Farming and ranching is a tough business financially in today's market and is a lot of hard work, but we find it very rewarding. We feel very grateful that the Pumpkin Patch has allowed us to keep the farm, while so many other small farmers are selling out. We are proud of the strides we've made over the past few years and look forward to further growth (especially in the development of our Pumpkin Patch).
1. Choose a seed - there are many, many varieties to choose from (your choice should depend on what type of pumpkin you want to grow). The traditional Jack O' Lantern is known as the Connecticut Field Pumpkin - they produce classic pumpkins usually between 10-20 lbs., bright orange in color and the traditional pumpkin shape. There are many other varieties that will produce similar pumpkins (which we have found to grow better here in NM) such as the Howden, Racer and Magic Lantern. There are also miniature varieties, giant varieties, varieties in different colors, and varieties best for pies.
2. Plant seeds in a sunny area. They can be planted when days consistently reach into the low 70s, spring rains have tapered off and it is no longer freezing at night (this may be from late May in northern areas to early July in more southern locations). Seeds should be planted in the middle of small mounds of dirt about 3 ft. in diameter surrounded by a moat. Plant 4-5 seeds in a circle in the middle of the mound, about 6-8 inches apart. If you wish to plant more, space mounds about 10' apart. Of course, at the farm we plant a little differently. Seeds are planted in rows every 60 inches with seed 36" apart. Seeds should be covered with about 1½ inches of moist soil.
3. If seeds are kept moist, they should start sprouting within 7-14 days. Soon after leaves should start appearing. You may want to thin your plants to the strongest and largest if you want really top quality pumpkins. Vines from a single plant may grow as long as 30 feet.
4. It's a good idea to fertilize your plants with compost, aged manure or a fertilizer product.
5. Continue watering you plants - turn off your water when puddles start appearing and then water again when the topsoil is dry.
6. Pumpkins are susceptible to several common problems. One is powdery mildew - a white, powdery mold will appear on the upper surfaces of the leaves. Another is cucumber beetles and squash bugs. They attack seedlings, vines, immature and mature fruits. To rid your plants of these problems you will need to use a fungicide or an insecticide.
7. As fruit develops, it should be handled as little as possible. However, to produce "classic" pumpkins you many want to adjust the fruit so its bottom is sitting squarely on the ground. This shouldn't be done until the fruit is well-established (about a month after its appearance). Also, slipping something such as a shingle under the pumpkin may prevent scarring or bruising as the fruit grows.
8. Pumpkins should be harvested after the vines have died back and the fruit is a deep color (from yellow to red - depending on the variety). Leave a 3-4 inch stem attached. To ensure your pumpkins last as long as possible, store them in a cool dry place and don't let them freeze.