How To Harvest Your Pumpkins

Gardeners enjoy every part of the process of growing pumpkin plants from seed. There is little as satisfying as watching young shoots mature into fully-grown plants. The best part of growing pumpkins, though, is the harvest!


When Do Pumpkins Ripen?

Toward the end of the growing season, green pumpkins begin to turn orange, and harvest becomes imminent. There is no set day when the pumpkin suddenly turns orange. Instead, it is a gradual thing brought on by the shorter days and chilly nights of autumn.

Since not all pumpkins ripen at the same rate, it is possible to pick some while others are finishing the ripening process.

How Can I Tell My Pumpkin is Ripe?

Although the tell-tale bright orange color is a good indication that the pumpkin is ready to be picked, there are also other signs that the pumpkins are mature enough to harvest.

  • The rind will become hard and difficult to dent or scratch.
  • The pumpkin vines will begin to turn brown and die.
  • Pumpkin stems will be come stiff.
  • The pumpkins sound hollow when tapped.

What if My Pumpkins Are Still Green?

As long as the weather cooperates, green pumpkins will continue to ripen even after the vines have died off. If the days remain warm and sunny, the pumpkins should naturally ripen.

However, if there is a substantial frost in the forecast, you can harvest the green pumpkins and place them in a sunny location to continue to ripen. You can also cover the plants during the night and remove the cover during the day.

Tip: For pumpkins that are only partially green, carefully turn the pumpkin, so the green side faces the sun.

How Do I Remove Pumpkins from the Vine?

The best way to get the pumpkins off of the vine is to use a sharp knife or a pair of pruners. Cut the stem off about 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters) from the vine, leaving a long enough stem to hold on to. If you cut the stem too short or it falls off, the pumpkin becomes vulnerable to bacteria and will spoil more quickly.

Tip: Strong rubber or gardening gloves will protect your fingers from the prickly stems and vine.

How Do I Store My Pumpkins?

Most pumpkin varieties are well-suited to winter storage . Once you have harvested them, brush all the dirt and debris off and wash the pumpkins with a solution made from bleach and water. This solution will get rid of any bacteria that may be present.

Store the pumpkins in a cool, dark place such as a basement or cold cellar. Be sure to check the stored pumpkins regularly to be sure none have rotted. Even the smallest amount of spoilage can ruin all of the pumpkins in the same storage area.

Tip: Place the pumpkins on layers of newspaper or cardboard to keep them fresher, longer.

Once you have harvested all of the pumpkins and have correctly stored them, you will be able to enjoy them through the coldest winter months. Each bite will make the season’s labor worth it.