How to tell if pumpkins are ready to be harvested


September 23, 2006|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

My pumpkin vine is drying up except for the end 3 feet of the vine, which is still green and has small green pumpkins. Two large pumpkins are orange. Do I leave the pumpkins on the vine until Halloween?

If the two large pumpkins are fully colored and hard to gouge with a fingernail, they are mature enough to harvest. Cut the fruit cleanly from the vine, leaving at least a 4-inch-long "handle." Store pumpkins in a cool, dry location off the ground, and keep them from touching. You can also wash each pumpkin with weak chlorine bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) to kill disease organisms that could rot the fruit. A ripe, well-hardened pumpkin will store for several months. Leave the small pumpkins on the vine to see if they put out more growth. Vines may dry prematurely from too much or too little moisture, squash vine borers, or bacterial wilt spread by cucumber beetles.

Even though deer eat my plants, I'm fond of deer. Can't surplus deer be moved to a park somewhere?

The deer problem is not all about deer. Take a walk in the woods and you'll notice trees -- and little else. An insidious effect of deer overpopulation is that they devour our forest understory. Forest shrubs and low-growing plants are critical to the survival of other wildlife, from furry critters to birds. Their homes, nesting sites and food supply are being damaged by excessive deer. Also, tree seedlings are especially tasty deer morsels, yet they are our future forest. As old trees die, there is nothing to replace them when deer consume every seedling (except alien invasive plants that deer won't eat). Even if we could move more deer to our parks, our parks cannot survive more deer.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.