Pumpkin on the vine

When To Trim A Pumpkin Vine: Tips For Pumpkin Vine Pruning

Native to North America, pumpkins have been grown in every state of the union. Those with previous experience growing pumpkins know all too well that it’s impossible to keep the rampant vines contained. No matter how often I move the vines back into the garden, invariably, I end up inadvertently cutting back pumpkin vines with the lawn mower. This never seems to affect the plants and, in fact, the pruning of pumpkin vines is a fairly common practice. The question is when do you trim a pumpkin? Read on to find out how to prune pumpkins and other information on pumpkin vine pruning.

When to Trim a Pumpkin

Pumpkin vine pruning, as long as it is done judiciously, doesn’t harm the plants as is evident by my inadvertent hacking of the vines while mowing the lawn. That said, cutting them back hard will reduce the foliage enough to affect photosynthesis and affect the plant’s health and productivity. Pruning is done to achieve one or both of the following: to reign in the plant’s size, or to promote the growth of a select pumpkin per vine.

Otherwise, pumpkins can be trimmed back whenever they are getting in the way as long as you are prepared to lose potential fruit. Pruning pumpkin vines is necessary for folks growing “the big one,” those trying to attain the lofty goal of winning the state fair’s blue ribbon for giant pumpkins.

How to Prune Pumpkins

If you are in the running for the largest pumpkin grown in your area, you already know how to prune a pumpkin, but for the rest of us, here’s how to cut back a pumpkin.

First, protect your hands from the prickly vines and glove up. With sharp pruning shears, cut secondary vines growing from the main vine. Measuring from the main vine, make the cut 10-12 feet (3-4 m.) down the secondary line. Cover the severed ends of the secondary vine with soil to prevent disease from entering the open wound and to reduce water loss.

As they develop, remove the tertiary vines from the secondary vines. Cut close to the intersecting secondary vines with pruning shears. Measure the main vine and cut it to 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m.) from the last fruit on the vine. If the plant has multiple main vines (a plant may have 2-3), then repeat the process.

Wait to cut the main vines until the fruit has developed enough to determine which fruit is the healthiest looking on the vine and then prune the vine to remove weaker pumpkins. Continue to cut the main vine as it grows to allow the plant to put all of its energy into the remaining fruit instead of vine growth. Again, bury the cut ends of the vine in the soil to protect from disease and retain moisture.

Move the secondary vines 90 degrees from the main vine so they don’t overlap as they grow. This provides more room for the fruit to develop and allows for better air flow and access to the vines.

One integral part of the pumpkin plant is its vines. Providing them with proper maintenance is essential for a successful harvest. Learn to know how to control pumpkin vines with our following mini guide. Growing them in your garden is not rocket science. If you provide them with the right soil temperatures and necessary conditions, they can thrive. Controlling pumpkin vines is one of the essential steps in the maintenance of pumpkins.

To control pumpkin vines, you need to understand their growth. Not many know that once the main vines of a pumpkin plant have established properly, secondary and tertiary vines also start to appear. All the vines need to be pruned for proper pumpkin growth and also covered in soil to promote disease prevention.

Along with controlling the vines from growing absurdly and becoming a hurdle in the successful growth of pumpkins, they also need to be provided with some general care. The vines need at least six hours of sunlight a day. In addition, the vines are known to need about 2.5 centimeters of water every seven days. Learn more about their growth, maintenance, and general care.

Growth of the Vines

Pumpkin vines do not appear right after you plant your seeds. After about 1 to 2 weeks of sowing the pumpkin seeds, sprouts that look like small leaves appear from the ground. About after a week of the sprouts appearing, dark green leaves with jagged edges start emerging. They continue to grow for a few more weeks after which vines start to become apparent.

In the initial stage, they just look like thin green threads, although that changes soon. Regardless of the pumpkin species you’ve planted, the vines grow in the same manner. They start spreading rapidly and tend to get tangled with each other. After the proper establishment of vines, secondary vines start showing too. The pumpkin fruit actually grows on them, therefore, it is necessary to keep them maintained and in proper health.

Secondary Vines

Secondary vines, also known as runners or side shoots, grow rapidly along the main vine. They are to be encouraged if you want your fruit to thrive. But their growth needs to be managed and controlled through methods like pruning.

