October Gardening 2014

by Jane Ahrens


From Mélie’s Garden

I have always had a fantasy of growing a field full of pumpkins for my grandchildren to happily pick for Halloween. This certainly has turned out to be a fantasy, because I have been completely unsuccessful in growing pumpkins in a field on Fishers Island. I remember so well, the wonderful ones Ken Edwards grew along the road by his house and Paul Tombari’s pumpkins growing on the way to the hardware store. Rabbits usually ate the pumpkin seedlings I planted and even an occasional pheasant took a bite or two. I also often forgot to water and fertilize the vines in the field, which was a big mistake, because pumpkins love water and fertilizer, so my efforts were a failure.

I now have resorted to growing pumpkins in my vegetable garden, where I have been more successful due to the watering system. For the past couple of years I have had three or four grow to maturity, but they rotted before Halloween. So I decided this year to do a bit of research about how to harvest and store pumpkins and this is what I found out.

  • Pumpkins rot if harvested too early or allowed to stay in the field too long.
  • Mature pumpkins should be uniformly colored and have hard shells before being picked off the vine.
  • They cure in dry sunny weather; if the weather gets cold or damp, remove the pumpkins from the garden.
  • Once picked, wash the pumpkin exterior with a solution of 1 T. of bleach per gallon of water and place them in a dry area under cover. A shed, garage or porch should be fine.
  • The pumpkins can be stored at 50 – 60 degrees for ten weeks, but need 50 to 70 % relative humidity in order to not dehydrate.

It is also important to have air circulate around them, so I have put my pumpkins on plastic crates on a porch, where I hope the temperatures will remain no lower than 50 degrees and that they will also get enough humidity from the sea air. Fingers crossed they will be happy there for the next few weeks before being carved into Jack O’ Lanterns by five little Indians for Halloween.

I would welcome any further tips on growing pumpkins on Fishers Island that we can share in the Fog Horn for next year’s crop.

Here is one from Dave Denison:
For what it’s worth, my biggest pumpkin mistake was planting them too early.  I used to plant them when I planted squash, around Memorial Day, but they’d start getting ready to pick way before Halloween so now I don’t plant the seeds until June 10. (Except if I want to grow the huge ones, like Dill’s Atlantic Giant.)

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USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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