It’s Pumpkin Harvest Time

October 6, 2019 lawanda Newspaper Columns

A bright orange pumpkin is not necessarily ready for harvest.  Full-sized pumpkins take 90-105 days from planting until they are ready to harvest while miniatures are ready in 70-90 days.  If you bought and planted seedlings, subtract seven days. 

        If you have no idea when you planted your pumpkins, there are other ways to determine whether they are ready for harvest.  If the vines have dried up and the stems have hardened, they are ready to pick.  Another way is to press your fingernail into the pumpkin rind.  If it resists piercing, it is ready.  Finally, a pumpkin that is ready to harvest sounds hollow when given a thump.

        If you can’t get to harvesting immediately after you determine the pumpkins are ready, they can stay in the garden a few more weeks unless a hard frost (less than 27ﹾ F) threatens.

        Choose a dry, sunny day for harvesting.  Cut the stem from the main vine with a shears or lopper.  Do not carry pumpkins by their stems and be careful not to damage or remove the stem from the pumpkin.  Try to leave at least four inches of stem on the pumpkin.  This long stem serves as a natural seal to protect the pumpkin from frost damage and rotting.   

        After harvest, wipe soil and insects off the pumpkin.  Use a dry rag if there isn’t much soil, or a wet rag in soapy water with one part bleach to 10 parts water.  The bleach will evaporate quickly and will not affect edibility.  Make sure pumpkins are completely dry before storing or piling.

        Once pumpkins are harvested, they should be cured so that they last longer, possibly for several months.  Curing hardens their skin and protects the inside from decay.  While not practical for most gardeners, the ideal way to cure pumpkins is to place them in a spot with 80-85ﹾ F and 80-85% relative humidity for a week to 10 days.  Barring those conditions, place them in a dry, sunny spot for two weeks.

        Next, for long term storage, the ideal is a temperature of 50-55ﹾ with a relative humidity of 50-70%.  Unless you are a market gardener and are set up to provide those perfect conditions, just move the pumpkins to the coolest, shadiest spot you can find until you are ready to either display or use them for cooking and baking.  If possible, don’t place them on a concrete floor and keep them from touching each other so that air can circulate around them.

        Check stored pumpkins regularly and remove any that show signs of disease or rot so that it doesn’t spread to the others.

        As soon as all your pumpkins are harvested, pull up the vines.  You’ll want to avoid carrying any disease or insect problems over to next year, so if they haven’t been perfectly healthy up until harvest,  bag and place the vines in the trash or burn them.

Fruits and vegetablesGardening techniques and tools

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