Pumpkin cultivation, pumpkin is a vegetable that should not be missing in the garden, given the generous production of vegetables it guarantees. It is a plant of American origin, of the cucurbit family, its scientific name refers to the size that the fruit can take: Cucurbita maxima.
This vegetable is harvested in autumn and keeps very well for months, therefore it is one of the precious winter vegetables, excellent to have in the home garden to be able to put vegetables on the table during the winter.
In addition to the pumpkin that is cooked, the plant is sometimes also cultivated to make ornamental pumpkins, which are excavated and used as a container or as a Halloween lantern, there is also a sort of pumpkin from which to obtain a natural sponge, the loofah.
In terms of cultivation (Pumpkin cultivation), it is a fairly expensive plant in requires rich fertilization and space in the garden, but it never fails to reward the farmer with great satisfaction. Pumpkin is a low-calorie vegetable: 33 calories per 100 grams of fresh product, an interesting feature for those looking for dietary foods.
Soil, climate, and fertilizer
Climate. The pumpkin can stand the cold and suffer damage with temperatures below 10 degrees, the plant also suffers if it is too hot, above 30 degrees. The ideal for growing it in the vegetable garden is a mild temperature, around 20 degrees. In the hottest summer months, it can be useful to use shade nets.
Soil and fertilizer. Pumpkin needs rich soil, ideally with a pH between 6 and 7. To have quality pumpkins with compost or ripe manure, you need to add a lot of potassium, an element that makes the fruit tastier and sweeter, so it’s great to mix ashes at will. in compost, or use stillage (residues from beet processing, found in agricultural centers among natural fertilizers). Pumpkin is very demanding in terms of fertilization: before cultivating it, you can dig a hole to fill with manure, prepare this bed of nourishment, or bury 3 or 4 quintals of manure for every 100 square meters of garden.
Sow the squash
How and when to sow. Pumpkin can be sown directly in the vegetable garden, alternatively, the seedlings can be grown in pots. In the seedbed it is sown from mid-April and then transplanted from the end of the month, for pumpkin seedlings it is better to use fairly large pots, I recommend a diameter of 8 cm. If you sow directly in the field you can make postarelle in which 3-4 seeds are put. Our advice is to slightly raise the postarelle concerning the ground level, even just 10 cm is enough. To learn more about times and ways, you can read the pumpkin sowing guide.
A sixth of the implant. Pumpkin plants have a great development horizontally, which is why they are planted in groups of two, close to each other, and each one points in a different direction. Doing so saves manure and space, optimizing the vegetable garden. The distances at which to plant the pumpkins in the field must be very spacious: we are talking about 160 or 200 cm between the plants.
Pumpkin is a demanding vegetable but not particularly difficult to grow, with some simple precautions that I list below you can have excellent results.
Thin out the seedlings. When the seedlings have 3 or 4 real leaves they thin out, leaving the best of each postarella.
Hilling and weeding. Pumpkin plants like the ground to be loose and well-oxygenated, so it is a useful way to periodically hoe the garden bed planted with pumpkin. In addition to hoeing, you can also bury a little fertilizer before flowering and eventually tuck up the plants. Weeding not only loosens the soil with the hoe but weeds are also controlled.
Macerate of nettle. Nettle macerate is an excellent organic fertilizer for young pumpkin seedlings, to be sprayed after transplanting, diluted in water with a ratio of 1 to 5. Whoever wants to obtain giant pumpkins above all must take care to provide nutrients even after transplantation, in progress. As a liquid fertilizer, nettle macerate is good for use during cultivation, while the organic matter is best placed first when working the soil.
Irrigation and mulching
Irrigation. Pumpkin requires water, particularly when it begins to bloom. You don’t have to wet it often but you need to provide plenty of water so that it can penetrate well into the soil. However, it is important to make sure not to let excess water stagnate, if this happens it could lead to illnesses.