It is also important that you train the secondary vines to grow out and far from the main vine and the pumpkin fruit itself. As they need to be cut off, you wouldn’t want the pumpkin fruit coming in the way. Doing so also prevents overcrowding and thus provides you with enough room to water, spray insecticides, and generally maintain the plant. Tertiary vines are those that grow further off the secondary ones. It is recommended to trim them to encourage pumpkin growth.

Secondary Roots

These roots establish on the vine at the base of each leaf stem. They are essential and their growth needs to be encouraged as much as possible. They help the pumpkin plant to efficiently withstand windstorms. They develop when the vine comes in contact with the ground where the seeds are planted. Moist soil also promotes its growth; therefore you can cover the root nodes of the vines with rich garden soil for the purpose. Compost and mulch can be added to the soil to boost the organic matter and lock the moisture in.

One more thing that you need to take care of is training these roots away from your fruit. They cause the vines to attach to the ground and thus it becomes impossible for them to move with the growth of the pumpkin fruit. This contributes greatly to stem stress and can cause them to split. One con associated with covering your secondary roots with soil is that you don’t know what is going on below the surface but the prevention from insect damage and thriving fruits are worth the risk.

Pruning the Pumpkin Vines

Things you’ll need

  • Leather gardening hand gloves
  • Pruning shears
  • Rich soil


Take Precautions

Firstly, you need to put on some heavy leather gardening hand gloves to protect your hands from getting cut or bruised by the sharp vines while working on them.

Cut the Tertiary Vines

Now use your pruning shears to cut the tertiary vines growing out from the secondary ones as soon as they start developing. Cut them right from where they meet the secondary vines.

Cut the Secondary Vines

Measure your secondary vines cut about ten to twelve ft along the joint where they meet the main vine. After taking measurements, cut them with your hand pruning shears.

Cover the Vines with Soil for Disease Prevention

Once you’ve made your cut, the plant will be open and prone to diseases and infections. To prevent any disease or fungus from entering the plant and to minimize the water loss, cover the cut ends of the secondary vines with soil. Make sure the soil you use is rich. You can add mulch to your soil for natural enrichment.

Cut the Main Vines

Let the main vine develop until pumpkin fruit begins to emerge. Cut these vines with your hand pruning shears about ten to fifteen ft beyond the last pumpkin fruit on the vine. A single pumpkin can have 2 to 3 main vines, and it is possible to have 1 healthy pumpkin fruit produced on each vine. Start with determining which pumpkin fruit is the healthiest out of all of them and then remove any later fruits as they grow. As the main vine keeps developing rapidly, continue to cut them as required so that the plant concentrates on using its energy on developing the pumpkin fruit instead of on growing the main vine.

Once again after cutting the main vine as required, cover its cut end with rich soil. It will prevent any diseases from entering the plant and will help in preserving the plant’s moisture.

Train the Secondary Vines

At this step, it is important to train the secondary vines to grow away from the fruit and the main vine so that they don’t overlap and form a clutter by intertwining with each other. Relocate the secondary vines at an angle of ninety degrees from the main vine. This will provide you with enough space for fruit development and maintenance, increased air circulation, and you’ll have better access to the main vine.

General Pumpkin Vine Care

All the nutrients and beneficial matter reach the pumpkin fruit through the vines so it’s of utmost importance that you keep them healthy.

Sunlight and Water

The pumpkin vines need at least six hours of sunlight to thrive. The warmer your soil is the better. Along with the sunshine, they also need a significant amount of water. It is recommended that the pumpkin vines should get about two and a half centimeters of water every seven days.

Prevention of Diseases and Pests

Pumpkin vines are likely to get one of these two diseases: powdery mildew and bacterial wilt. Without proper care, this illness can damage and kill your entire crop. The vine borer and pumpkin beetle are two common insects that are known to damage pumpkin plants. You can use organic insecticidal soap or antifungal spray to get rid of those pests. You can also pluck them off from the pumpkin vines as you find them. If some of your vines are already infected, the best way known to control the disease from spreading is to dig the vines up and burn them.

Harvest Time!

Pumpkin vines are known to retain their green color and remain fresh and healthy until it is almost time to harvest the fruit. During that time, the vines start to wither, die, and decompose. This is not something you need to panic about. It simply indicates that it’s harvest time! If you’ve provided the necessary care to them, your pumpkins won’t be compromised.

