The Best Fruits to Grow at Home
Interested in growing fruits at home, but not sure where to start? Try any of these fruiting plants that are common throughout the U.S.
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Pumpkins are a bodacious American-born fruit that are the star of fall festivals, the icon of Halloween, an obligatory fall porch decoration, and the obsession of giant pumpkin-contest competitors who duke it out in weigh-offs each October. Despite being so omnipresent in fall, though, pumpkins aren’t the easiest crop to grow in a home garden.
For one thing, they’re prolific viners that take up an enormous amount of space. Lots of big leaves are needed to generate the energy to grow 20-pound globes.
For another, pumpkins need a lot of water (but not too much). Rain and high humidity can lead to powdery mildew and other leaf diseases, while summer dry spells require well-timed soakings to keep plants alive.
And third, the flagging state of bees has made pollination and the resulting fruit formation tougher lately not only for pumpkins but for other members of the cucurbit family, which includes squash, cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupes. If you’ve had poor production of those home crops in the last few years, lack of bees could be the problem. Hot days above 90 degrees also can harm pollination.
Besides moisture-fueled leaf disease and attacks from bugs such as squash vine borers and squash bugs, pumpkins can rot in soggy soil, die or fail to produce fruit in drought conditions, and fail due to too-close planting, lack of sun, and/or poor soil nutrition.
If you’re not using plastic mulch, keep weeds from competing with pumpkin plants by pulling them ASAP. Or prevent weeds once pumpkin plants are up and growing with an application of Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer.
Your cue to harvest is when the vines start dying and the fruits stop expanding and turn their mature color – usually deep orange. This usually occurs between 85 and 125 days after seeding.
Another sign of maturity is that pumpkin skin will be hard enough that your fingernail won’t puncture it.
Use a knife to cut the fruits from the stems, leaving two or three inches of the stem as a “handle.”
To maximize storage, let the cut fruits sit in a warm, humid, well-ventilated spot for 10 to 14 days. Then move them to a cooler, drier spot (50 to 60 degrees is ideal) for longer-term storage. Healthy, cured, and uninjured pumpkins can keep for two months or more… well past Halloween and into Thanksgiving.
Pumpkins will produce an abundance of seeds. Harvest these seeds to either be consumed or saved for planting in the spring.