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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Cucurbita

I have two pumpkins that I grew. One is 5 lbs. and the other is 8.5 lbs. They are only orange on the the side that was on the ground. I have already picked them as the vines were dying back. Will they ripen more? And how will I know when they are ripe. I have them in the garage. I want to use them to make pies.


I found the following on the web page of Pumpkin Nook, a commercial site.

Extending the season- If your pumpkins are still on the vine, they are best left there. Cut away any leaves that may block the sun, however small. In the waning hours of daylight, the fruit can use every ray it can get. If Jack Frost is about to stop by, get some large plastic sheeting. Cover the fruit and the vine. Anchor the plastic with bricks or rocks to keep the wind from blowing it off. If the next day is going to be very cold, you can leave it on all day. If not, remove it.

Ripening out of the patch- As previously mentioned, green and partially orange pumpkins will ripen up with sunlight, warmth, and time. Just follow these steps:

  1. Remove the pumpkins from the patch and wash off the dirt.
  2. Place your pumpkins on a warm, sunny deck or patio.
  3. They can also be brought inside. If you bring them indoors, make sure there is good air circulation to minimize the chances of mold and rotting.
  4. Turn the greenest side of the pumpkin towards the sun.
  5. Rotate the pumpkin from time to time to allow the sun to reach the greener parts of the pumpkin.
  6. If left outdoors, bring them in at night to keep the pumpkins' temperature warmer.

Here is more information, from the University of Illinois Extension.

Date 2017-05-24
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Cucurbita, Square foot gardening, Rubus, Vegetable gardening

We've bought some butternut squash starts, and from what I've read online, they require a lot of space. This will be my first time growing them. We have 4' x 6' x 1' raised beds, and I'm wondering if one bed will be big enough to plant 1 butternut squash start. Also, I've read that they require staking? Is this true? What should we do with the other 2 starts that we got if we don't have room for them in our raised beds? Try planting them directly into the ground? I'd hate to throw them out...

We also bought a raspberry plant, and I've read that they should have 14-18" for their roots. Again, our raised beds are only 1 foot deep. Would we be better off digging a hole in the ground?


There is conflicting information in different sources about the amount of space butternut squash needs. Most sources say (as Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide does) the gardener should allow 18-24 inches between plants, which would mean you could plant all 6 starts in one 4' by 6' raised bed. Steve Solomon, however, says in Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades that winter squashes require much more space, so that you could only plant two in your 4' by 6' bed.

Staking winter squash can be done to save space. There is a pretty good description of how to do it in Mel Bartholomew's book, Square Foot Gardening. Basically, the vines are planted 4 feet apart in a trench prepared with "large-mesh wire fencing" on 6-foot posts, and twined through the fencing as they grow. He says the stems are strong enough to support the heavy squashes. The technique is also mentioned in Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar, and Bob Flowerdew.

As for your raspberry, it will grow faster and better with deep, rich soil. However, raspberries have a tendency to spread by underground runners, so it is often a good idea to contain them in some way. Depending on what is under your raised beds (i.e., soil, sand, concrete) you may wish to plant them there despite the shallow depth, or dig/mound up within the raised bed to improve the soil depth, or plant the raspberry elsewhere.

Date 2017-06-09
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Garden crafts, Cucurbita

Can I grow ornamental gourds in the Seattle area? Do you know of anyone who has expertise in gourd crafts?


You should be able to grow ornamental gourds successfully here in Seattle. They are in the same family as pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and other Cucurbits. Here is a link to Washington State University Extension's resource on growing and curing gourds.

Here is an excerpt: "Ornamental gourds should be planted when all danger of frost is past. Gourds do best planted near something that will allow the vines to climb. Keeping the fruit off the ground helps prevent rot. Plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep, 12 to 24 inches apart in soil that contains plenty of compost, is well drained and receives lots of sunshine. Keep the plants moist.

"How much to fertilize the vines is a tightrope the grower walks. Too much and you have heavy vine growth and retardation of fruiting. Too little and you have weak vines and no fruit. The consensus appears to be working fertilizer into a ring around the hill when you plant your gourds and again 30 days later. The root system is shallow so care must be taken when weeding and fertilizing.

"Gourds are monoecious, that is they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers appear first, followed by female flowers. You can tell when the female flowers begin because there is a small gourd shape beneath the petals. The flowers are yellow in color and stay open for only one day. You can pollinate your flowers with a toothbrush to ensure fruiting.

"Gourds should be allowed to mature and dry on the vine. If they are not thoroughly ripened when picked, rot is a definite possibility. When cutting them, use sharp shears and leave a few inches of stem attached. Be careful not to break the skin when handling the gourd. Any cuts or bruises can become entry points for disease and rot. Frost will kill the vine but will not harm mature gourds.

"Wipe the fruit with rubbing alcohol, or dip it into a bath of one part bleach and nine parts water. Dry the gourd and leave it to cure in a dry, warm, airy room. The top of your refrigerator is an ideal spot. Turn them often and make sure that they do not touch one another. Check the gourds frequently and discard any that are beginning to rot. After the gourds have dried, you can polish them with a liquid wax.

"Use your gourds to decorate for fall. Place them in a bowl. Gather the stems together and hang them as a swag. Make a wreath. When the season is ended, they can be stored in a dark dry place for next year, or you can break your favorites open, harvest the seeds and start over again next spring."

You may be able to find out about gourd craftspeople by visiting local farmers' markets and asking vendors who sell gourds. You should also keep an eye out in the fall for crafts classes and workshops at local nurseries and places like Seattle Tilth. I came across information from the American Gourd Society about a gourd festival in British Columbia, and in the article, there is a mention of gourd artists in the Seattle area. You can find a directory of gourd artists on the Washington State Gourd Society website.

Date 2017-07-18
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August 01 2017 12:36:01