This year my eldest daughter and I decided to grow pumpkins. Cucurbita pepo is such an incredibly easy squash to cultivate. I recommend starting the seeds indoors by a window in a shallow plastic cup covered with a wet paper towel until the seed sprouts. Then transplant the seedlings to a sunny spot in the garden, water regularly and look for orange, tubular flowers. The ovaries on these flowers will bulge into big beautiful pumpkins by late August/early September. Even when covered with powdery mildew (as mine have been in the past), the leaves will still feed the pumpkin fruit enough to grow into healthy fruits. To keep them round and unblemished, turn the pumpkins every couple of weeks so that each side gets sun and air. Outside of that, just keep watering and fertilizing with an organic fertilizer every few weeks or so.
I like to harvest mine late in the season, mid-October. I leave the fruit on the vine to get all of the nutrients and water they can before cutting them loose and leaving them on their own. Little effort makes a perfectly round, blemish-free pumpkin for carving. I store them outside in a shady location until we carve them, and then display them on a dry porch afterward. A dry porch will ward off mold if you’re in a warmer area of the U.S.
While a lot of my daughter’s classmates make an auspicious deal out of carving the pumpkin, we prefer to make a quiet labor of love out of growing them. It always amazes me when I see their orange orbs peeking through the fat scratchy leaves of the thick vibrant vines in August. It’s a sweet silent message that fall fun is coming.