What’s just over 65 lb and full of sincerity? The Food It Yourself 2021 pumpkin harvest! The squashes have turned a brilliant orange. The vines have died back. Best of all, my straw nests seem to have prevented pre-harvest rot despite the very damp growing season. This is my Most Important Lesson from garden season 2021: keep those gourds off the ground.

The variety is called Rival. I think they will be a good jack-o-lantern pumpkin. They are quite light for their size. The two largest are about one yard in circumference, but each weigh only about 17 pounds. This makes them easy to move around. This variety also has a thin layer of flesh, which will be easy to carve. How will we keep our pumpkins from going moldy and mushy for the next 40-ish days until Halloween arrives?

Actually, it is not too hard. After all, pumpkins are a “winter squash”, so called because their tough rind makes them easy to store for long periods of time. There are a few tips and tricks to make extra sure our pumpkins will be intact for jack-o-lantern time. I found this excellent article on the Garden Know-How website that spells it all out.

Trying to cure the pumpkins outside is just not going to happen this year. All sources suggest it is going to keep raining, and get cooler at night. The wash down with a weak bleach solution sounds like a good idea, though.

REMEMBER: When working with a bleach solution, even a weak one, wear gloves. This is not a suggestion, it is a real safety concern. What is a suggestion is this: wear grungy old clothes. Even a weak bleach solution can take the color out of fabric. After carefully wiping down each squash, I let them dry very well in the sun. (We had a sunny day. It was amazing.) I can not give them a full cure, but I can let the nuclear radiation of our neighborhood star help kill off decay-promoting microbes.

Other tips I found on-line for pumpkin preservation:

  • Keep them as dry as possible.
  • Resist the instinct to grab a pumpkin by the stem. The stem can easily snap off, which will hasten spoilage. Also, the pumpkin will then fall to the ground or floor and you will have both serious a mess to clean up and a deficit of one pumpkin.
  • Store your pumpkins on their side. The scar on the blossom end (opposite the stem) is another easy entry point for spoilage microbes. If your pumpkin is upright you might not spot the onset of decay until it is too late to salvage the squash.
  • Check on your pumpkins regularly and use any that are starting to spoil right away.

These tips apply to any winter squash you might grow.

Here they are, bottoms up, on cardboard, near a window fan. This is the best pumpkin season we have ever had in the Food It Yourself garden. Mr. Food It Yourself and I are already discussing jack-o-lantern design ideas. How is your garden doing right now? What worked for you in 2021? What did not? Share in the comments!