Organic Pumpkin and Winter Squash Production

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attra.jpgThis publication addresses organic production techniques for winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds, including soil and fertilization, planting, weed management, insect pest management, diseases, harvest, curing and storing, and marketing.

Winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds all belong to the genus Cucurbita. Four species—discernible by their stem structure—are commonly grown in the United States (1). Production practices are essentially the same for all.

Cucurbita maxima has a short, corky, round stem and tends to be more yellow than orange. The species includes several large pumpkins and most winter squash (Hubbard, Buttercup, Banana, Mammoth, and Turban).

Cucurbita pepo is usually recognized as the true pumpkin and includes many pie, jack-o-lantern, and field pumpkins as well as summer squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash. Varieties within this group have hard, woody, distinctly furrowed stems. The pumpkins have bright, deep orange skin.

The stems of Cucurbita moshata are deeply ridged, pentagonal, and smooth. They enlarge but do not flare next to the fruit. A member of this group is used for most of the canned pumpkin sold in this country. Most varieties are tan and oblong. Cushaw, Winter Crookneck, and Butternut squash are in this species.

Cucurbita mixta was once included with C. moschata, but differs in flesh texture and has an enlarged corky stem. It is primarily a processing squash.

Cucurbita species originated over 9,000 years ago in Central and South America, the first of the triad of corn, beans, and squash to be domesticated. Squash was grown primarily for its edible seeds, because the flesh of these early types was bitter-tasting.

Janet Bachmann
ATTRA Publication