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Q: We tried last year to grow pumpkins and gourds with no success. What kinds are best?

Q: We tried last year to grow pumpkins and gourds with no success. The pumpkins would flower then essentially rot before turning into fruit. The gourds didn’t do much of anything. I was wondering if there’s a particular kind that does better.

A: Pumpkins and gourds are from the same family and have been grown in our area with much success.  However, the site needs good drainage, full sun and good air circulation. Pumpkins especially need plenty of room to grow and it takes about 4 months to mature.  According to J.M.Stephens, a retired professor from UF, select such varieties as ‘Big Max’, Connecticut Field’, ‘Small Sugar’, ‘Spookie’, ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Atlantic Giant’.  There are ornamental pumpkins available if you only want the look but not the food product.

Here in North Florida, pumpkins should be planted between March and April or wait until August.  Seeds should be planted in a row about 1-2 inches deep and 3 – 6 feet apart.  Each row should be spaced 5-7 feet apart from each other. So you can see how much room they require.  Avoid overhead irrigation if possible to help control any fungal growth, drip irrigation works best.

The problem of producing blooms but not fruit is generally the result of having no bees to pollinate your plants and all squashes, cucumbers, and pumpkins require insect pollination.  If you don’t have enough bees around to pollinate your plants then you must pollinate them yourself.  Take a fine paint brush, one an artist would use, and once the flower opens simply dust the pollen from the male flower onto the female flower.  If you don’t know which is the male and female flower, don’t worry, just stroke the paint brush in each of the flowers and some pollen should be transferred. Think of yourself as one great big bee!

Avoid the overuse of insecticides as that often contributes to killing off of the important bees and beneficial insects.  Check out Dr. Stephens’s publication for more specific information on pumpkins: and gourds: