Gardening Articles :: Edibles :: Vegetables :: National Gardening Association

Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

The Pumpkin Patch

by Susan Littlefield

Whether for jack-o'-lantern carving, decorating, or baking into pies, October is pumpkin time! Gardeners wait eagerly all season long to harvest this quintessential fall crop, beginning in early summer when seeds are tucked into warm soil, through the summer months as the vines run and the fruits begin to size up, and finally on into fall when the large pumpkins are ready to pick at last. How we treasure this colorful bounty!

Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

The key to the perfect pumpkin starts with choosing varieties well suited to the use you plan to make of them.

If you'll be baking lots of pies, select a variety bred for sweet, tasty flesh. These are generally smaller varieties having smoother, denser flesh with a higher sugar content than the large varieties bred for carving and decoration, although some selections offer both size and good eating. In addition to its delicious taste, bright orange pumpkin flesh is high in fiber, low in calories, and loaded with healthful beta-carotene.

If your goal is to carve the spookiest jack-o'-lantern on the block, a medium sized, 20-25 pound variety is easy to handle. For a really eerie look, grow the white-skinned 'Lumina' for its ghostly effect.

Or perhaps you want to go for the wow factor and grow a variety such as 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' that's bred to reach mammoth size. Who knows? Maybe yours will break the 1200 pound-plus world record that was set with this variety. Just be prepared to find someone with a bucket loader to help you get it to the fair for a blue ribbon!

And don't forget the mini-pumpkins, perfect for fall decorating. Combine these palm-sized pumpkins with other seasonal garden produce like gourds and Indian corn for lovely autumn decorations.

Here are some the many pumpkin varieties we offer for carving, decorating, and eating.

'Halloween or Jack-o'-Lantern (100 days)—These medium-size, round to slightly oblong pumpkins are in big demand for carving.

'Jack Be Little' (95 days) —A true midget pumpkin variety, not a gourd, these little fellas are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

'Small Sugar' Pumpkin (115 days) —Great for pie making, the 6-8 pound fruits have bright orange, thick, sweet, dry flesh.

'Little October' (95-100 days) —A new dimension in mini-pumpkins, this 3-4 inch diameter variety is properly proportioned in size, shape, and handle to mimic a larger pumpkin.

'Lumina' (105-110 days)— This large white pumpkin adds a unique look to fall decorating or jack-o'-lanterns.

'Howden' (115 days) —This heavy yielding variety produces deep orange fruits that average 20 pounds and keep well.

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