Can I Leave My Pumpkins On The Vine?

large orange pumpkin on the vine

In a good summer, pumpkins may be ripe long before halloween. So if you want your pumpkins in great condition for the big event, it’s important to know what’s the best thing to do with pumpkins that are orange and fully ripe. We’ll look at whether you should leave your pumpkins on the vine, or whether it’s better to cut and store them somewhere safe.

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Pumpkins are the largest, fastest growing members of the squash family, and they are great fun to grow for kids and adults alike.

As long as they are planted in a sunny position with a bit of shelter from fierce winds, and well watered, most pumpkin vines will produce at least one or two good sized vegetables. And in a pumpkin patch just 3-4 feet across, you can plant several young seedlings together.

We plant our pumpkins in a pile of soil mixed in with some well rotted manure and enjoy watching the vines spread out in all directions.

Early Ripening

In some years the vines will grow ten feet or more in length, and this year with plentiful sunshine, they are ripening in early August. We want our pumpkins to last until Halloween for our grandchildren, so need to decide whether or not to leave them on the vine, or cut them and bring them indoors.

pumpkins on the vine

When Should A Pumpkin Be Ripe?

Traditionally, pumpkins are harvested in September or October, but they are often ripe long before then. There are a couple of clues to let you know that your pumpkin is ripe. That gorgeous orange color is a good sign that a pumpkin is ripening well.

You can also try rapping the pumpkin lightly with a closed fist and listen to the sound the pumpkin makes when you ‘knock’ on it. A fully ripe pumpkin has a rather nice hollow sound to it when tapped.

What Happens If You Leave A Pumpkin On The Vine?

If you leave your pumpkin on the vine after it is ripe, nothing bad will happen. Left on the vine, the color of the pumpkin will continue to deepen and the skin will harden.

In fact, if your cut your pumpkin from the vine when it is still immature, it won’t keep well and may rot. So don’t be in too much of a rush to bring your orange beauty indoors.

How Long Will A Pumpkin Last On The Vine

Obviously, you can’t leave a pumpkin on the vine indefinitely. If the weather turns wet and rainy your pumpkin may start to rot.

You can help to avoid this by putting straw or cardboard underneath it, to prevent it sitting in soggy soil. But sometimes, if the weather is bad and your pumpkin is ripe, its better to cut your losses and bring it indoors.

How Long Should You Leave Pumpkins On The Vine?

If winters are cold in your region, aim to cut your pumpkin from the vine before the first frosts arrive. If possible, leave the pumpkin on the vine until the skin is hard and it has developed a rich orange color all over.

A ripe pumpkin has a tough skin and will resist pressure from your fingernail. The stem that attaches the pumpkin to the vine will be shrivelled when the pumpkin is ready to pick

How Long Will A Pumpkin Keep After Cutting?

Stored properly, a pumpkin will keep for at least two to three months. And sometimes much longer. If you want your pumpkin to survive storage in good condition, it’s important to pay attention to how you store them.

It’s a good idea to discard any that have soft spots or are damaged as these are the most likely to rot, and rot can spread.

What Is The Best Way To Store A Pumpkin

The key to success is to find a cool, dry place. A shed or garage may be suitable, or your basement could be a good choice. If you have more than one pumpkin, make sure to store them so that they are not touching. You need a good circulation of air between them.

Some people wipe down the surface of their pumpkins with a very weak solution of bleach. I haven’t done this myself, but it makes sense that this might prolong their storage life. Another way to protect them is to suspend each pumpkin in an old fashioned hessian sack or string bag. It’s all about letting cool air flow around them.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Pumpkins To Avoid Early Ripening

Ideally, pumpkins would be ready to cut just about when you are ready to eat them or carve decorations into them. But it’s difficult to get the timing right. Especially if you have a short growing season.

Pumpkins take just three to four months to grow from a tiny seed into a big vine laden with golden vegetables. So even if your yard is not frost free until May you still have time to grow big pumpkins.

But if you plant your pumpkins out much earlier, say in April, they could be mature in July. A good time to plant pumpkins is around June, which should give you some good results in September.

Remember, cut before that first frost, and get them into a cool dry place so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor on October 31st

Enjoy Your Pumpkins!

Growing pumpkins gives us a lot of pleasure, from watching the seedling stretch out into vines, to marvelling as the pumpkins themselves swell and turn orange. It’s definitely a great experience for all the family.

If you have any tips on preserving pumpkins until the fall, let us know in the comments below! Until Halloween have fun watching your pumpkins grow!

Learn More About Pumpkins

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