While everyone loves pumpkin pie or having a pumpkin lantern on Halloween, gardeners love pumpkins because they are easy to grow. But what if your pumpkins start ripening early before they reach their full size? Could you still save your crop before the pumpkins go bad?
Pumpkins will usually ripen early when the temperature is hot and humid. However, early ripening could also be caused by a lack of water, fewer soil nutrients, or fungal diseases. The pumpkin will also ripen much faster when the plant dies.
This article will discuss the causes of early ripening in pumpkin plants. It will also discuss how to know whether your pumpkins are ripe for picking, what you can do to avoid premature ripening, and how to store them for longer.
What Causes Pumpkins To Ripen Early?
The primary causes of pumpkins ripening early are a lack of water and a hot and humid climate. However, poor soil quality, too cold temperatures, and fungal diseases will also affect how long the pumpkin stays healthy on the vine.
Here are some of the primary causes of the early ripening of pumpkins:
A Lack of Water
Whether you are a farmer or gardener, giving your plants the right amount of water is crucial for their optimal growth.
Pumpkins usually thrive in moist soils, although some varieties can handle semi-arid conditions. However, if you don’t water your pumpkins enough, they will develop yellow leaves, and the plant will start dying.
In dry climates, pumpkins are usually smaller since a lack of water compels the plants to save resources. The pumpkins may ripen prematurely if you forget to water your pumpkin plant according to schedule.
There have been many cases where droughts have affected entire pumpkin crops, even in areas that naturally receive a lot of rainfall. So, when planting your pumpkins, always look for varieties that match the climate in your area. If you plant pumpkins that require wetter soils, water them more often than other garden plants.
Heat and Humidity
Hot and humid weather is great for many plants, but it could affect fruit and vegetables adversely. Pumpkin plants ripen in hot weather, and additional humidity in the air will speed up this process. Water also evaporates more slowly in humid weather, and wet soils may soften the pumpkin skin, causing it to ripen faster.
While pumpkin plants grow in full sun, they may ripen faster if the weather becomes too hot. Humid conditions can also encourage plant growth and cause the pumpkins to ripen faster. This is why pumpkins usually mature in the autumn when the weather is dry and cool.
If the weather is more humid, you may have to avoid watering the pumpkin plants early in the morning. Also, place the pumpkin on a pec of wood, vine, or other support and water the plant carefully to avoid wetting the fruit.
Poor Soil Quality
The effect of poor soil quality on garden plants is often overlooked, especially by amateur gardeners. If your pumpkin plant has yellow leaves and produces smaller pumpkins, it could be due to a lack of soil nutrients.
A lack of nutrients in the soil will cause the pumpkins to ripen more quickly. The leaves may also dry up, and the plant will die, even if the soil has enough water. Always test your garden soil to check whether it’s optimal for pumpkin growth before planting a new crop.
Also, avoid adding too much fertilizer to the soil since an excess in certain nutrients can also damage your pumpkins and cause premature ripening.
Sometimes, fungal diseases may attack your pumpkin plant and cause the pumpkins to rot before they become ripe. If the disease affects the tree, you may have to harvest the pumpkins before they become ripe to avoid losing them.
Fungal diseases will usually affect unripe pumpkins, causing the skin to soften. It may also cause the pumpkin to rot faster. Pumpkins touching the ground have a higher chance of developing fungal diseases, especially if the soil is moist.
Some fungal diseases won’t attack the pumpkins. Rather, they will cause the plant to die quickly, limiting the pumpkin growth. The best way to prevent fungal diseases from damaging your pumpkins is to place the pumpkin fruits in a dry spot or elevated vine.
Pumpkins are more likely to get damaged in cold temperatures as opposed to hot temperatures. Punkins mature in the autumn and may get affected by premature cold fronts. Cold temperatures can cause the pumpkin’s outer layer to soften, making it rot faster.
Punkins should never be placed in areas where the temperature falls below 50 °F (10 °C). Ideally, you should harvest it in early autumn if you live in a cold area and late autumn if you live in California or Florida.
If your pumpkins start ripening due to cold weather, you can prevent them from rotting by harvesting them early and placing them in a hot room for a few days. This will cure the pumpkins and cause the rind to harden, preventing premature rotting.
When Are Pumpkins Ripe for Harvest?
While experienced farmers know when to harvest their pumpkins, most gardeners struggle to choose the right time to harvest. You should ideally harvest your pumpkins when they are fully ripe.
Pumpkins take around 80 to 120 days to ripen, although this depends on the plant variety and climate. Ripe pumpkins will have a harder rind, and they will change color from green to orange, depending on the variety.
When the pumpkin is fully ripe, the stems will become dry and may change from green to brown.
If you leave the pumpkin on the vine for too long, it may rot. It’s much better to harvest the pumpkin before it’s fully ripe and let it ripen in storage. If your plant dies before the pumpkin is fully ripe, you can store it in a hot place for a few days to let it ripen faster.
How Do I Prevent Pumpkins From Ripening Too Quickly?
While one or two pumpkins may ripen quicker because of genetics, if most of your pumpkins have ripened prematurely or the pumpkins are rotting on the vine, you’ll need to look for the cause.
To prevent your pumpkins from ripening too quickly, keep them off the ground and away from moisture. Also, water them regularly and look for signs of fungal diseases or pests. You can place the pumpkins on a vine or stick to prevent them from rotting.
Excess moisture in the soil is one of the primary causes of premature ripening or fruit rotting, so avoid leaving the pumpkins in moist soil. If you can’t place them on a vine stick, place the pumpkin on a piece of wood or tile to prevent the moisture from damaging the rind.
Another helpful tip to ensure your pumpkins ripen properly is to keep them away from cold temperatures. You can cover the pumpkin at night if you live in an area with frost in autumn.
Better yet, you can plant your pumpkin earlier in the summer if you live in a colder area to avoid the early frosts.
How To Properly Store Ripe Pumpkins?
Once you harvest your plants, you’ll need to store them carefully to prevent them from rotting. You probably already know that pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dry place. But what is the perfect temperature for pumpkin storage? And how long can you store pumpkins before they start to rot?
The best storage place for pumpkins is a cool and very place with adequate ventilation. This will vary according to the weather conditions, but the best temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees. Avoid storing pumpkins in wet or humid conditions.
Also, try to cure your pumpkins at 80 – 85 °F (26.7 – 29.4°C) for a week before storing them to extend their shelf life. Some pumpkin varieties can last up to a year without rotting when stored properly!
Pumpkins are a favorite amongst gardening enthusiasts for their bright flowers and ease of growing. If your pumpkins are ripening too early, it’s probably because the temperature is too high or low or the pumpkins are exposed to moisture.
Place the pumpkin on an elevated surface or vine stick to prevent early ripening and avoid leaving it on moist soil. Keep it in a well-ventilated position, and water the plant regularly to get the bumper crop you’ve been chasing!