How and when to harvest pumpkins

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How to Take Care of Pumpkin Vines

When Do Pumpkin Vines Appear?

Although you cannot see them immediately, the pumpkin vines begin to grow as soon as the first two or three leaves develop. As the sprouts grow more substantial, the vines become readily apparent, but initially, they look like nothing more than a tiny green thread.

Within several weeks, however, the pumpkin vines are thick and have started to spread. The vines can grow as much as six feet (1.8 meters) a day during their peak growing phase!

Controlling Pumpkin Vines

Because of their rapid growth and their tendency to take over every inch of space you allow them, it is essential to control the vines. This is especially true if you have planted numerous seeds. The vines can easily become entangled in one another and crowd each other so much that is is difficult for fruits to form. You can control vines with the following methods:

  • Using string or wire, train vines to grow away from each plant. Think of the vines as the spoke of a wheel with the plant serving as the hub.
  • Use a trellis to train vines to grow upward instead of the ground if space is limited.
  • Ruthlessly prune vines if they grow longer than 10 feet (3 meters) from the plant.

In addition to preventing the pumpkin vines from becoming overgrown, pruning is necessary to keep the plant healthy and allow pumpkin fruits to develop to their optimal size. Unless you are growing miniature pumpkins, the fewer pumpkins per vine the better.

When pruning, cut off any vine that is longer than ten feet (3 meters) from the plant. Then, cut the secondary vines at about the same length.

Last, snip off all of the small vines that shoot off from the secondary vines. These are called tertiary vines and do nothing except rob nutrition from the pumpkin fruits.

Tip: Wearing heavy work gloves while pruning will save your hands from the prickly vines.

General Care of Pumpkin Vines

The vine of the pumpkin plant is the highway that all the nutrients travel on to get to their final destination, the actual pumpkin. To make sure there are no roadblocks on the nutrition highway, it is of utmost importance that you keep the vines healthy.

In addition to at least six hours of sunshine, pumpkin vines need copious amounts of water. As a general rule of thumb, water the vines as soon as you see the topsoil start to dry out. The ground underneath should be damp at all times.

Tip: For those more professional gardeners, pumpkin vines should get one inch (2.5 centimeters) of water every week.

How Long Do Vines Last?

The pumpkin vines stay green and fresh until it is nearly time to harvest. Then, they begin to wither and die off. This is not something to worry about; when this happens, it simply means that harvest is imminent.

As long as you have provided the care they need, the pumpkin vines will happily produce all the pumpkins you want.


Your comments and tips

Post a comment or question Display Newest first | Oldest first, Show comments for New Zealand | for all countries 25 Jan 20, Michael Daly (New Zealand – cool/mountain climate) I have plenty of runners on my pumpkins when can you start cutting these off They are greys and green colours. Why are you not supposed to grow near potatoes. 27 Jan 20, anon (New Zealand – temperate climate) You don’t cut the runners (vine) off, how do you expect to grow any pumpkin if you cut them off. 27 Apr 19, Lindsey (New Zealand – temperate climate) I would like to grow some pepitas or other breed of squash that has an edible seed. Can you reccomend a type and tell me where i can buy seed, cheers Lindsey 22 Jul 19, Walter fargo (New Zealand – temperate climate) Hi Lindsy. Try Kings seeds, they have two types of oil seed pumpkin (that is the type you want). Austrian Oil Seed Pumpkin and Pumpkin Lady Godiva. Be careful with the water when sowing the seed, as they have no husk they can rot if the soil is too wet. 13 Apr 19, G carr (New Zealand – temperate climate) What causes the white mould type stuff that attacks pumpkins .I try hard not to spray is there a none chemical solutions to this problem. Thank you 19 Mar 19, Robyn (New Zealand – temperate climate) We live in North Otago NZ what time of year & how do you know that your pumpkins are ready to harvest the plants are named little cutties 02 Feb 19, Katrina (New Zealand – sub-tropical climate) Hi guys, our neighbours are growing pumpkins (look like crown variety with pale skin and flat bottom) and the vines came over into our place and a nice big pumpkin grew, so of course I picked it right away not knowing anything about pumpkins. The inside was a weird pale yellow rather than orange, I presume now that I have just picked it too soon and it is unripe! Is that correct? Thanks. 04 Feb 19, Michelle (Australia – temperate climate) Not a problem if it is unripe! can still make lovely pumpkin soup (I actually thin it is better with unripe pumpkin!) 05 Feb 19, Mike (New Zealand – sub-tropical climate) Put some curry in it to give it some taste. lol 03 Feb 19, Mike (New Zealand – sub-tropical climate) Check with your neighbour next time. Next time wait until the stem has become hard and woody. About 16-20 weeks after seeds germinate. Showing 1 – 10 of 72 comments

