Autumn's Mascot: Growing Your Own Pumpkin by Alexa Lamorte

Ever wonder why pumpkins are the mascot of autumn? Besides pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin carving contests, and being Cinderella’s vehicle of choice, their symbolism and medicinal properties have dated back millennia. Nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced yearly in the United States. The heaviest pumpkin ever recorded came in at a whopping 2,600 pounds. If every single one grew to be THAT big, we would only have about 700,000 pumpkins nationwide. Pumpkin pie for everyone! 

Alongside tasty treats and nourishment for harsh winters, pumpkin carvings served as spiritual protectors of hearth and home. The Celtics originally thought the head was the most important part of the body so it only made sense to carve faces and place a light into their pumpkins or other round veggies and squash to ward off malevolent entities and those alike during Samhain (pronounced ‘Sah-wen’).
Native Americans believed pumpkins were part of The Three Sisters of Agriculture, the other two being corn and beans. From the Huron Creation Myth, only one mother goddess fell from the sky. She was cared for by the water and only animals that inhabited the water. After some time had passed, the divine woman birthed two sons; one of “good” and one of “bad.” She died after the abnormal birth of the second son and was buried within the earth. From her head grew the pumpkin vine, maize from her chest, and beans from her legs. Following her death, she created the sun, moon and the stars according to some tribes and her body was nourishment for the earth; the pumpkin topping it all off.

Nowadays, we set them out by our front doors as decoration, but what most are not aware of is that pumpkins attract abundance, prosperity, new opportunities and even fertility (500 seeds = 500 babies right? Oh gourd…) The flesh of the pumpkin can be used to treat digestive issues in both humans and our furry companions. It is also good for maintaining healthy glucose levels, cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as preventing kidney stones or ulcers. Pumpkins are also high in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals for supporting overall immunity and health. If you are interested in creating natural skin care products at home, pumpkin seeds turned into oil are great for all skin types combating fine lines and preventing loss of moisture. Next time you reach for a pumpkin make sure to take advantage of all these amazing properties before discarding any scraps! 

If you are interested in planting and harvesting these hearty, versatile babes then take a look below for tips and tricks! For best results, follow the directions on your seed packet or if you are planting seeds from your own pumpkin make sure to read through the following steps.

1.) Identify ample planting date. The first thing you ought to do is identify when the best time for planting your seeds is. Depending on your area, you want to make sure the soil is warm and out of the potential frost months. Head to the links below to get an idea for your zipcode’s frost date.

2.) Preparing seed. Rinse fresh seeds with warm water and pat dry. Place the seeds spaced out on a paper towel and left to dry in a cool dry spot for one week. (If saving for next year, place seeds in envelope and store away in a cool, dry place) Lightly file the edges of the seed, except for the pointed end. As the shell of the seed is very thick, it can be difficult for leaves or sprouts to grow out of the seed without a little assistance. Next, place newly filed seed in a glass jar of warm water for 1-2 hours. This will make it easier for moisture to enter the seed, thus sprouting faster.

3.) Plant seed. Choose a full-sun area for your pumpkin. They will need about 6 hours of full sunlight each day. Prep the soil by repeatedly digging (tilling) and mixing the area while also adding compost and slow releasing fertilizer. For the best drainage, create a 36” diameter mound to plant your seeds into. If you are planting more than one, space your mounds about 8-10” away from each other. Next, dig a 1” hole at the top of the mound and drop 3 or 4 seeds into it. After collecting the dirt back over your newly planted seeds use your hose on spray mode to gently mist the mound.

4.) Watering. Pumpkins take about 1” of water a week, use the spray method once again at morning time to avoid excess moisture and disease or pest problems. Do not let the soil completely dry out, but also do not over water your plant.

5.) Harvesting. As most pumpkins take about 90 to 125 days you will have to practice your patience on when to harvest your brightly colored friend. When it’s time, your pumpkin should be mature and equipped with tough skin and shriveled vines. In some cases, if you can dent your pumpkin with your fingernail it is not ready and should remain on the vine. 

6.) Cut from stem. Take shears and cut the stem 6-8 inches from the top of your pumpkin. Do not pick up the pumpkin by the stem, if the stem breaks this will rot your pumpkin faster. Lastly, rinse off your freshly grown friend and decorate with them as you please!


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