Thought to have originated in South America; related to squash, gourd, melon. Fruit varies greatly in size, depending on selection. One of the best for a jumbo Halloween pumpkin is 'Atlantic Giant' (which can weigh upwards of 500 pounds!). A great choice for pies is 'Small Sugar', a smaller pumpkin with finer-grained, sweeter flesh. 'Jack Be Little' and 'Wee-B-Little' are miniature (3- to 4-in.) types used for decoration. Novelties with white skin and orange flesh include miniature 'Baby Boo' and 8- to 10-in. 'Lumina'. Seeds of all are edible, but the easiest to eat are those of hull-less selections like 'Trick or Treat'.
Pumpkins are available in vining and bush types. Both need lots of room: A single vine can cover 500 sq. ft., and even bush sorts can spread over 20 sq. ft. Where the growing season is short, start plants indoors and use floating row covers early in the season. In most areas, sow seeds outdoors in late spring after soil has warmed; plant in rich soil. For vining pumpkins, sow five or six seeds 1 in. deep in hills 68 ft. apart; thin seedlings to two per hill. Plant bush pumpkins in rows spaced 3 ft. apart; plant seeds 1 in. deep in clusters of three or four, spacing clusters 2 ft. apart along the row. Thin seedlings to one or two plants per cluster.
Before planting, work cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer into each hill. Then feed periodically with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Water during rainless periods, but keep foliage dry to prevent leaf diseases. Plants do not do well in high heat and humidity. In late summer, slide wooden shingles under fruit to protect it from wet soil and rot. Pumpkins are ready to harvest about 90 to 120 days after sowing, when the shell has hardened. Pick after first frost kills the plant. Use a sharp knife or hand pruners to harvest fruit, leaving 12 in. of stem. Subject to same pests and diseases as squash.