardening, pumpkins are nearly synonymous with autumn. While the vines are easy to grow, they often have pest problems in Colorado. Therefore it is especially satisfying if you are lucky enough to get that bright orange fruit in the fall.
Miniature pumpkins at a local farmers' market
Saving seed from pumpkins is tempting but it is unlikely that you will get fruit next year that is the same cultivar. The reason is that insects pollinate the flowers on pumpkin vines. Pollen from other cucurbits (e.g. squash, cucumbers) that are flowering at the same time can fertilize those female flowers. If you are a brave gardener and try planting the seeds next spring, be prepared to see some strange formations on the vine! Often the spontaneous cucurbit combinations are not very tasty either. 

Most pumpkins and other winter squash mature between 90 and 120 days from planting. You can tell they are ripe when the rind thickens enough that you cannot easily puncture it with your fingernail. When harvesting, leave at least two inches of stem in order to maximize your storage capacity as shorter stems lead to dehydration and a brief shelf life. If the fruit is free of insect feeding or other damage it can last most of the winter in a cool, dark location that is around 70% humidity.
A plethora of winter squash (and pumpkins!)
In the next several days many pumpkins will be used for the higher purpose of jack-o-lanterns! After carving as desired, rinse the inside with a 10% bleach solution to slow the growth of decay fungi and allow to dry. Enjoy!

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