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My son loves to grow pumpkins. He has since he was a little guy. Truth be told, he is much better at it than I am.

I have mentioned before how much I love winter squash. They come in so many interesting shapes and sizes and the same holds true in regards to pumpkins. Everything from the tiny jack-be-little to the gargantuan Dill's Giant catch my eye in the seed catalogs over winter. Honestly, if I had more room I would have more pumpkins! We tend to grow sugar pumpkins for pie filling in our gardens but we also raise other varieties for jack-o-lanterns and other fall festivities.

One thing to consider before you even put a seed in the ground is exactly how long the particular pumpkins you are growing take to mature. Some easily exceed 100 days and that is cutting it awfully close to the first frost date in our neck of the woods. On occasion the best route has been to buy starter plants from one of the local greenhouses or even start seeds indoors to get a bit of a jump on things. With that said growing pumpkins is a rather straight forward pursuit.

To begin with you want healthy soil. Remember, healthy soil equals healthy plants. We use rabbit and chicken manure along with green compost in our gardens and the results are fantastic!

If you live in an area, such as ours, where there is a lot of rain and moisture you may want to consider growing your pumpkins in mounds to cut down on mold. Pumpkins are very susceptible, especially on the stems and leaves, to mildew and other diseases that will destroy your crop in a surprisingly short time.

They also take up a lot of room in a garden. If you allow them to sprawl they can easily send out vines well over twenty feet in length. We address this issue but growing them on a number of sturdy trellises built out of old oak and maple branches. Just like a city we build vertical rather than horizontal. It is worth mentioning this also helps tremendously with mold issues as well by providing ample air circulation.

Once they mature cut them from the vine and allow them to dry in the warm sun for a few hours before bringing them in. When you do carve them for meals or fun take the seeds from the healthiest plants and wash them off. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. The seeds and the pulp are sticky devils.

Pumpkins are loaded with anti-oxidants such as vitamin A and C. Those we do not eat we eventually give to the chickens. We simply cut them in half and the hens do the rest of the work, in fact they love them!

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here  


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