Generally fall is a great time to celebrate the entire squash family, Cucurbitaceae, a native New World vegetable family. Cucurbitaceae species now grow around the world. However, come Halloween it's the pumpkins that steal the show.
No doubt about it. Pumpkins are big business. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, in 2008, New York led the United States with over $38 million dollars with of pumpkins grown. Ohio, Illinois and California came in next with approximately $22 million dollars worth of pumpkins grown, followed closely by Pennsylvania with $20 million dollars worth of pumpkin production.
It should come as no surprise that the big business of pumpkins often translates into big pumpkins. Any pumpkin over one thousand pounds can be considered a record setter. Currently a Rhode Island gardener holds the record for largest pumpkin grown. In 2007, his pumpkin, an Atlantic Giant variety, weighed in at 1,689 pounds.
Anyone who tosses a few pumpkin seeds along a patch of moist ground in late spring soon recognizes the relative ease of growing pumpkins. Growing a smaller pumpkin patch can be almost that easy
Pumpkins generally prefer summer season or warm weather growing environments. Other than that, they adapt to a variety of soil and sun conditions.
As long as pumpkins have space to grow with adequate food and water (their shallow roots need at least a weekly watering) a pumpkin will grow, although it might not grow into a one thousand pound pumpkin.
Pumpkins do need elbow room to grow and most experts recommend spacing plants eight to ten feet apart if you plan on growing a patch of pumpkins.
From start to finish, a mature pumpkin requires about fourth months of total vegetation and fruiting time. June plantings means that by the end of September and the beginning of October, they are ready for harvest. Stored in a cool dry place with good ventilation, pumpkins can last through the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays.
With the exception of the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest, a handful of native gourds (Cucurbita genus) also grow in the United States and get included in the traditional fall celebrations. Case in point, members of the Cucurbita genus are called soft-skinned gourds, and along with Lagenaria (hard-skinned gourds), rank among the most popular decorative holiday gourds.
Gourd popularity is unsurprising. If you stop and think for a moment, probably the beginning of the gourd's ornamental utility was discovered by individuals that found already dried gourds lying on the ground, well after the growing season concluded. That natural approach to drying gourds still works well in many areas. However, it brings with it the possibility for a low yield of ornamentals due to the on ground rotting factor.
A simple two step process is recommended for anyone interested in increasing the yield of dried ornamental gourds.
First, drying gourds begins by harvesting them. Most experts recommend allowing the gourds to remain on the vine until ripened, and the vine is brown.
When ripe the gourds should be clipped from the vine (leaving some of the vine on the gourd), rinsed and disinfected with a very mild (2%) bleach wash, and set off the ground in an open space.
Once prepared, the gourds are ready to dry. Air circulation and time are the dried gourd's best ally.
Provide the gourds with a well ventilated, open space, for the duration of the drying process. Depending on the size and type of gourd in question, drying takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months.
Many people periodically check for, and clean mold from, their gourds during the drying process.
Shaking a lightweight gourd and hearing the seeds rattle is usually a good indication the gourd is properly dried.
© 2003-2016 Patricia A. Michaels