Pumpkin Growing On Vine Stock Photos and Images

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  • Close up of pumpkin growing on vine
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  • Tractor pulling field trailer loaded with ‘Big Max’ pumpkins.
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  • Stock photo of a pumpkin garden
  • Mature pumpkin ‘Big Max’ on vine ‘Cucurbita maxima’
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  • Mature Kabocha squash on vine, ‘Cucurbita maxima’, also known as Japanese pumpkin.
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  • A pumpkin closeup in the garden.
  • Mature Kabocha squash on vine, ‘Cucurbita maxima or moschata’, also known as Japanese pumpkin, San Joaquin County, California, United States.
  • Stock photo of a pumpkin patch
  • Winter squash pumpkin on the vine at Wagner Farm Community Garden in Glenview, Illinois, USA.
  • Mature Kabocha squash on vine, ‘Cucurbita maxima or moschata’, also known as Japanese pumpkin, San Joaquin County, California, United States.
  • Pumpkins in Pumpkin Patch surrounded by many leaves and vines.
  • Pumpkin ‘Big Max’ on vine.
  • Stock photo of a pumpkin in the garden.
  • Mature Kabocha squash on vines, ‘Cucurbita maxima or moschata’, also known as Japanese pumpkin, San Joaquibn County, California, United States.
  • Stock photo of a pumpkin patch
  • Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ in field.
  • Cucurbita pepo, alias pumpkin, on the vine, in the garden, at Wagner Farm Community Garden in Glenview, Illinois, USA.
  • Stock Photo of a Pumpkin in the Garden
  • Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ variety piled for harvest,
  • Ripening pumpkin on the vine in field
  • Young Pumpkin growing on the vine with flower attached and fully open. Variety Hundredweight
  • Butternut squash ripening on vine
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  • Pumpkin harvest, tractor loaded with ‘Big Max’ pumpkins.
  • Pumpkin growing in a pumpkin patch with leaves and vine surrounding it.
  • Pumpkins Ripening in a Field in the Autumn
  • Pumpkin growing in a pumpkin patch with leaves and vine surrounding it.
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  • Unripe and ripening pumpkins on the vine in agriculture farm
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  • Pumpkins growing in a pumpkin patch.
  • Close-up Of Zucchini And Pumpkin Growing On Plants
  • Pumpkin Growing On Vine
  • Ripening pumpkin on the vine
  • Orange pumpkin hiding in the vegetable garden.
  • Pumpkins growing in the garden, one pumpkin is a white pumpkin.
  • A bunch of giant pumpkins growing on a vine.
  • Young pumpkin growing from flower on vine.
  • Hanging Green Pumpkin Growing on a vine
  • Pumpkins growing in a patch. Dixie, Louisiana, USA (Caddo Parish).
  • Ripe orange pumpkin hiding in the fall garden.
  • Pumpkin branch on green background
  • Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ in field, California
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  • Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ variety piled for harvest.
  • Pumpkin branch on green background
  • New pumpkin growing on plant with large green leaves.
  • Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ variety, preharvest in field, California
  • Vertical fisheye lens view of pumpkins growing on the vine in a Georgia pumpkin patch.
  • Edible Yellow Pumpkin Flowers on the Vine
  • Pumpkin ‘F1 Sunny’ growing on an allotment. South Yorkshire, England.
  • Brilliant Sunlight On Pumpkin
  • pumpkin on the grass in the vegetable garden
  • Pumpkin ‘F1 Sunny’ growing on an allotment. South Yorkshire, England.
  • a single pumpkin ripens on the vine
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  • Closeup of large yellow, green colorful butternut squash pumpkins ripening on ground in summer garden with many fallen apples, vegetables growing on p
  • ripe pumpkin on the ground in the vegetable garden
  • Pumpkin on vine, garden, Fall, E USA by James D Coppinger/Dembinsky Photo Assoc
  • Pumpkin on white fence post in the vineyards, Napa, California, USA
  • Bellevue, Washington, USA. Japanese Pumpkin (Kabocha) on the vine.
  • Agriculture – Field of mature pumpkins ready for harvest / near Collingwood, Ontario, Canada.
  • Big squash lies on ground in vegetable garden
  • A pumpkin patch with a corn field in the background. A sign in the patch says magic lanterns.
  • Giant yellow pumpkins between big green leafs growing on the vine nearly ready for Halloween
  • Immature pumpkin growing on the vine in a vegetable garden lying on wood chips in Issaquah, Washington, USA
  • Squash growing on a frame for support.
  • Giant yellow and green pumpkins between big green leafs growing on the vine nearly ready for Halloween

