What is easy to grow; comes in sizes from less than a pound 
 to over 600 pounds; has been worshipped and written into    
 legends and plays; inspires whole families to see and buy;  
 is very high in vitamin A; can be cooked, canned, baked,    
 carved, made into a pie, a Jack-O'-lantern, soup,           
 casseroles, bread, cookies, seed snacks, cattle feed, and   
 even a golden coach for Cinderella?  The answer to this     
 overwhelming question is...a pumpkin of course!  
 References to pumpkins date back many centuries.  The name  
 appears to originate from the Greek word for "large melon", 
 which is "pepon".  This was nasalized by the French into    
 "pompon".  The British changed that to "pumpion", to which  
 Shakespeare refers in his "Merry Wives of Windsor".         
 Finally, the American colonists changed it into "pumpkin",  
 where it is referred to in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow",   
 "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater" and "Cinderella".             
 Botanically, there is no such thing as a pumpkin.  Pumpkins 
 are certain varieties of squash which through local         
 traditions and use have come to be called pumpkins.  Squash 
 and pumpkins belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, which also 
 contains cucumbers, melons and gourds.  The varieties of    
 squash most often considered pumpkins are found in four     
 species of the genus Cucurbita: C. pepo, C. maxima, C.      
 mixta, and C. moschata.                                     
 Planting Pumpkin
Pumpkins are warm-season vegetables that require soil and   
 air temperatures to be above 60 degrees F. before they will 
 thrive out-of-doors.  Seeds planted too early could rot in  
 cold ground.  Young plants exposed to 2 or 3 nights of 45-  
 50 degrees F. temperatures may become stunted from chilling 
 injury.  Pumpkins are usually direct-seeded into the soil   
 because they do not transplant well. Late May 
 to mid-June is the best time to plant in most northern states.  The danger of fros is past and the pumpkins will be mature when they are needed
 in September and October.                                   
 Pumpkins will grow in most soils, if they are well drained. 
 They will not tolerate low areas with water-logged soil.    
 Sandy loams with high organic matter for good moisture      
 retention are best.  Heavier soils with more clay, or       
 lighter soils with more sand can be improved by adding peat 
 moss, compost, aged manure, humus, or other forms of organic
 matter.  The pH should be maintained from slightly acid to  
 neutral.  Slightly alkaline soils have been productive in   
 Western states.  Very acid soils should be limed or avoided.
 Your soil can be tested for pH, nutrient levels, soil type, 
 and fertilizer recommendations.  See your county agent for  
 more information on testing.                                
 Pumpkins can be planted in hills or drilled in rows.  A hill
 is a circular depression with soil mounded a few inches up  
 around the circumference.  Three or four seeds are planted  
 6 inches apart and 1" deep in the center.  These are later  
 thinned to the 2 strongest plants per hill.  Hills should   
 be 3-6 feet apart within the rows, with the rows 5-10 feet  
 apart.  Plants drilled in rows should be 1 1/2-3 feet apart 
 in the rows, with the rows 5-10 feet apart, and planted     
 1-1/2 inches deep.  Large fruited and long vined varieties  
 should be given the maximum amounts of space.  Bush and     
 semi-bush varieties can be planted closer together.  Soil   
 fertility also affects spacing.  The more fertile the soil, 
 the less space each plant requires.                         
Feeding Pumpkin
 Additional fertilizer broadcast or side-dressed is          
 recommended when the plants are beginning to set fruit.  In 
 the home garden the 5-10-5 fertilizer can be sprinkled on at
 the rate of 1 cup over every 25 square feet of pumpkin      
 plants, or manure tea can be fed to each hill.              
Watering Pumpkin
 Pumpkins are about 90% water and need a lot to develop into 
 large fruit.  They are also subject to many foliar diseases 
 that can be spread by overhead or sprinkler irrigation.  In 
 the home garden, a gallon of water each week at the base of 
 the plant is recommended if the rainfall is less than one   
 inch that week.  Mulch applied after the soil has warmed is 
 helpful for moisture retention. 
Rolling Pumpkins
Most pumpkins acquire one flat, warty, unattractive side    
 from being in direct contact with the ground while growing. 
 Decay organisms can sometimes enter the fruit here, causing 
 it to rot, especially if the ground is wet.  To prevent     
 these ground spots, fruits can be rolled over once or twice 
 during the growing season; or they can be taken out of      
 direct contact with the ground.  Place a small box, board,  
 newspaper, mulch, or other material under each fruit to     
 prevent them from touching the ground.                      
