You planted your pumpkin seeds, fed and weeded them, and kept a watchful eye for bugs all season long. Now they're setting loads of pretty little fruit. But some of your baby pumpkins are getting spongy and gross! What's up?
There are few things as frustrating as spending time growing or carving pumpkins only to find them going soft and rotten. Here's how to keep pumpkins from rotting on the vine—as well as tips for how to keep a carved pumpkin from rotting around Halloween, too.
Prevent Pumpkin Rot on the Vine
Water just until fruit appears. "Pumpkins like slightly more irrigation at the flowering stage for proper fruit development," says Patty Buskirk, lead plant breeder and horticulturist at . "Keep a steady irrigation schedule until the fruit are set, then cut the water off completely when the fruit begin to turn color to reduce rotting risk."
Let nature do her thing. Pumpkins set lots of flowers then drop the fruit the plant can't sustain to maturity. It's fine to leave any mushy fruit on the vines, but gently lift the healthy pumpkins and place them on a small wooden box, straw nest, or small pallet to protect them from getting too wet, says Buskirk.
Try raised beds and hills. If you have loads of problems with rotting fruit, try planting in raised bed planters or hills about 3 to 4 feet wide next year. Sow about 3 to 4 seeds per planter or hill, then thin to one or two plants. When the pumpkins are set, place the fruits up on the tops of the planters or beds, which allows the extra water to run off. In smaller gardens, you can grow them vertically on a trellis or fence, providing additional support for heavy fruit by making little hammocks from bean or pea netting.
Prevent Carved Pumpkins From Rotting
Wash down the outside before carving. Before you reach for those carving tools, keep your carved pumpkin safe from squishiness by wiping down the outside with a diluted bleach solution. This will remove microbes. Do the same to all surfaces after you finish your masterpiece.
Stay cool. Keep your carved pumpkin out of direct sunlight and refrigerate it for up to ten days when not on display.
Choose battery-operated LED lights. Instead of a candle or traditional light strands, which throw too much heat and contribute to decay, says Buskirk, opt for flameless candles.