Mulch. Since the pumpkin goes to rest on the ground, it is an excellent idea to use mulch. In this way, the fruit does not rest directly on the ground and a lot of work is saved from weeding the weeds. If you do not mulch the weeds must be carefully eliminated and shingles can be placed under the fruit, to prevent rottenness from occurring when the soil is wet. In addition, there are worms, the elaterids, which could eat the fruit is placed on the ground.
Pruning: trim the pumpkin
The topping of the branch is carried out periodically and is an important pruning job to balance the plant and direct its resources towards the formation of the fruit. To trim the pumpkin you need to cut after the second or after the fourth leaf (depending on how developed the plant is). This pruning has the purpose of producing axillary shoots, which will lead to production, if instead, you want large pumpkins it is better to intervene differently, leaving only a couple of fruits.
Diseases and pests of the plant
Pumpkin has the same problems as zucchini, being very similar to cucurbit plants, the main adversities common to these vegetables are aphids, virosis, and powdery mildew. For the pumpkin, there is also the problem of downy mildew, a fungal disease that can kill the plant. Good agronomic practice allows you to prevent most problems, in particular, correct management of the soil is useful, which must be well worked and fertilized correctly with mature fertilizer. Then there are natural defense methods that are useful for chasing away harmful insects and fighting diseases, consistent with organic farming.
Insects and parasites
The pumpkin plant is not very susceptible to harmful insects, the main enemy is the “usual” aphids, which affect all horticultural plants. Aphids must be kept under control, above all because they often transmit virosis that seriously damages the plant. Here’s how to defend against aphids.
Diseases of the pumpkin
Viruses are diseases that must be prevented, if they occur they cannot be cured. First of all, we work by protecting the garden from aphids, but also by being careful to use disinfected scissors and knives in pruning and harvesting operations.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease characteristic of pumpkins and courgettes, it manifests itself with a white powder on the leaves and causes the fruit to rot, even after harvesting. In the organic garden, powdery mildew is fought naturally with horsetail macerate and sodium bicarbonate, in extreme cases using sulfur with treatments to be done morning and evening, avoiding giving it in the hottest hours. Unlike the zucchini, the cultivation of the pumpkin cannot be rotated in a single season, since the cycle that brings the fruit to ripening is long, so treatments are more often used, in particular between July and August.
Downy mildew is a disease that leads the pumpkin plant to rapid death, it is fought with copper and the treatments should already be done on the seedlings in pots. Copper, however, is better if possible to avoid using it, focusing rather on preventing problems.
The rot of the collar (Pythium) is another cryptogamic disease that can affect the pumpkin in spring, it acts only at temperatures below 15 degrees and when there is a lot of humidity. As for downy mildew, copper can also be used to counteract this rot, which must be sprinkled on the leaves, stem, and the earth of the jar.
Fruit harvest. The pumpkin is harvested when it is perfectly ripe, only with the maturation it becomes sweeter and tastier and keeps longer, unlike the zucchini which is instead harvested unripe. Ripe pumpkin can be recognized when the skin is very hard and cannot be scratched with the fingernail. We recommend that you learn more about how to understand when to harvest the pumpkin, since understanding the right time is one of the great dilemmas of the garden. Find us some useful tricks.
To store the harvested pumpkins you need to keep them in a cool and dry place, be careful to put them in the cellar because it is often too humid a place. Once harvested, the pumpkins fear the excessive cold, which can crystallize the pulp.
The pumpkin flower
The zucchini flower is deliciously eaten fried in batter or creamed in risotto. The flowers can be harvested taking into account not to stop pollination, otherwise, the fruit harvest is lost. The advice is not to harvest in the morning but afternoon and to collect only the male flowers, recognizable by the elongated “stalk”. Also, find a post that explains better when to pick zucchini flowers so as not to miss a single fruit.
To waste as little as possible and discover different flavors, you can use every part of the pumpkin: even the dried and toasted seeds are an excellent salty snack, to be eaten as an aperitif. You can also put them in salads to flavor with a crunchy element.
