By planting a careful mix of the right varieties of pumpkins it is possible to keep your larder supplied with pumpkins from mid-January right through to November. I am able to do this by planting these three types of pumpkins.

Golden Nugget (harvest mid-January)

This is a winter squash so technically not a true pumpkin, but when planted in early November it will produce its first harvestable pumpkins by mid-January. Its taste is not as good as true pumpkin varieties like Jarrahdale, the fruit are relatively small and the skin is very hard, but it does produce an acceptable pumpkin way earlier than any other pumpkin. And what’s more, while it is an early pumpkin, it has a very long storage life. I usually start off eating Golden Nuggets but once the other varieties of pumpkins start coming in I switch to eating those. I leave the rest of the Golden Nuggets until right at the end of the pumpkin season as they will be the last to go rotten.

Butternut (harvest mid-February)

Again not a true pumpkin but a winter squash. While maturing later than Golden Nugget it nevertheless produces its first harvestable pumpkins way earlier than any of the true pumpkin varieties. I normally harvest my first Butternut pumpkins by early to mid-February. The big advantage they have over Golden Nugget is that they taste great and have a thin skin, which means they are very easy to cut up. The only problem with Butternut pumpkins is that they do not store for long so once they come on I always eat them first before moving onto the longer storing pumpkins.

Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale and Jap (harvest late March)

These are my three favourite true pumpkin varieties, I usually plant at least two of them in a given season. What they have in common is that they taste great and have a long storage life. If stored correctly at least some of them will keep until the middle of October. These pumpkin varieties can be harvested earlier than late March but they won’t taste as well as later harvested ones. They might look mature but often when you cut into them there is a layer of greenish flesh just under the skin, which is an indication that the pumpkin is not fully mature.

In general, true pumpkins are not fully mature until the first frosts have hit around the middle of April. I usually leave these varieties of pumpkins in the garden until after the first frost has burnt back all the leaves.

Tips for Improving Storage Life of your Pumpkins

  • When harvesting, leave the stems on the pumpkins. If you snap off the stems at the base it creates an entry point for mould to get in.
  • Store them on their sides. Most pumpkin varieties have a natural hollow that can fill with water if left stem up. Water sitting in a pumpkin hollow will quickly rot the skin and spoil the pumpkin flesh inside.
  • Store them off the ground on wooden slats or heavy wire.
  • Keep them under cover but with a good airflow around them, a verandah out of the weather is an ideal spot. I store mine in an old bird aviary as it offers both protection from the elements and plenty of airflow.
  • Always leave space between stored pumpkins, if their skins are touching and one goes rotten then the rot will spread more easily to the neighbouring pumpkins.
  • Regularly inspect your pumpkins, eat those that are looking weathered and throw out any rotten ones.
  • Eat any pumpkins with broken skin first as these will not store for long.

Saving Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin grown from saved seeds
Pumpkin grown from saved seeds

It is possible to save your own seeds from last year’s pumpkins but it is risky. Pumpkins readily cross pollinate with other members of the cucurbit family (pumpkin, squash, cucumber and some gourds) so sooner or later you will end up with some ‘funnies’, pumpkins that look and taste nothing like the parent pumpkin. If you are really unlucky (and it has happened to me a couple of times), your saved seeds will produce a sterile plant with plenty of flowers but no pumpkins. For this reason I always plant at least one variety of pumpkin in a season using bought seeds. The veggie gardener’s version of hedging your bets!


Images: John Ditchfield, Urban Food Garden,