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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' pumpkinDo you remember Linus from Peanuts in the pumpkin patch? Instead of trick-or-treating with his friends on Halloween, Linus spent the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Although the magical spirit never came, Linus’ adventure is a reminder to all of us about the charm of pumpkins.

There is something special about pumpkins. It is fun to grow your own Halloween pumpkins, especially if you have children to enjoy them with.

This has been another difficult year for growing pumpkins, especially in the north. Sowing was delayed due to the cold, wet spring weather. Temperatures remained cooler than normal through the summer. Pumpkins were slow to turn orange.

Get to know the Great Pumpkin for North Dakota: ‘Neon’. This pumpkin variety doesn’t turn orange; rather it starts orange and gets bigger throughout the summer. It is ready to harvest weeks ahead of other varieties.

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

Another 'Dakota Howden' pumpkinnice 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 (top photo). Granted, these pumpkins are not huge, but your kids will be delighted.

If you are looking for a bigger pumpkin and have room for the vines to spread, you may want to give ‘Dakota Howden’ a try. ‘Howden’ is one of the most popular pumpkin varieties in the USA and the Podoll family in North Dakota has selected a strain that matures 15–20 days earlier. The pumpkins are about 15 pounds with attractive ribs, rich orange color, and sturdy handles (bottom photo). We are testing ‘Dakota Howden’ this year and it looks promising.

Go to Google to find seed companies offering these varieties.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, October 15, 2014. Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Tom Kalb, NDSU; and Theresa Podoll, Prairie Road Organic Seed.


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