Pumpkin Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-to-Grow

Pumpkin in gardenPumpkins for pies. Pumpkins for Jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkins for the little ones. Pumpkins for the “Biggest Pumpkin Contest.”

Pumpkins are not difficult to grow. Grow them just like any other winter squash

Here is a list of best bet, easy-to-grow pumpkins divided into size categories: (1) small pumpkins (2 to 5 pounds); (2) intermediate-size pumpkins (8 to 15 pounds); (3) large pumpkins (15 to 25 pounds); (4) jumbo pumpkins (50 to 100 pounds and larger).

Small pumpkins (2 to 5 pounds):

Baby Bear. 105 days. AAS. Half the size of a normal pumpkin. Fine-grained flesh, excellent for pies. Deep orange fruit 5 to 6 inches wide and 3½ to 4 inches tall. Weighs 1½ to 2 pounds. Strong stem is easy to grip. Seeds are semi-hullless for seed toasting. Blight and frost tolerant. Cross between New England Pie and a small naked seed pumpkin. Great for home garden

Baby Pam. 100 days. Deep orange flesh; good for pies. Uniform size: 5 inches tall by 5½ in diameter. Smooth skin; indistinct ribs. Tight, secure stem. Vigorous 10 to 12 foot vines. Heavy yield. Also called “Oz.”

Small Sugar (also called New England Pie). 100-105 days. Best tasting pie pumpkin; excellent flavor. Deep-orange flesh; 5 to 8 pounds. Convenient size for kitchen use. For baking and canning. Pre-Civil War heirloom. Open-pollinated.

Winter Luxury. 85-100 days. Sweet, juicy, and tender. Very good keeper for winter use. Moderately small fruit 9 to 10 inches in diameter 6 to 7 inches deep; weighs 7 to 8 pounds. Nearly globular and narrowly ribbed; yellow-orange skin, uniform fine, light-gray cork-like netting; pale orange flesh. Introduced in 1893.

Intermediate Pumpkins (8 to 15 pounds):

Autumn Gold. 100 days. AAS. Meaty, deep-orange flesh for pies. Medium-sized fruit weighs 10 to 15 pounds, round to rectangular in shape, nicely ribbed; rich orange skin matures to golden when mature. Contains the “precious yellow gene”: all fruit is deep yellow; no green pumpkins at harvest. Vigorous vine produce 3 or more fruit. Hybrid.

Bushkin. 95 days. Thick, delicious light-yellow flesh, keeps well. Use for pies, seed snacks, and carving. Bright golden orange pumpkins weigh 8 to 10 pounds; 1 to 3 fruits per plant. Compact, bush-type vine for large container or small garden, vine spreads only 5 to 6 feet. Open-pollinated.

Jack O’Lantern. 75-115 days. Carving pumpkin. Sweet, fine-grained, pale orange flesh; good for cooking and stores well. Smooth, yellow-orange skin; irregular shape, round to oblong, shallow ribs, 9 to 10 inches tall, 7 to 10 inches in diameter; weighs 10 to 18 pounds.

Spirit. 95 days. AAS. Thick, meaty flesh for pies and custards. Round fruit, 12 inches in diameter, moderately ribbed, weighs 10 to 15 pounds; bright orange skin. Semi-bush, short-vined plant spreads to 5 feet. Early-maturing. Heavy yield. Hybrid.

Large pumpkin (15 to 25 pounds):

Big Tom. 120 days. Large orange pumpkin, 11 inches tall, 13 inches wide, flat on both ends; orange rind, orange-yellow flesh, weighs 18 pounds or more pounds.

Cinderella (also called Rouge Vif D’Etampes). 84-100 days. Sweet, yellow-orange flesh. Globe-shaped pumpkin, smooth, bright-orange skin, 10 inches in diameter, weighs 20 to 25 pounds. Bush-type vine needs 6 square feet for growing. Does not keep as well as other vine types. Open-pollinated.

Connecticut Field. 100-120 days. Coarse, somewhat granular, deep-yellow flesh with slight sweetness; best for canning and jack o’ lanterns. Large, globe-shape, flattened at ends 10 to 18 inches tall, 12 to 15 inches in diameter, weighs 15 to 25 pounds. Slightly ribbed, bright yellow-orange rind. Native American origin. Open-pollinated.

