It’s time to celebrate! Oct. 26 is National Pumpkin Day, a perfect opportunity to stop and appreciate the multifaceted fun of growing, eating, carving and even painting pumpkins.
I won’t claim to be an expert at growing pumpkins since I’ve never attempted to raise one of those behemoth pumpkins weighing hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds. The growing season on my northern Wisconsin farm is simply too short.
But I’ve grown smaller pumpkins for the last three years, favoring varieties like Early Prince Hybrid (think “classic carving pumpkin”) and Casperita (adorable miniature white pumpkins). I plant several raised beds with pumpkin plants and encourage the vines to climb a welded wire fence.
It’s fun to see the Casperita vines grow higher and higher, dotting the fence line with little white pumpkins.
Pumpkin Growing Basics
Once they’re established, pumpkin plants grow rapidly. I find it satisfying to watch them grow with seemingly endless vigor during the peak of summer. Even small pumpkins can grow noticeably from one day to the next.
But pumpkins shouldn’t be left to grow unaided. They need at least 1 inch of water per week, so diligent care is the key to success.
Weeding the beds early on is a good strategy. I have, however, found that once the pumpkin plants take off, their gigantic leaves produce such deep shade that weeds generally aren’t too problematic.
After the pumpkins have matured, harvesting is a delight. The stems can be thick and prickly. Durable gloves and pruning shears simplify the process of separating fruit from plant.
Pumpkins are so beautiful that’s it’s tempting to just place them around your house and yard to enjoy their appearance. (There’s a Casperita pumpkin sitting next to me on my desk.) But think of all the delicious meals you can prepare with pumpkins! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, roasted pumpkin seeds … the tasty possibilities go on and on.
All the Pumpkins!
Then again, why not eat some pumpkins and decorate with others? If you have lots of pumpkins and want to enjoy some throughout autumn, you can cure them for around two weeks. This involves storing them in a warm location (around 80 to 85 degrees F) to dry out their skin.
Once they’re cured, pumpkins can last for months and are perfect for decorating.
If you’re handy with a carving knife, the possibilities are endless. Start by cutting off the top and removing the innards of the pumpkin, including the seeds. You’ll be left with a hollow fruit perfect for carving intricate designs into the skin.
Of course, if your artistic skills exceed your prowess with a knife, you can paint your pumpkins instead. I enjoyed entering a pumpkin painting contest last year. While I didn’t win, it was a pleasure to paint a pumpkin I grew myself.
I plan to enter again this year.
The point of this ambling National Pumpkin Day essay is simple. It’s to highlight the pleasures of growing pumpkins and convince you to give them a try in 2023. True, pumpkins can take up a lot of garden space, but the rewards (as I’ve hopefully expounded on in great detail) are worth the commitment.