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OUT IN THE YARD — Pumpkin time: Texas, Louisiana can grow ‘em

It is 104 degrees outside but now’s the time to plant pumpkins from seeds to enjoy in October and November.

Perhaps you are like me and want to help a child or grandchild make a memory of picking their own pumpkin from a vine.

The USDA classifies pumpkins from the family-cucumber, genus-cucurbita L. (gourd) and species-cucurbita pepo. Mexico and Peru claim to have grown them about 5,000-7,000 years ago. Native Americans have grown pumpkins for over 1,000 years. The pilgrims were the first settlers to grow pumpkins.

The growing site should be well drained with a pH of 6.5-7.5 and eight hours of full sun. A pH below 5.5 will require the addition of lime. Remove large rocks, sticks and trash.

Spade 8-12 inches deep and spread 2-3 inches of compost, leaves or rotted hay over the area. Mix into the spaded soil.

Plant seed early to mid-July with soil temperatures between 75-95 degrees at the planting depth. Seeds of pumpkins of all sizes need about 90-120 days to grow and mature.

Some small varieties recommended for Texas and Louisiana include Baby Bear All American Selection (AAS), Jack Be Little (AAS) and Small Sugar. Baby Boo are miniature white pumpkins recommended in Louisiana.

Medium varieties recommended in Texas include Bumpkin, Howden and Jack O’ Lantern. Large varieties for Texas and Louisiana include Big Max.

Other Texas large varieties include Aladdin, Connecticut Field, Fairytale, Magic Lantern, Merlin and Prizewinner. Prankster and Silver Moon seed varieties are disease resistant to powdery mildew.

Growing pumpkins over 1,800 pounds is doubtful in our heat, humidity and rain. Pumpkins from 50-70 pounds are achievable and 25-30 pounds are highly probable.

Direct seed is the best planting method. Before planting, add 2-3 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer to each hill. Sprinkle in a 2-foot area and work into the top 3-4 inches of soil. Each hill or spot will need 2-3 seeds planted 1 inch deep.

Seeds should germinate in 5-7 days. After 10 additional days, thin the plants to two per hill. Use scissors or your fingers to break the stem from the plant at ground level. This protects the remaining 2 plant roots that may be intertwined together.

Large pumpkin varieties need six feet between plants. Medium varieties need 3-4 feet spacing and small varieties need two feet apart. Rows need to be at least eight feet apart. As you can tell, you will need a large space for this slow-growing vegetable.

Pumpkins have shallow roots so soil must be watered regularly and kept evenly moist. This is especially important when they are blooming and setting fruit. Water at least once a week.

Three weeks after the plants start blooming, side-dress with a quarter-pound of 10-10-10 per 10 feet of row. After side dressing, apply a layer of organic mulch such as hay, straw or grass clippings to conserve water and prevent weeds.

 

Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Eileen Slater at jcmgenslater@gmail.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (409)835-8461