Carnival squash

Fact file: pumpkins and winter squash

Get to know pumpkins and winter squash in this short fact file.

Not just for making Halloween lanterns, pumpkins and winter squash are delicious and easy-to-grow autumn crops. 

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Find out all you need to know about growing pumpkins and squash in our Grow Guide.

Pumpkins and winter squash are vigorous growers, requiring a large root run, lots of water and plenty of feeding, so take this into account when planting them out.

Gardening in a small space? Try growing pumpkins and squash up supports, or in a large half barrel.

Discover facts, growing advice and more on pumpkins and winter squash, below. 

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek for melon, pepon, which means cooked by the sun.

Did you know…

Every year, avid pumpkin growers vie to grow the world’s heaviest pumpkin, the results often weighing in at over 1,100 kg. The word pumpkin comes from the Greek for melon, pepon, which means cooked by the sun.

Nutrition

Contain vitamins A, B2, C and E, and fibre. They’re good for the heart, circulatory system and skin, and help with breathing problems. They also contain antioxidants, which may help in cancer prevention. The seeds are rich in zinc, which is good for the prostate gland.

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Harvest

Pick the fruits before the first frosts. Cut the stem about 5cm from the fruit to avoid damaging it. Allow the skin to harden in the sun, or in a warm dry place, before storing.

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Store

If the skin is properly hardened, fruits will keep in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

How to grow

Sow indoors from mid-April, one seed on its side per module or small pot. Transplant outside from early June, into a sunny spot where the soil has been enriched with organic matter. Cover with fleece if it’s cold or late frosts are likely. In colder regions it may be necessary to grow under cover. Keep well watered, and feed when flowers and fruits are forming. Lay ripening fruits on straw, black polythene or a tile to prevent rotting.

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Our choices

Pumpkin: ‘Baby Bear’; winter squash: ‘Uchiki Kuri’ and ‘Early Butternut’.

Growing big pumpkins

  • Choose the right pumpkin cultivar. Some of the biggest include ‘Atlantic Giant’, ‘Mammoth’, ‘Paton Twins Giant’ and ‘Hundredweight’
  • Grow pumpkins in the ground in full sun. Prepare the soil beforehand by digging in lots of well-rotted manure. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged
  • Remove all flowers until the vine reaches around 10m in length
  • Wait for 2-3 pumpkins per plant to grow to tennis ball size, then remove all except the best, healthiest pumpkin
  • Adjust the pumpkin to ensure the stem is perpendicular to the main vine, so it doesn’t snap later on
  • Protect the chosen pumpkin by shading it and sitting on a bed of straw or sand
  • Let sideshoots from the main vine reach 2.5m in length, then pinch out. Also pinch out the main vine just after where the pumpkin is growing from
  • Keep up your care regimen right up until the first frosts