Insect Pests
 The most common insect pests of pumpkins are cucumber       
 beetles, squash bugs and vine borers.  
Cucumber beetles are narrow, 1/3" long, yellow and black spotted or striped      
 beetles that chew holes in the leaves and cotyledons and    
 spread bacterial wilt.  In the home garden they may be      
 controlled with consistent hand picking and soap sprays, but
 they are very mobile and require diligent control measures. 
 An insecticide may have to be used.                         
 Mechanical shields such as cheese cloth or a box placed     
 upside-down over the seedlings, anchored by burying the     
 flaps, with the bottom replaced by screen, will shield out  
 all three pests until plants are well established.  When the
 shields are removed, place potted catnip and tansy around   
 the plants to further discourage cucumber beetles
 Squash bugs are large, dark brown, flat-bodied bugs that    
 suck sap from the vines around the base of the plants.  They
 hide under foliage and are not very active.  Handpicking is 
 an excellent control method in the home garden.  Where this 
 is impractical, an insecticide may have to be used.         
 Vine borers tunnel into the stem and cause the vine to wilt 
 from the contact point to the tip.  If these insects are a  
 problem, an insecticide should be applied once each week for
 3 or 4 weeks, beginning 3 weeks after planting.  If wilting 
 is noticed, look for piles of sawdust-like material at the  
 base of the plant.  Slit the stem until you find a white    
 grub and kill it.  The vine should re-cover and continue    
 growing.  Removing stalks and vines from the field in the   
 fall should reduce infestation in coming years.             
Disease Problems
 Powdery mildew is a fungus disease that often appears on    
 squash and pumpkin leaves late in the season.  It looks like
 white patches of dusting powder scattered on the leaves.  It
 can be controlled chemically if it appears early in the     
 season, but often it is so late that it does no affect the  
 Harvest Pumpkin
 Pumpkins should stay on the vine as long as possible,       
 especially pie and canning pumpkins, because cool weather   
 increases their sugar content and storage life.  However,   
 heavy frost will damage their tissue and allow decay        
 organisms to enter.  If storage time is important, harvest  
 just before a heavy frost.  To assure that every fruit is of
 harvestable size, the vines can be pruned a few weeks before
 harvest.  Cut off the vine to just after the last pumpkin   
 that looks large enough to ripen in the next few weeks.     
 To harvest, pumpkins should be cut leaving some vine        
 attached.  Do not carry pumpkins by the stem.  If a stem    
 breaks off the decorative value of the fruit is lost and the
 storage life is greatly reduced.  Be careful not to bruise  
 fruit or puncture the shells while harvesting.  This will   
 also shorten storage life.                                  
Storing Pumpkin
 For maximum storage ability, do not stack pumpkins in a     
 pile.  Arrange them on shelves or close together but with   
 ventilation space around each one, and keep them dry.  Ideal
 conditions are 50-55 degree F. temperature and 50-75%       
 relative humidity.  Pumpkins may also be cured by placing   
 them, soon after harvest, in a 75-80 degree F. area with    
 good air circulation for 2 weeks, then reducing the         
 temperature.  For home gardeners, this may be difficult, but
 any place where the temperature is not over 60 degrees or   
 under 40 degrees and the humidity is not over 75% will      
 suffice.  An attic, a dry basement, and unheated extra room,
 or a closed garage are very good storage areas.  A furnace  
 room, or between a stove and refrigerator may be excellent  
 for curing.                                                 
 Cooking Pumpkin
 Pumpkin is quite nutritious and a low calorie vegetable.  It
 is 90% water, 1% protein, has small amounts of the B        
 vitamins, and vitamin C.  It contains 1600 units of vitamin 
 A.  The darker orange fleshed varieties have even more      
 vitamin A.  This is a considerable amount with only carrots,
 winter squash, and certain cole crops containing more.  It  
 is well worth using in baked goods, as a soup base or in    
 casseroles and other main dishes.                           
 The Indians roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire 
 and ate them.  Colonists sliced off the top and cleaned out 
 the seeds, then replaced the top and roasted the whole      
 pumpkin in hot ashes, or filled the inside with milk, spices
 and honey and baked it in the hot ashes.  This was probably 
 the origin of pumpkin pie.                                  

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