Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Harvests & Pumpkins!

Fall Harvests

North Branch Farms
We have so much to be thankful for with our wonderful fruits of the earth. We live in an area that's so diverse and we're able to grow so many healthy fruits and vegetables.

This year produced a lot of nice size pumpkins from my husband's vegetable garden. The grandchildren love coming up each year to pick their pumpkins in Grandpa's pumpkin patch. This year they helped him dig potatoes, too.
Some of my husband's pumpkins

Here's a trick for you: A few years when my husband, Ted, didn't have good luck with the pumpkins, we would just go to the local farm stands and buy some pumpkins and then put them in the pumpkin patch for the grandkids. They wouldn't know the difference whether Grandpa grew them or whether we bought them. They still had fun and they got to ride in the wagon on the back of the lawn tractor over to the pumpkin patch.

How to Grow Pumpkins

Pumpkins will grow in Zones 3-9. They need full sun and will grow in any soil type. Pumpkins require a lot of food and a long growing season. They need to be planted by late May in the northern zones. Do not plant in the spring until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Pumpkins are very sensitive to the cold. They prefer a site that is well drained and they need lots of room to spread out. They are also heavy feeders. If you don't have a lot of room in your garden but would like to try growing some you can plant some miniature ones. Prepare your planting hill in advance by adding a generous amount of well-rotted manure or compost into a 12"-15" hole. Plant seeds 1" deep and 4-5 seeds per hill. Rows should be about 12' (feet not inches) apart and the hills should be about 5' apart. When the plants are well established thin the hill to the best 2-3 plants. 

Appledale Orchards
Pumpkins need a lot of water. At least 1" per week. When watering try to keep the leaves and pumpkins dry. A damp pumpkin can lead to a rotting pumpkin. Fertilize on a regular basis when plants are about 1' tall. Use a fertilizer that's high in nitrogen early in the growing season. Switch over to a fertilizer high in phosphorous just before the blooming period. Control weeds with mulch. Do not over-cultivate or you could end up damaging the roots because they are very shallow. Pinch off the fuzzy ends of each vine after a few pumpkins have been formed to send more energy to the pumpkins instead of additional vine growth. If your flowers don't produce pumpkins right away, that's normal because the plant produces male and female flowers and the male flowers appear first on the vine. You need bees for pollination so be careful of  using insecticides around your plants.

Poor light, poor weather at bloom time, too much fertilizer, and not enough pollinating insects can reduce the formation of the pumpkins. If you are getting a lot of flowers on the vines, but no pumpkins then you probably do not have enough pollinating insects in the area. Try growing flowers next to your pumpkins.

Harvest your pumpkins when they are mature. A pumpkin is ready when its skin is a deep, solid color. Do not cut the pumpkin off the vine too close to the pumpkin. A longer stem will help the pumpkin to last longer. Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and stored in a cool dry place around 55 degrees.

Growing a Milk-fed Pumpkin??? Yes or No???

Not a milk-fed pumpkin but just the right size for the grandkids
Quite awhile back, I was reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of Little House Books. One of the books, Farmer Boy,  had a story in there on how to grow a giant pumpkin. Basically, the instructions were: when the pumpkins start to develop, pick out a good one and cut off all other pumpkins that were growing on that vine. Then cut off all the other vines too, so all the plants energy would go to the remaining pumpkin on the vine. Then cut a little slit on the bottom of the vine close to the pumpkin. Insert into that slit a thin candle wick or cord that will be able to take up a liquid. Then you want to put a little dish under the vine and put the wick from the pumpkin into the dish. Fill the dish up with milk. Keep the dish filled at all times.

Well, at first we thought that this technique was working. We would go out and check on them every day and all the milk would be gone. Wow! This was awesome! We should have the biggest pumpkins ever! That pumpkin was going through a lot of milk. After several weeks the pumpkin didn't appear to be growing very much...... well, no wonder.... our cats found  the milk!

Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY
Growing milk-fed pumpkins is actually more expensive that liquid fertilizer. And there is controversy on whether or not this works at all. Most of the current information on milk-fed pumpkins leans towards the fact that it could actually harm the pumpkins because by cutting a slit in the vine you are actually having an opening where diseases and insects could enter the plant. But I did find on the internet where some people have successfully grown milk-fed pumpkins.

Milk can be used on your plants by diluting it with water and watering the roots or the leaves. This is a great way to dispose of milk that is past the expiration date rather than just dumping it down the sink. Dilute it by using 10 parts water to 1 part milk. You can water your house plants with it too.

Stedman's Nursery

Stedman's Nursery, Newfane, NY

Stedman's Nursery

Stedman's Nursery

North Branch Farms, Henderson, NY

North Branch Farm

Sharp's, Belleville, NY

Country Belle Farm, Belleville, NY 

Roadside Farm Stand, Belleville, NY 
Zone 3 Landscape Nursery, Inlet, NY

Roadside Farm Stand, Adams, NY

Hi-Way Garden Center, Amherst, NY
Appledale Orchards, Mexico, NY

Appledale Orchards

Appledale Orchards

Zehr's On The Lake, Burt, NY

Swan Gourds from Behling Orchards,  Mexico, NY
Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY

Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Ann of Green Gables

Links to items in this article:

Farmer Boy written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, wife of Almanzo Wilder. 
   Wilder Homestead, Malone, NY

Appledale Orchards have a Facebook Page:


  1. The only time of the year I miss living up north.I miss the apple orchards and pumpkin patches......

  2. It is pretty colorful around here with all the leaves changing, and the bright orange pumpkins and red apples in the orchards. And sometimes when you are driving by the apple orchards you can smell all the delicious apples! It's wonderful!

  3. Loved this one....I loved Farmer Boy and have "milked" a pumpkin before lol and cola works too lol Great pictures!

    1. Thanks so much Martha. I loved Farmer Boy, too. Several years ago we visited Almanzo Wilder's homestead in Malone, NY. Here is the website:
      I read all her books and her biography as well. She was so entertaining for children and adults as well.

  4. Wow, do you visit the nurseries and farm stands! A few are in my neck of the woods too. Stedman's especially, always puts on a nice pumpkin display. I grew pumpkins last year and you would cringe how I did it, but the pumpkins turned out really nice. Made good pies too. I never heard of milk fed pumpkins, but had I tried it, the feral cats would have gotten it too.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments! I love seeing all the colorful displays of the farm stands this time of year. We were in your area the end of Sept for a family reunion (I'm from Niagara Falls, NY) so I was able to visit some of the nurseries there. I always have to stop when we're there to see if they have something new that I need. Loved your blog this week on the daylilies.