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All today known pumpkin varieties go back to wild species that were originally native to Central and South America. It is believed that the indigenous people of the American continent cultivated the vegetables around 10,000 BC. However, over millennia, probably only the oily kernels of the fruits were used as food. They are the only plant parts in the wild species and early cultivars, which are bitter-free and therefore non-toxic.
Most of today's garden forms are derived from three wild pumpkins: the giant squash (Cucurbita maxima), the musk squash (Cucurbita moschata) and the garden squash (Cucurbita pepo). In addition, the fig leaf pumpkin (Cucurbita ficifolia) is of horticultural importance, but mainly as a treatment base for snake cucumbers. One of the most famous varieties of the Giant Pumpkin is next to 'Yellow Beard' Atlantic Giant ', which comes from the US and regularly produces the record-heavy specimens that are priced especially in the US and England in competitions The varieties of Hokkaido cultivated on the Japanese island of the same name are also much more aromatic, and from a taste perspective, many varieties of the heat-seeking musk squash set the bar quite high, for example 'Butternut' and 'Muscade de Provençe'. Pumpkin comes from various oil pumpkins and ornamental pumpkins and the zucchini - they form a separate subspecies (Cucurbita pepo convar giromontiina).

From a botanical point of view, the fruits of pumpkins - you can hardly believe it - are berries. Strictly speaking, it concerns tank berries, as the outer skin of the fruits in the fully ripe state woods more or less strongly. In size, shape and color, the different varieties are very different. In particular, the ornamental forms are often multicolored and sometimes have quite bizarre shapes. All pumpkins are annual and form long, more or less strong creeping shoots with large leaves. The plants are monoecious, that is, the male and female genitalia are in different flowers.
If you grow your pumpkins from your own seed, you should only grow one pumpkin variety in the garden. When different types of pumpkin cross, there is a risk that the offspring will form bitter substances (cucurbitacins). This happens especially often when the flowers of the squash are dusted by ornamental gourds. The bitter substances cause diarrhea and nausea even when consumed in small amounts and can even be fatal in high doses.

Pumpkin 'Butternut'

'Butternut' is one of the best edible pumpkins. Because the core casing of the bottle-shaped fruits is small, the yield of butter-tender pulp is high

Location and ground

Pumpkins are more or less in need of warmth and grow best in a sunny, somewhat sheltered location. Since the large leaves and fruits have a high water requirement, the soil should be evenly moist, nutrient-rich and very humus rich. The soil does not play a major role, the plants grow on humus rich, evenly moist sandy soils as well as on loamy soils. An optimal location for the nutrient-deficient plants is a place on the compost. When planted at the bottom of the heap, they benefit from evenly moist soil and nutrient-rich seepage water.

Sowing and pre-culture

You can sow pumpkins from the end of April to the beginning of May directly into the well-prepared soil. It was supposed to be deeply loosened, cleared of weeds and enriched with four liters of mature compost per square meter. Place two seeds in each well two to three centimeters deep into the soil and after germination leave only the strongest of the two plants. For low-growing, rather bushy growing varieties, plan for one, for a three-meter-thick bedding area. If the plants are already sprouted and a cold night with temperatures below five degrees is expected, you should cover the young plants with fleece. Otherwise, the cold can severely delay the development of small pumpkins.
Basically, pumpkins make preculture in the house meaningful - especially in the heat-desirous varieties of musk squash and all pumpkins in cool regions with late frost. For the preculture you have to plan a period of three to four weeks. You place one seed each about two centimeters deep in a pot with a diameter of ten centimeters. As a substrate normal cultivation soil can be used, alternatively a mixture of two parts vegetable soil and one part sand. At temperatures of 20 to 24 degrees, good exposure and even soil moisture seeds germinate within a week.After germination, the plants should be slightly cooler (16 to 20 degrees). A high temperature during the germination phase is important because otherwise the seeds are slightly moldy. Over the temperature one can control now the further growth of the young plants. They should not have formed more than three true leaves by the end of May until the planting date, otherwise the young pumpkins will not grow well. In addition, they must be hardened by that time. For this purpose, they are set aside every day for some time in the week before planting and thus accustomed to the temperatures and sunlight.

Seedling of a pumpkin plant

Early pumpkin seedlings are planted in the garden after the ice saints

plant out

Put the preferred pumpkins into the prepared bed after the ice saints. It is important that the root balls are not damaged when popping, as pumpkin roots are very brittle. For this reason, the seeds are seeded equally in individual pots and not pikiert. The bedding area per plant is one to three square meters depending on growth behavior, as in direct sowing. Place the root bales so deep in the soil that the surface is two fingers below the earth level. The young plants at the bottom of the stem form additional so-called adventitious roots and are better supplied with water and nutrients. After planting do not forget thorough casting. If you have a lot of snails in the garden, you should protect the plants with a plastic collar. Young pumpkin leaves are at the top of the menu for molluscs.


In cool locations it is advisable to cultivate the pumpkins under fleece for the first three to four weeks. This is especially true for directly sown plants. The fleece can spoil the harvest significantly and is removed as soon as the large yellow flowers open, as they are pollinated by insects. Until the stock closes, the soil between the young plants should be hacked once or twice. If sufficient compost has been incorporated into the soil during the preparation of the bed, occasional fertilization with diluted stinging nettle is sufficient in the further course of the culture. Although pumpkins are strong eaters, they are not as nutrient-demanding as the cabbages. So that the soil does not dry out too much in the summer, you mulch the immediate root area around each plant with rhubarb leaves or a thin lawn cutting pad. Water on sandy soil in a timely and regular manner in dryness until the pumpkins have reached their final size. Then you can stop the pouring because the pumpkins can not otherwise be stored well. The pumpkins of the large-fruited varieties should be placed on a dry surface once they have reached a certain size, for example on a wooden board or a thick layer of straw. Depending on the shape of the fruit, they should stand vertically with the stem as far as possible. So they mature well and get a uniform shape.

Harvest and storage

The harvest time of the different varieties depends mainly on whether they are camp gourds or summer squashes. The latter can not be stored for a long time and are harvested like zucchini usually quite young, since they then have the best flavor. They can hardly be stored in the fridge for more than a week.
Gourds can be matured well before they are harvested, because in fully ripe state they last the longest. The maturity can be recognized by the fact that the stem is hard and dry and the outer skin has formed a fine, net-like structure around the stalk. For large-fruited varieties, the so-called knock test is also suitable as a maturity test: If the pumpkin sounds hollow, it is ready for harvesting. Basically all pumpkins have to be harvested before the first night frost.
Cut the ripe pumpkin with a piece of stalk several centimeters long and wash off any remaining soil from the fruit. Then let the pumpkin turn over dry well before storing it. The optimal storage space is a wooden shelf in a 12 to 17 degree cool room with about 70 percent humidity. Do not stack the fruits and make sure they are well ventilated from all sides. The shelf life of the different varieties is two to seven months if properly stored. Some varieties of musk squash can even be stored for up to one year.

Diseases and pests

Depending on the variety, the large, soft leaves of the pumpkins are more or less susceptible to powdery mildew. An airy location helps to prevent infection. Regular sprays with horsetail tea make the foliage more resistant. The most significant animal pest of pumpkins is the nudibranch. If your garden is populated by the greedy molluscs, it is essential to prefer the plants in a sheltered place and protect them with Scheckenkragen when planting. When the growth of pumpkins in the flowerbed picks up, the snail's eating usually does not matter much anymore.

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