The best time to harvest your pumpkins depends on a variety of factors, including when you planted the pumpkins and the color of their rind. Knowing the proper time to harvest prevents pumpkins from rotting on the vines.
Typical Harvest Times
Pumpkins need roughly 110 to 140 frost free growing days before they are ready to harvest. Gardeners can plant their pumpkin plants when the danger of frost has passed and the soil has had time to warm up in the spring. Typically, pumpkins will be ready to harvest sometime between late-September to early October or before temperatures dip for the winter. However, you can determine the optimal time to harvest pumpkins by looking at the color of the rinds.
Checking Pumpkin Rinds
Look for pumpkins that have a uniform color. Pumpkin rinds should be hard and unable to be penetrated with a fingernail, according to the Iowa State University Extension. Examine your pumpkin crops sometime in the late fall to see if they have hard rinds. If you notice that the pumpkin rind is soft, the pumpkin is either not ready to harvest or has contracted a fungal disease. Certain fungal diseases can cause dark sunken depressions in the fruit. These diseased pumpkins should be removed from healthy crops.
Fungal Disease Problems
Check the pumpkin vine during the growing season to see if the plant. Vines that display symptoms of rotting have contracted a disease. Rotting vines are mushy and discolored. If your pumpkin's vine is rotting, harvest the fruit. By harvesting the fruit early, you prevent the disease from harming the pumpkin. Store the pumpkin in a cool dry place if you want to use it later in the season.
A light freeze will not harm your pumpkin vines; however, hard freezes can damage the fruit. Check your weather forecast daily in the fall. If a hard frost is imminent, harvest your pumpkin crops that day. Place your pumpkins in an area that stays between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity levels between 80 to 85 percent for 10 days to help harden the rind. After the rind has been cured, store your pumpkins in an area where the temperatures stay between 50 to 55 F.