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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

Pumpkins

Something fun for the vegetable garden!

Botanical Name: Cucurbita spp. Common Name: Pumpkin Family: Cucurbitaceae

Description: Pumpkin is an annual; its life cycle is completed in a single growing season. It may grow on a trailing vine or bush type. Most popular pumpkins are orange in color but it may be red, white or gray. Pumpkin is a squash fruit which grows from a flower. However, it is usually cooked as a vegetable.

Varieties: 'Spirit' 'Autumn Gold' 'Jack O' Lantern' 'Big Max' 'Bushkin' 'Cinderella'

Cultivation: Pumpkins grow in all zones but should be planted in late spring in colder climates after the soil has warmed. Pumpkins do not do as well in high heat and humidity. Pumpkins need full sun and regular watering below the foliage in order to prevent leaf disease.

Propagation: Pumpkins should be planted in late Spring outdoors or started earlier indoors. Soil should be rich and well drained. Pumpkins will tolerate a moderate acid soil but the preferred pH is 6.0 - 6.8. Seedlings should not be planted directly in the ground until the soil has warmed up, sometime in the middle of May. Vines: sow 5 to 6 seeds 1 inch deep in hills 6 -8 feet apart. Thin seeds to 2 per hill. Bush: rows spaced 3 feet apart; 1 inch deep in clusters of 3 - 4; clusters should be spaced 2 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 1 -2 plants per cluster. Fertilize periodically. Harvest 90 -120 days depending upon variety.

Pollination: Pumpkins are generally pollinated by honeybees because the squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is scarce. Pumpkins have male and female flowers on the same plant; the female flower may by distinguished by the small ovary at the base of the petals.

Submitted by Master Gardener Barbara Auerbach, 2007.