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Something that always surprises me about gardening is how many parts of plants are actually edible, but we never really think about eating them. Today, I’m going to share my experience eating pumpkin leaves and show you how to prepare pumpkin leaves for soup, salad, and sauteed recipes.

There are many edible parts of common vegetable plants besides the fruit. For some veggies, like tomatoes, we know that the leaves are toxic but the leaves and flowers of squash plants are edible.

Even though we grow some plants like lettuce and kale just for their leaves, it had not ever occurred to me to try eating pumpkin leaves.

What do pumpkin leaves look like?

Pumpkins have flat broad leaves. The larger the pumpkin variety the larger the leaf gets. Younger leaves are smaller and more tender. Those are the ones you’ll want to harvest for your meal.

The leaves on a pumpkin plant are not naturally appealing because pumpkin leaves, like other squash plants, are very spiny. The little spikes on the leaves and stems can give you a painful poke and make your skin super itchy.

Because of this, pumpkin plant leaves must be prepped by removing the spikey coating before you can eat them. It’s a bit of a tedious process to get rid of that unpleasant part, but more on that in a minute.

Nutritional benefits of pumpkin leaves

Like many other green veggies, pumpkin greens are very good for your health.

They are full of vitamins A, E, B, and K plus folate, calcium, iron and other minerals. They also provide a lot of protein for a veggie and are low in sodium and cholesterol free.

Being high in antioxidants, they are beneficial for healthy skin, bones, and your immune system.

Harvesting pumpkin leaves for eating

When harvesting leaves from your pumpkin plants, choose the smallest leaves on the front of the vine and make sure to leave every other one so the plant can continue to grow. Do not cut off the growing tip of the pumpkin plant vine.

Like other veggies, the older they get the more fibrous and bitter they get, so always pick the youngest leaves for cooking. You’ll be able to tell the younger leaves because they are smaller and located at the tip of the vine.

After harvesting, rinse the leaves in water to remove any dirt and debris.

How are pumpkin leaves used for cooking?

In Africa, pumpkin leaves are called Ugu and are very commonly used in soups and main dishes. They are used similarly in Indian cuisine.

When cooked and prepared properly, pumpkin vine leaves are a smooth and creamy compliment to coconut based curries and peanut sauces.

Prepare pumpkin leaves for cooking

So how do you get over those spiny bits on the leaves?

The spiny strands can be pulled off by pinching the cut tip and peeling. It takes quite a long time, but it’s not hard to do.

How to cook pumpkin leaves

Once your leaves are cleaned and prepped, you can chop and cook the leaves in your favorite recipe. Pumpkin leaves are great in soups, stews, and sautees. They can be substituted for collard greens or turnip greens in any recipe.

You can also eat raw pumpkin leaves in salads. For fresh eating, choose only the smallest, youngest leaves as they’ll be the most tender.

I didn’t use a recipe to cook my pumpkin leaves. I just wanted to get a feel for how they tasted first. So I decided to chop up them up and sautee them in olive oil with tomatoes and garlic.

The cooked leaves tasted like turnip greens. They have a smooth pleasant mouthfeel despite starting out with tiny thorns.

I would eat pumpkin leaves again for the flavor, but the work of preparing them makes it not appealing to try again. It was quite time consuming to prepare them.

If you want to skip that step, you can purchase dried pumpkin leaves on Amazon.

What do you think? Will you try eating pumpkin leaves?


