Pumpkins and winter squash are yet another impressively versatile vegetable. We can thank our ancestors for breeding such a useful plant! They are delicious in pie, stew, curry, and muffins. They are tasty when stuffed, and the seeds are a healthy snack. Check out our new post on the tastiest varieties to cook with. The Kakai variety, available from Bountiful Gardens, has hull-less seeds that are easy to roast! Winter squash are grown over the summer and once ripe, can be stored for winter use.
As you can imagine, we were really looking forward to harvesting some awesome pumpkins this Fall, but unfortunately gophers wreaked havoc on our beds, so we lost a lot of our crop. If you have had rodent problems in your garden this year, tell us in the comments section so that we can commiserate and share your best tips for pest prevention!
Pumpkin and squash seeds will germinate most easily when the soil temperature is between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit. They will grow best when the temperature is between 65-75 degrees and will not do well above 90 degrees. Since they take 3-4 weeks to mature in flats, in our region they can be planted up until in mid-summer (middle of June) so that they can mature before the weather cools off too much.
Pumpkins and squash like to sprawl, so they need enough space to spread out. We recommend spacing them in the beds between 18-30 inches apart, depending on the variety. They can be planted in between corn as with a 3-sisters planting (corn+beans+squash). Alternatively they can be trained to grow up a sturdy trellis to save space.
Many varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew (marked by white powder on the leaves). This mildew is most active in warm humid weather. So, it is better to water close to the soil to avoid getting the leaves wet. Powdery mildew can kill the vine, so we recommend growing resistant varieties. To speed up fruit ripening, you can decrease watering the plants as the fruit begins to mature.
Once completely mature, when the outer skin has hardened, pumpkins and winter squash will store in a cool dark spot for around two months. They are great for winter stews, curries, and of course pumpkin pie!
The following chart is a handy reference for growing pumpkins and squash using our methods.
|Weeks in Flat||3-4|
|Plants/100 sq. ft.||14-53*|
|Weeks to Maturity in Bed||14-16|
*depending on variety