Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
October, 2000
Regional Report

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My little pumpkin adds fall drama and surprise to my mixed flower border.

My Little Pumpkin

It's no whopper of an 'Atlantic Giant' and wasn't a trophy taker at the county fair, but I'm mighty proud of my one little pumpkin. It grew in my flower garden (luckily, I call it a "mixed border"). To me, it's a perfect pumpkin - and it's finally ripe.

The Pumpkin Harvest

It may be my only ripe pumpkin this year. The others are bigger but far from maturing. So far, this pumpkin is the only one to turn bright, vibrant orange. Today, after one last fingernail test (pushing a fingernail against the skin: if it doesn't break the skin, the pumpkin is ready) to make sure the rind had truly hardened, I picked it. I used a kitchen knife and unceremoniously hacked it off, leaving as much stem intact as I could for the "handle."

I tried not to accidentally gouge the pumpkin with the knife, and I took care not to bruise or otherwise damage the rind because any break in the skin is an invitation to rot. Rot, of course, will reduce a pumpkin's "shelf life. I even resisted the temptation to carry my little treasure by the handle because the peduncle (stem) is apt to pull right off a freshly picked pumpkin.

Curing and Storing

Some years I can leave pumpkins to cure in the garden for about ten days, but that requires temperatures near 80F and high humidity, which is just not happening here this fall. Since frost and any temperatures below about 40F damage pumpkins, I moved my prized squash into the glassed-in porch, where it stays warm. After a week or so, I'll move it out of direct sun and into a cooler, unheated or minimally heated room, between about 50F and 55F, to store through the fall.

Make Me a Pie

Some folks might want to keep their pumpkins and other winter squashes for months and enjoy them through Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas. I will be quite happy if my little cucurbit lasts through Halloween, and my daughter will be tickled if makes just one itty bitty 8-inch pie. Yum!

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