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Pumpkins have to be one of my most satisfying crops to grow.

You plant a small seed (in the scheme of things) and, all going well, end up with a crop of big round, meaty pumpkins.

And they’re reasonably easy plants to grow. Apart from nurturing your seedlings, then watering and feeding, the only other effort you need to make with your Pumpkin patch is some strategic pruning during the growing period.

A lot of people don’t both with this part of growing Pumpkins. They just plant their Pumpkin seeds, then leave the plants vines to wander happily all over the garden and hope for lots of big fat Pumpkins.

Which is fine, chances are they will definitely get a good few Pumpkins to enjoy in the process and it can be fun to see just how big your plant will grow.

But if you want to encourage a healthier plant, control your growing space, and guarantee yourself a good number of larger Pumpkins then it’s worth taking the time to prune your Pumpkin patch.

Pruning your Pumpkin patch allows you to focus your plants growth on a smaller number of fruit (yes, you read right, fruit – pumpkins are in fact a fruit, not a vegetable), it aerates the plant, helping to prevent disease, and stops your garden from being taken over by the many long training vines.

Controlling Your Patch

As your Pumpkin plant grows it sends off long trailing vines from the center of the plant. It will send out primary vines, secondary vines and tertiary vines.

The primary vines come directly off the main part of the plant, the secondary vines come off the primary vines and, as you’ve probably guessed, the tertiary vines come off the secondary vines.

Each vine can blossom a good number of flowers and then, if pollination is good, set a good number of Pumpkins. It might seem that more is better but, in fact, what you really want to do is limit the number of Pumpkins on each vine and as a result, on the plant as whole, so that the growth can be concentrated on those fewer Pumpkins, rather than diluted down over too many smaller Pumpkins.

As your Pumpkin plant grows, train the primary vines out away from the center of the plant. Then trail the secondary vines away from the primary vines, taking care not to cross them over each other so they don’t hamper the growth of the fruit.

Once your plant has blossomed and then set it’s fruit it’s time to take your secateurs and start pruning.

First of all, primary and secondary vines should be kept and trimmed to approximately 10 feet from the center of the plant and 10 feet from the primary vine respectively.

Then the tertiary vines (those running off the secondary vines) should be pruned away completely.

Finally, trim away any diseased or damaged vines from the plant.

Once you’ve finished trimming your Pumpkin patch it should be a lot smaller and tidier and you should have also reduced the number of Pumpkins your plant has to sustain.

These remaining Pumpkins will now get a chance to receive all the water, energy and food that the plant is taking in, and will grow bigger and better for it.

In fact, if you want to try your hand at growing even bigger Pumpkins you can prune your plant even further to leave just a few fruit on each vine and see just how big they can get.

And by all means, if you have plenty of space and are happy to provide a lot of water and nutrition, then you can leave your Pumpkin plant to ramble it’s way around your garden. You probably won’t get too many oversize prize winning Pumpkins but you’re still likely to end up with a good crop of smaller Pumpkins to eat your way through.

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Pruning the Vines

At this stage of the the pumpkin life, vine burying and pruning will keep you busy every day as the vines start spreading out across the patch at a great rate of speed.

There are different strategies to how to have your pumpkin plant forming in the patch, but the main idea is to have a root system that is as large as possible behind the pumpkin

Burying the vine

As the vine grows out burying of the vine can occur. Burying it where the leaf forms on the vine helps anchor the plant and prevent damage from wind by making it another anchor point on the plant, any new growth from these points should be pinched off.

How to help train the vine

To help train the vine to go where you want it to go the use of small bamboo stake criss crossed over the plant will keep it in the right direction. As the plant grows further out and is contact with the ground the stakes can be removed and that part of the plant buried. Dead heading the vine at a predetermined length stops that growth and the plant will focus on the vines it already has.

Diagrams of pruning designs will be put up shortly on the site.

Prune squash vines to get them under control | Idaho Statesman

Stimulate squash growth, such as pumpkins, with apex pruning. J.B. Forbes Associated Press

Squash setting time is the right time to remind readers they can prune their winter squash vines to keep them under control and to stimulate side-branching on the vine, where allegedly female blossoms appear.

