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. Updated October 2019.

'Neon' pumpkin
'Neon' pumpkin is easy to grow.

Do 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 appeared, Linus’ adventure is a reminder to 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. Sowing was delayed due to the cold, wet spring weather. Temperatures remained cooler than normal through summer, and then snows blanketed our state in mid-October. It’s important to grow pumpkins that ripen early.

Let me introduce to you a 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 team of 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 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.

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 trials conducted across our state. Among giant pumpkins, ‘Big Moose’ is easy to grow and will reliably produce pumpkins exceeding 50 pounds in weight.

A complete list of recommended varieties is available

Updated October 2019.

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

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