Ghost Rider. 110-115 days. Yellow-orange flesh for processing and for jack o’lantern carving. Round fruit with dark-orange, ridged rind, and long dark-green to black stem; weighs 15 to 30 pounds.

Happy Jack. 105-110 days. Best for baking and processing. Symmetrical, dark orange fruit with strong dark green stems; weighs 16 to 22 pounds. Large vigorous vines.

Howden Field. 105-115 days. Solid, thick flesh stores well. Large, symmetrical, ridged, rich-orange skin, weighs 20 to 25 pounds. Large spreading vines. Open-pollinated.

Jumpin’ Jack. 110-120 days. Good eating quality. Deep orange flesh. Large symmetrical, ridged, dark-orange skin, solid black-green stem, ranges from 20 to 60 pounds. Large spreading vines.

Pankow’s Field. 100-120 days. Excellent for jack o’lanterns. Large, round, symmetrical fruit, weighs 20 to 30 pounds, smooth skin. Variable skin color. Thick sturdy stem. Heavy yield.

Jumbo pumpkins (50-100 pounds):

Dill’s Atlantic Giant. 110-125 days. Huge, round, pinkish-orange fruit to 10 feet in diameter and up to 800 pounds; 200 to 300 pound fruit common on vines with one fruit; 50 to 100 pound fruits common on plants with multiple fruits. Open-pollinated.

Big Max. 110-120 days. Exhibition-type pumpkin also good for pies and canning. Large, nearly round fruit, 17 to 18 inches in diameter; fruits average 100 pounds. Slightly rough, red-orange skin 3 to 4 inches thick.

Big Moon. 110-120 days. Large fruits average 100 pounds, some to 200 pounds. Slightly round to 40 inches in diameter, heavily ribbed, medium orange skin, thick light-orange flesh, large crown seeds. Vigorous vine.

Mammoth Gold. 105-120 days. Novelty and pie pumpkin with coarse pale yellow-orange flesh. Irregular globe shape, smooth mottled pinkish-golden-orange skin, faintly ribbed, 18 to 24 inches in diameter, weighs 40 to 60 pounds, some over 100 pounds.

Prizewinner. 120 days. Good flavor, orange flesh. Large, uniform, roundish fruit with smooth, glossy, bright reddish-orange skin. Easily average 200 pounds. Vigorous vine 30 to 40 feet in length. Easy to grow without special care. Hybrid.

Pumpkin Growing Success Tips:

Pumpkin growing success will come with a few simple growing strategies:

Planting and sowing. Plant several pumpkin plants or several seeds to ensure at least one is successful and survives pests and diseases. The pumpkin is a tender vegetable and will not germinate in cold soil; seedlings will be injured by frost. Plant after the last frost and allow a full warm growing season for pumpkins to reach maturity.

Spacing. Give pumpkins plenty of space. This will not only allow them to mature but also deter pests and disease. Vining pumpkins require at least 50 to 100 square feet per hill; keep hills 5 to 6 feet apart and rows 10 to 15 feet apart. Semi-bush varieties: space hills 4 feet apart and rows 8 feet apart. Miniature varieties: space hills 3 feet apart and rows 6 to 8 feet apart. If the garden is tight, contain pumpkins by pinching out the growing tips after a vine has one or two fruits.

Time to plant. Sow pumpkin seed or set out transplants about 2 weeks after the last expected frost in spring. Sow or plant a successive crop 4 weeks later.

How to plant. Sow seed or set transplants in raised mounds at least 1 foot across. Place a generous amount of aged-compost or aged-manure into each planting hill before planting. For extra early harvest, start seeds in peat pots indoors 3 weeks before the last frost for planting out after the last frost.

Pumpkin plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Bees or insects must transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female. Avoid using insecticides in the garden when pollinators are active. If you must use an insecticide apply in late afternoon or early evening when the blossoms have closed for the day; it is unlikely pollinators will be active at this time.

Outwit pests. Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers will attack pumpkins. These pests must be controlled to successfully grow pumpkins and other squashes. Place floating row covers over young pumpkin plants until they start to bloom. This will exclude attacking insects until plants are strong enough to withstand pest damage.

Harvest. Pumpkins require 100 or more days to reach harvest. Pick pumpkins when they are a deep, solid color–orange for most varieties–and the rind is hard. Pick pumpkins before the first hard frost. Use a pruning shears to cut pumpkins from the vine and leave a 3 to 4 inch stem attached to the fruit. Pumpkins without stem do not keep well.