Pumpkin Harvest Time

Reader Contribution by Erin Sheehan
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We harvested 280 pounds of pumpkin and winter squash this year, our biggest harvest yet. The total was: 71 pounds of pie pumpkins, 20 pounds of Buttercup squash, 127 pounds of Neck pumpkins and 63 pounds of Queensland Blue squash.

Winter squash and pumpkins take a lot of space. To have a substantial harvest you need to dedicate a good size area to your plants. I planted squash and pumpkins in two plots. The primary plot is about 27 x22 feet. I made six hills and put in three plants to a hill. The plants quickly grew to fill the plot and by July they were already growing through the fence. Neck pumpkin vines can grow a foot a day, so monitoring the fence line was a constant struggle. I think I overcrowded the plants. The secondary plot was for my leftovers. I started all the plants from seed and had good enough germination that I had extra plants. I couldn’t bring myself to throw the extras out, so I put a hill of three more plants into a somewhat shady and compact area.

I added fertilizer before planting and again after the plants had been in the ground about a month. After that the plants only got water. The most time consuming part of growing such a large crop was managing the squash bug infestation. I couldn’t use pesticides because that would interfere with my pollinators, not to mention go against the rules of the community garden. That meant I was spending several hours a week crouched down over my plants picking off squash bug eggs and adults.

In the end I may have beat the squash bugs, but in August powdery mildew pretty much did my plants in. I haven’t found a good method of combating PM so it took down all of my pumpkins and many of the squash plants. Fortunately, pie pumpkins only require about 100 days to ripen, so they made it. The squashes needed 120 days, so some of them didn’t quite ripen before the plants died, sadly.

People ask me all the time, what do you do with all that pumpkin and squash? I put a little bit into everything: burritos, soup, chili, bread, oatmeal, you name it. I also make a lot of recipes where pumpkin or squash is the star: waffles, muffins, sweet bread, pizza, soup and more. Pumpkin and squash aren’t just delicious, they are good for you: they are loaded with Vitamin A. I hope you will think about setting aside some space in your garden next year for pumpkins and squash!