The Basics to Harvesting Pumpkins

Pumpkins are one of my favorite things to grow in the garden simply because of how rewarding they are. Plant a small seed in the ground, watch the large leaves form and the vines spread wide, and pumpkins emerge from here, there, and everywhere! Not only are they enjoyable to observe as they grow, but they make for wonderful porch decor and taste fantastic too.

My pumpkin patch produced quite a few more pumpkins this year than last. Jacob and I pulled the last of them out of the garden and totaled up about 50! I plan to save some and give the rest to friends and family. What a blessing the garden abundance is to our family and others!

Harvesting pumpkins really isn’t too complicated, but there are a few things to know if you’ve never done it before. So let’s discuss how to harvest pumpkins!

Autumn is upon us here in the Midwest and that means pumpkins! Maybe you grew a patch out in the backyard this year. If so you’ll need to know a few things in preparation for harvesting the pumpkins. We’ll discuss all the basics to harvesting pumpkins down below.

How to Harvest Pumpkins

1. Know When to Harvest.

  • Wait until they are fully colored. Harvesting pumpkins that are still changing in color will stall them right where they are at. They won’t continue to change, so wait until they are the intended color before harvesting.
  • Check the stem before harvesting. The stem of a fully mature pumpkin will be hard and shriveled. Green stems that produce liquid when cut indicate that the pumpkin was not fully ready. Pumpkins picked too soon are prone to rotting more quickly.
  • Harvest before the first hard frost. They are frost hardy, but contact with the cold, damp soil can cause them to rot. Place straw or hay under each pumpkin if you simply can’t harvest them before frost. This will keep them off the ground for the time being.

2. Cut the Stem.

  • Make sure to wear gloves for this step because the vines and stems are very prickly!
  • I like to use garden loppers for this step because I’ve found it to be much easier and to leave a clean cut. A sharp knife will also do the job.

3. Smooth the Stems.

  • This step is not necessary, but I like to do it simply because it keeps me from pricking myself every time I touch the pumpkin stem.
  • Lightly rub a piece of sandpaper around the stem in order to remove all the prickles. I’ve also found that rubbing my gardening gloves over them works pretty well too.

4. Carry Them the Right Way.

  • I know, first instinct is to reach for the stem and carry it away like that, but so many lovely pumpkins are ruined this way! The next thing you’ll know is the stem breaks off and that homegrown pumpkin is lying in pieces or bruises on the ground.
  • Just slip a hand under the bottom of the pumpkin when carrying it and accidents will be much less likely!

5. Clean and Use!

  • Clean the harvested pumpkin with soapy water and a rag. Allow to dry.
  • Use your pumpkin however you see fit: for baking, giving as a gift, or as lovely autumn decor on the porch!

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