Can I Leave My Pumpkins On The Vine?

assorted pumpkins ripening on an old gate in the sun

We want our pumpkins to last until Halloween for our grandchildren, and you probably want your pumpkins in great condition for the big event too! But in a good summer, pumpkins may be ripe long before Halloween. It depends partly on the weather and partly on when you planted them.

In some cases your pumpkins will be fine left on the vine until late October. But in other cases they will be better off if you remove them. So if yours are fully orange and ripe before the big day, I’ll help you decide whether or not to leave your pumpkins on the vine, or cut them and store them somewhere safe. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Ripening And Harvesting Rules

When Should A Pumpkin Be Ripe?

There is no set ‘rule’ that says pumpkins should ripen in a specific month. Which is just as well because I’m not great at sticking to a rigid gardening calendar! Traditionally, pumpkins are harvested in September or October, but they are often ripe long before then.

pumpkins on the vine

In good years the vines will grow ten feet or more in length, and in a year with plentiful sunshine, our pumpkins can be ripening in early August.

There are a couple of clues to let you know that your pumpkin is ready. 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.

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.

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 immediately.

You have time to think about what you want to do! 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 might not keep well and may rot. So don’t be in too much of a rush to bring your orange beauty indoors.

Do Pumpkins Ripen Off The Vine?

The short answer is yes, but results can vary. You stand the best chance of success if your pumpkins have already started to ripen and have some patches of orange appearing. You’ll need to keep turning them, so the sunlight falls on the greenest parts.

Your cut pumpkins will need to be in a dry sunny spot, either outdoors in warm weather, or in a well ventilated greenhouse or tunnel.

It’s best if they are raised up off the ground where the air can circulate. Here are some of ours catching some late summer sun on an old hurdle.

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.

If you are growing pumpkins vertically then you may find the fruit becomes too heavy and decide to cut some of them early in order to reduce the weight on your support structure. Pick the ones with the most orange on them to give them the best chance of ripening off the vine.

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. If you are growing your pumpkins in a pot or container, you may be able to raise it up a little to keep your pumpkins off the ground.

But sometimes, if the weather is bad and your pumpkin is starting to ripen, its better to cut your losses and bring it indoors.

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. We protect them by suspending each pumpkin in an old fashioned hessian sack or string bag.

Once they are fully orange, they don’t need to be kept in the light. It’s all about letting cool air flow around them.

Pumpkins are such a rewarding plant to grow. I hope you enjoy your pumpkin patch this year, and I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.