Harvesting pumpkins

It’s about time to harvest pumpkins again. Our pumpkin vine this year was a volunteer that sprang up in the chook run from the remnants of an old compost heap. It didn’t get any TLC because we half expected the chooks to trample it before it became established. However, it defied the odds and performed magnificently – which only goes to show how good compost is for growing vegetables.
I think it was only watered once but it received plenty of rain during its growing period, and the vine has produced at least 14 JAP pumpkins that we have found so far. JAP pumpkin is closely related to butternut pumpkin, gramma and trombone squash (Cucurbita moschata). These are thinner skinned and don’t keep as long as the Queensland Blue types (C. maxima).
Because we couldn’t spare the water later year, we bought all our pumpkins and some of them weren’t the best because of the drought. Consequently, we were curious to see what we could expect from our volunteer plant and picked one of the pumpkins early. (As you can see in the photo below, the stem is still moist.) Pumpkins picked at this stage do not keep well but we are using this pumpkin immediately, so it doesn’t matter. Now that they are nearly ripe, we will put a broken piece of foam box or thick cardboard under each fruit to keep them drier and clear of the ground, so they are less likely to rot. We will be leaving the rest of the crop until the vine dies off, and the stems become brittle, as that is when they develop their full flavour and store well. If you can’t wait that long, at least wait until the tendril closest to each pumpkin browns off.
Don’t worry about frost on your pumpkins, it will only kill the vines, and it is said that frost toughens the skins so that pumpkins keep longer.
P.S. When the vines had died back a bit, we realised that the vine had produced 28 pumpkins. Not bad for a volunteer vine! There were, of course, more than enough to supply family and friends, and we were able to sell the rest through our local organic greengrocer.

62 thoughts on “Harvesting pumpkins

  1. thank you very much for the information.
    i thought i was so smart allowing my pumpkin vines to grow where ever they wanted to. this year my false lemon hedge has flowered 3 times so far and attracted bees at the correct times rain fall has been plentiful and i have not needed to water at all. lazy.
    crop numbers best ever over 20. worm farms rule. all vege and fruit scraps. now have plenty to share which makes me happy and i like being happy. nature is terrific. so are the worms. i also have a paw paw tree from my worm farms with fruit as large as any in the shop. hope i can beat the bats. loved the reading well done

  2. Why are our pumpkins flesh pale in colour and tasteless.
    Hi Anne, If you used seed that you or a friend saved from their pumpkins, it could be poor quality seed or it has been possibly cross-pollinated with a cattle pumpkin.
    If you used seed that you bought from a nursery, it is probably because you have harvested your pumpkins too early. Did you wait until “the vine dies off, and the stems become brittle, as that is when they develop their full flavour and store well. If you can’t wait that long, at least wait until the tendril closest to each pumpkin browns off”? – Lyn

  3. G’day first time I have had Japs in and out of the 3 pumpkin vines only one pumpkin so far, it’s as big as a basketball, do they grow that big all the time? Regards Peter
    Hi Peter, pumpkins from well-grown vines can get close to basketball size. If your 3 plants only formed one pumpkin between them it sounds as though you had a shortage of female flowers or a shortage of bees to pollinate them.
    Female flowers often form on side shoots. For next year (it’s too late for this crop) if you pinch off the ends of the long runners it usually stimulates the growth of side shoots. If lack of pollinators is your problem, see: Squash family not forming fruit
    This method of hand-pollination suits all members of the squash or cucurbit family. – lyn

  4. great article I’ve been reading gardening books but found no details about harvesting
    have 2 butternuts on vine grown from my saved seed, going well
    but had to hand pollinate due to shortage of bees
    lots of early water but now waiting to collect fruit of my efforts

  5. Thanks for the article. It’s great having a local aussie site because our climate is so different to the northern hemisphere and thus their sites don’t often apply). I’m in my third year of volunteer pumpkin vines. This year has been so dry (blue mountains, nsw) and numbers are down, but quality seems much better. I did a lot of hand pollinating this year – where have the bees gone? ?? Expecting 17 orange bubbas this year. Had 27 last year but a few were only good for chook fodder.

