Yard & Garden Report


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The Great Pumpkin for North Dakota

It's fun to grow your own jack-o'-lanterns. Learn which varieties grow best in our short growing season.

'Neon' pumpkin
'Neon' ripens early and is easy to grow.

Do you remember Linus from the Peanuts cartoon in the pumpkin patch? Instead of trick-or-treating with Charlie Brown and his friends on Halloween, Linus spent the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Although the magical spirit never appeared, Linus’ adventure in the pumpkin patch symbolizes the charm of pumpkins and Halloween.

There is something truly special about growing jack-o’-lanterns, especially if you have children to enjoy them with.

This year's shortened growing season is a reminder that it’s important to select pumpkin varieties that ripen early. Sowing was delayed this spring due to cold, wet soils. In fall, many gardens were struck with a frost that came two weeks earlier than normal. Many pumpkins never ripened.

Allow me to introduce the Great Pumpkin for North Dakota: ‘Neon’. ‘Neon’ is an ultra-early variety that produces orange pumpkins weeks ahead of other varieties.

Over the years, our team of backyard researchers across North Dakota have been amazed to see bright orange pumpkins growing and glowing in their gardens in August while pumpkins of other varieties are still green.

Another nice feature is its compact habit. The vines of ‘Neon’ only spread about eight feet across. They won’t overrun the garden and can be grown in small spaces.

‘Neon’ pumpkins are a nice size for jack-o’-lanterns. They grow about 10 inches across and weigh about 8 pounds (see photo). Granted, these pumpkins are not huge, but your kids will be delighted. The handles are dark green and strong.

If you are looking for a bigger pumpkin and have room for the vines to spread, ‘Early King’, ‘Early Giant’ and ‘Early Dakota Howden’ have been top performers in recent trials conducted across our state.

If you want to get kids really excited, grow giant pumpkins. 'Big Moose’ is very reliable and easy to grow. 'Big Moose' fruits will grow 50 pounds or more without any special care. The pumpkins have an attractive, red-orange color. 

Our latest list of recommended varieties of pumpkins and other vegetables is available

Updated October 2020.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Portions were originally published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, October 15, 2014. 

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