Nothing says “harvest” like a big pile of bright orange pumpkins. These large, round fruits are synonymous with fall and are most commonly used for Halloween jack-o'-lanterns and pumpkin pies. Grown on long trailing vines throughout the world, pumpkins are welcome additions to any garden. Proper storage of the harvested pumpkins is simply another aspect of successful gardening.
Pick the pumpkins when they have developed a uniform color and the exterior surfaces have lost their shine. If you find color to be an unreliable indicator, check the tendrils of the vine closest to the fruit. When the pumpkin is ripe, the leaves will shrivel and die because they are no longer needed. Additionally, the skin of a fully ripe pumpkin is hard to the touch and not easily scratched.
Cut the ripe pumpkins off the vine, leaving 3 to 4 inches of growth on the stem. Carry the pumpkin by the base to a tub or sink. Wash the pumpkin with a weak solution of bleach water made by mixing 1 tbsp. of bleach into 1 qt. of water. This will help to reduce bacterial growth on the pumpkin’s surface. Allow the washed pumpkins to air dry.
Transfer any pumpkins that were picked too early to a warm, dry location. Leave them in full sun for two weeks, or until the skin is hard to the touch and any superficial scratches have healed.
Select a storage area that is dark, dry, and generally between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the storage area with clean hay or layers of cardboard. Position the pumpkins in a single layer. Use shelves or netting to create additional layers if necessary.
Leave the pumpkins in storage for up to six months, checking them periodically and removing any that show visible signs of decay. Wash and thoroughly dry any pumpkins may have come into contact with any fruits that have started to rot.