Once they begin appearing, it’s very difficult to determine where they arose. Male blossoms have a straight stalk behind the flower, while female blossoms have a tiny version of the squash/melon/cucumber behind and adjacent to the blossom.

Just like pinching off the top of a herb like basil grown for foliage, or encouraging more branches to grow on a tree or shrub, this tip or apex pruning sends growth hormones lower, toward the root.

Some readers have complained that squash wasn’t setting or being pollinated. Male blossoms appear first, followed by female blossoms. If the flower isn’t open, but is full and past the bud stage, it has been pollinated. There may be a bee inside the now-closed blossom, so beware. When they’re settled down and luxuriating in pollen, they don’t like to be disturbed.

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If you get cucumbers or squash that have a shape different from what its supposed to have, remove that distorted “fruit.” Our hot weather may be a factor in poor pollination, or low soil fertility could be responsible. Feed your plant some organic fertilizer, and make sure it’s well watered. Organic fertilizer such as that based on fish products is not sufficiently strong to burn plants if you follow label directions. If you want more “fruits” from that plant, consider the product called “Morbloom.” That concentrated fertilizer is heavy in phosphorus and potassium, and no nitrogen (0-10-10); the phosphorus and potassium stimulates fruit set rather than foliage growth.

You’re not supposed to fertilize plants in extremely hot weather, but I don’t think we’ll have much choice. It may be hot until autumn slams the heat door.

Time to watch your beans

In my vegetable garden, apart from weeds, beans are thriving. My Slenderette beans are different than usual, not only growing long intertwining vines, but also stringy when snapped. They are open-pollinated, so it’s not too surprising the bean seed has crossed with a less desirable variety. I haven’t grown any bean varieties with strings, so I’m not sure whether I planted self-saved seeds or just received a bad lot from a commercial vendor.

I rode past one bed with bean plants hanging over the side, thinking that 10-foot row was really loaded with beans. Then I looked at my garden map and saw that those were Romano beans, that I’d intended to use as fresh snap beans. That first harvest of Romano beans filled a corn cooker (about three gallons, I think). I’ve shared them with friends who raved about how good they are. I had not grown Romanos for several years, but I don’t know the reason for that oversight. Their pods are broader than those of the Slenderettes or other popular snap beans, but the flavor is excellent.

Commercial growers of beans grown for use as dry beans instead of snap beans mow the crop, and then combines come along and scrape them up, separating beans from the plants and pods.

Home gardeners can’t do that, but it’s time to start watching your bean plants for tan dry pods. If you find a few, start harvesting all of the pods lest they shatter and spread the beans all over your garden. I pull the plants, but you could cut them at soil level and leave the roots to decay over winter, adding to the organic matter in the soil. Beans, as legumes, can take nitrogen out of the air and transfer it to root zone, but beans are not very efficient at doing that, and I seldom see root nodules indicating they’re doing that when I pull those plants. I strew those pods that haven’t dried yet over hardware cloth laid on the bench in the greenhouse. I’ll shell them by hand while watching television.

The birds hit, but it’s not a total loss

My Gravenstein apples never had a chance to look ripe. Flocks of birds hit that tree, hollowing out many hanging apples (and fighting over them), as well as those on the ground. A helper raked up those on the ground, and picked what she could reach and I picked what I could reach, so after cutting out blemishes of those windfall apples and those we picked, I have a good supply of Gravenstein apple sauce canned now. I also gave a quantity of them to a friend. When they’re ripe, Gravensteins are supposed to be about 2 inches in diameter, yellow-green with vertical red striping. Mine were all green; only one or two out of more than a bushel of Gravensteins even showed a hint of red stripe. This variety is especially prone to biennial bearing, but it’s been three years since my tree bore a crop. This variety is grown and treasured by friends in New Zealand as well as in Scandinavia.

Gravenstein apples are scarce, so if you’d like some, grow them. One Green World, Raintree Nursery and other tree nurseries have them available. Buy a semi-dwarf instead of a standard size for earlier fruiting and accessibility. They’re also great for pies and other culinary purposes.

Send garden questions to [email protected] or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40. Boise, ID 83707.

Win a copy of Margaret’s gardening book

The Agriculture Department at the Western Idaho Fair is giving away four of Margaret’s autographed books. Look for the “Enter Here” sign in the front half of the North Expo building. The winners will be chosen and notified at the close of the fair.

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