    Hi Graeme, pumpkin for chooks produces eggs with richly-coloured yolks, providing us with important anti-oxidants. Unfortunately, the use of neo-nicotinoid pesticides and the spread of the varroa mite are proving to be disastrous for bees, and numbers are rapidly declining. This is becoming a serious problem as one third of all the food we eat requires bees for pollination. – Lyn

  6. Hi First time growing pumpkins and I have 4 on the vine. I had to hand pollinate as no bees at all. Not one even seen in my garden this year. My question is do the pumpkins vine just die off and regrow new year ? And when do they stop producing pumpkins – I live in Brisbane. Thanks
    Hi Pam, no, they won’t grow next year as pumpkin vines are an annual. Pumpkins reach maturity from autumn onwards so they are unlikely to form new ones now. You haven’t said which variety you are growing but pumpkins are mature when the vine dies off, although you can pick them when the curly tendril closest to the pumpkin has turned brown. – Lyn

  7. Hi there. I loved to hear of all the pumpkin activities. My 2 vines grew in my tomato patch. At first I was very proud of them but once I was unable to get near to reach any tomatoes I was not so pleased. My garden ended up a jungle of vines and a possible home for a snake! I have lots of pumpkins, the largest so far 11.9k.
    Well done, Bernadette. You must have very healthy soil to get that result. Pleased to hear the snakes didn’t cause any problems. – Lyn 🙂

  8. I’m growing Seminole Pumpkins in N FL for the first time and have four pumpkins on the huge vine so far. Please advise as to when I can harvest/what to look for and also if I should limit the number of fruits per vine. I read somewhere to not have more than three on a vine. Thank you,

    I am not familiar with this variety of pumpkin as they are not usually grown in Australia. This website tells you when they should be harvested. seminole-pumpkin

  9. Thank you for responding. I live in Saskatchewan Canada. I have never grown giant pumpkins before so any advice you can offer will be valuable. I mistakenly cut two off as they were getting to big to handle, but on the yellow side. I noticed today that the largest one broke off at the stem on its own. It happened a few days ago as the stem had hardened and browned. The larger one is more orange in colour. I have two more growing yet, but aren’t huge to deal with yet.

    Debi, you may find this website helpful: When to pick giant pumpkins – Lyn

  10. Hi we bought a house recently that the previous owner had obsiously thrown food scraps on a garden bed and we have tomatoes and pumpkins growing. I have a couple of pumpkins that are a golden colour and they have a pattern similar to a kent pumpkin but I have had them on there for a couple of months now (all the vine growth around them has died off) but the pumpkins haven’t changed colour just got a deeper golden. When can I pick them and is there a pumpkin that looks like a kent pumpkin and stays golden in colour? Or does it take a long time to change colour? Thank you
    I am not familiar with pumpkins that fit your description, except for the Styrian Hull-less pumpkin Cucurbita pepo styrica whose hull-less seeds are Pepitas, or the seeds could have come from a plant that was cross-pollinated with a gramma or butternut.
    Whatever its origin, it should be mature if the vine has died off. – Lyn

  11. Hi, I amm looking for some help. I statarted the year with several very healthy pumpkin plants that just popped up in a new area of my new garden in Bendigo Victoria, this section of garend had plenty of cow poo and potash add, all was going well plenty of flowers and bees. My problem is the plants started to wilt and brown, my first thought was lack of water and sunburn, but now I am not sure, the browning has got worse as has the wilting and the plants are dying…I would appreciate any suggestions. cheers Jennifer.

    Jennifer, the wilting sounds like lack of water. I think you had some very hot days and not much rain in your area during December and January. Browning of leaves also occurs under these conditions. Pumpkin vines produce an enormous amount of foliage for one set of roots to service, and they need to form extra roots to keep them healthy. This post, Assisting root growth, will help you to encourage more roots on your vine.
    The other possible cause of the browning leaves is that you may have overdone the potash. This accumulates in soil as potassium salts, which damages existing roots and shows up as brown edges to leaves.

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