Variety of squash
Pumpkin is a vegetable that comes in a surprising multitude of varieties, different in shape, color, and flavor. Below you will find some qualities that we recommend for a good family garden, to cultivate selected for the flavor and the production. Certainly, for a good home garden, the varieties with small fruit are better, more suitable for satisfying the consumption of a family, and often sweeter in flavor. Those who want to try their hand at the challenge of growing a huge pumpkin will have to choose seeds prepared to produce giant vegetables, several local competitions reward the largest pumpkins.
To learn more about the various types of pumpkin, you can read the article on pumpkin varieties.
Here are some pumpkin varieties to try growing in your gardens:
Butternut. Pumpkin with a slightly elongated fruit, light in color on ocher, butternut has sweet pulp and excellent conservation (even 4 months from harvest).
Delica. Small pumpkin (between one and two kilos on average), round and flattened, with a yellow and sweet pulp. Variety of Japanese origin today among the most cultivated in our gardens. It is also interesting because the Delica pumpkin has a short cycle, allows two cycles (April-July and July-October), it keeps very little (to be consumed within two months of harvesting).
Violina. Fruit on two claviform kilos, yellow skin, intense yellow pulp tending to orange. Violin squash is very sweet and therefore excellent for making the famous Mantuan or Modenese pumpkin tortelli.
Spaghetti squash. Originally from China, inside the pulp, looks like a pile of spaghetti, they can also be eaten fresh. Very rustic plant, easy to grow, this pumpkin is an original vegetable to experiment with.
Beretta Piacentina Pumpkin. Late cycle pumpkin, excellent as a winter vegetable. Pumpkin from Piacenza has a flattened round shape, with deep wrinkles on the rind. Very good, perhaps the tastiest and sweetest variety.
Climbing green pumpkin. A climbing plant that produces elongated fruits, which even reach two meters in length. It should be compared more to courgette than to pumpkin, in Sicily it is defined as courgette and its culinary use is more precisely that of a courgette. To have the best quality vegetables, it is advisable to collect the unripe fruits before they reach 30 cm in length. The most common type is the Lagenaria Longissima pumpkin, depending on the variety it can be a little watery or tasty. Its vertical growth makes the green squash a good solution for very small vegetable gardens.
Marina di Chioggia. Pumpkin with a lumpy green pulp, fruit that reaches very large sizes, the sea squash of Chioggia is another of the most popular varieties in Italian gardens.
Centennial Pumpkin. Strange variety with an inverted heart shape and thorny fruit. The plant is a climber, develops a lot, and needs a support network. To reproduce it, the entire fruit must be planted, which contains only one seed. It is not afraid of any parasites and is a very rustic plant.
The ornamental pumpkins
There are also several varieties of pumpkin that are not eaten, grown with an ornamental function, and are emptied to make containers or lanterns. The cultivation of pumpkins to have containers has been in use since ancient times, today in particular at Halloween the classic hollowed-out pumpkins have become famous. There are several varieties of ornamental pumpkins, with the most disparate shapes and colors. We find the bottle gourd, the Lagenaria, the trumpets. You can learn more by reading the article on the cultivation of ornamental pumpkins.
The luffa pumpkins on the other hand, in addition to being ornamental, are also used for the production of vegetable sponges, the fruit conceals an extraordinary natural sponge inside.
Recipes with pumpkin
Pumpkin hummus recipe/ Baked mushrooms with pumpkin recipe/ Pumpkin and Quorn curry recipe/ Rigatoni pasta with pumpkin recipe/ Pumpkin burger recipe/ Pumpkin Fettuccine recipe/ Pumpkin And Courgette Soup recipe/ Meatballs with pumpkin recipe/ Baked pumpkin with speck recipe/ Pumpkin Focaccia recipe/ Vegetarian pumpkin risotto recipe.
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