The Pumpkin Patch
Fall is in the air and so are fall festivals!
Pumpkin festivals are one of the most common fall festivals. Farmers have been getting their pumpkin crop ready since the beginning of summer. Everything is getting ready for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin!
Pumpkins require a good bit of food and at least 100 days free of frost. So the beginning of summer is a good time to plant to ensure frost is over. When is frost over where you live? Luckily, they are fairly easy to take care as long as you have space.
How do Pumpkins Grow?
Pumpkins prefer to grow in the sun where the soil is very rich and drains well. Planting them by seeds is best. The seeds are planted in little rows or “pumpkin hills.” Planting them in hills allows for better drainage and keeps them safer from pests.
It takes about 5-10 days for the pumpkin plants to emerge through the soil. When the plants stand 2 – 3 inches tall, the farmer makes more room for the plants by thinning them out to 2 or 3 to a hill.
During the early part of growing season, farmers cover the plants to help protect them from weather and pesky insects. The plants have to be uncovered before they start flowering, however. Uncovering them at this time allows the bees to pollinate them.
How Do Pumpkins Survive Pests and Disease?
Pumpkins drink a lot. They need to be watered often. Especially when the flowers appear on the plants. Keeping the plant and the flowers dry while watering them is very important. If they are not kept dry, they can rot and cause other diseases.
Pumpkins not only drink a lot, but they eat a lot too! Giving them regular treatments of manure and compost will help them continue to grow healthy and strong. Also using a fertilize on them regularly will help them grow.
How Do Pumpkins Survive?
Mulch, which is layered over the ground to help keep it damp and weed free, usually consists of shredded or chipped tree bark, straw, or chopped leaves. Mulch also helps to keep down pests too.
Pumpkin plants are very tender. But they can be trained to run up a trellis. It is harder with the larger varieties because of the weight of the fruit. However, this can be helped with old netting or stockings.
Bees are necessary to pollinate the plants in order to form the pumpkins. If they aren’t forming fruit after the first flowers, a beehive can be placed in the center of the pumpkin patch. This will attract more bees. Did you know that without the bees, we would have no pumpkins?
Once the Pumpkin Is Grown
Once the pumpkins have started forming, the farmer has to pinch off the fuzzy ends of the vine. This helps to stop the vine from growing so much and sends all the food to the pumpkins.
If a farmer is trying to win a contest for the biggest pumpkin, he may remove all of the plants in the patch except the one or two that he thinks will grow into the biggest and best pumpkin.
To give the pumpkin its pretty round shape, they need to be turned regularly. Care has to be taken not to hurt the vine or stem when turning them. To make this a bit easier, the farmer can slip a thin board or a piece of plastic mesh under the pumpkin to aid in turning it.
How Do You Know When a Pumpkin is Ripe?
Once the pumpkins are mature or ripe, it is time to harvest them. This helps them to last longer. Don’t choose a small pumpkin just because you want a small one. Picking them at the wrong time will not work for either a pie or carving. If you like a small pumpkin for decorating, make sure to plant some smaller varieties.
How do you know when a pumpkin is ripe? The color of the pumpkin turns a deep, solid orange. If you thump it, like you do a watermelon, the outside will be hard but will sound hollow on the inside. Also, if your fingernail cannot penetrate the rind, it is ready for harvest.
Just like the vines, pumpkins also need to be handled very easy or they can bruise. Once harvested, the pumpkin should be left to cure in the sun for about a week to let the skin toughen. Then put it in a cool, dry room about 55 degrees F.
If the farmer had lots of vines and flowers but no pumpkins, that means the flowers were not pollinated enough by bees. You can try growing some flowers of brilliant colors next to the pumpkins. These will attract not only bees but also butterflies.
Pumpkin seeds are not only great for baking, but you can save them to plant again. Did you know that you could save pumpkin seeds for up to 6 years and still plant them?
So next time you sit down to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” with your little one. Or the next time you make a pie or cookies. Or even the next time you have a pumpkin spice latte, remember everything that goes into creating the perfect pumpkin patch.
I hope you enjoyed our trip to the Pumpkin Patch to learn how we get pumpkins to make all the delightful things we make come from!
the Holiday Mom