Whether you want to bake a pie or carve a Jack-o-Lantern, you can find a pumpkin variety to suit your project. Pumpkins are members of the gourd family, and are relatives of winter squash. Most pumpkins grow as vines, but some have a bushy growth habit. In late spring or early summer, plant pumpkin seeds in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.5. Before planting, add a low-nitrogen fertiliser, such as 5-10-10, to the soil. Plant the seeds in hills and water thoroughly.
Standard orange varieties such as Autumn Gold, Spirit and Ghost Rider are good carving pumpkins. Autumn Gold is a small to medium pumpkin which weighs up to 6.8kg. This variety is yellow when immature and orange at maturity, and tolerates early frosts. Spirit, which has a semi-bush growth habit, is a medium hybrid which weighs up to 6.8kg. Ghost Rider is a large, dark orange pumpkin which weighs up to 11.3kg. at maturity. Each of these varieties reaches maturity 100 to 110 days after planting.
The Small Sugar pumpkin is a favourite choice for pies. This small, light orange pumpkin weighs about 0.907kg. at maturity. According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Winter Luxury is a small heirloom cooking pumpkin with a whitish netting over its skin. Dickenson Field and Kentucky Field varieties are popular choices for canned pie fillings. These varieties have a tan colour and weigh about 4.54kg. at maturity. All of these cooking varieties are ready for harvest in 100 to 115 days.
Miniature pumpkins make attractive fall table decorations. These varieties weigh less than 0.454kg. and measure three inches in diameter at maturity. The Baby Boo miniature pumpkin has white skin, while Sweetie Pie has a scalloped shape. Some miniature varieties, such as Mini Jack Munchkin and Jack-Be-Little, are good baking and cooking pumpkins. Miniature pumpkins are usually ready for harvest in 95 days.
Jumbo pumpkin varieties weigh 45.4kg. or more. Growers cultivate jumbo hybrids for contests and seed swaps. The University of Illinois Extension states that although Prizewinner is not the largest jumbo pumpkin, it has the most uniform appearance and colour. It can weigh 22.7 to 90.7kg. Atlantic Giant pumpkins are much larger and can weigh as much as 272kg. Both varieties reach maturity in 120 days.
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- University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Performance of Small-Fruited Pumpkin Cultivars in Maine; David T. Handley, et al.
- University of Illinois Extension: Pumpkin -- All-American Selections
- University of Maryland Extension Service: Growing Pumpkins; Robert J. Rouse, et al.
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Pumpkins and Winter Squash; Karen Russ, et al.; September 2007
- Oregon State University Extension: Pumpkin and Winter Squash; August 2004