All right, I'll 'fess up...
I like a good shortcut. Something that can save me time and energy is guaranteed to make me smile.
Take for example the white ghost pumpkin. White pumpkins can be made into a jack o'lantern with a ghostly twist using a few strokes of a knife or paintbrush, then turned into a creepy snowman after Halloween is over, and then baked into a pie just in time for the next holiday.
Ghost pumpkins can add a splash of brightness to your pumpkin patch. The artists in your neighborhood will itch to paint those blank canvases, so plant a lot of these white orbs if you enjoy driving those neighbors nuts, er, I mean, giving these pumpkins as gifts.
Read on for how to make these little ghosts thrive.
Listen to this post on the Epic Gardening Podcast
History of the White Pumpkin
Pumpkins, also known as winter squash, have come in many colors for as long as there have been pumpkins.
How long? Some pumpkin seeds dating back somewhere between 7000 and 5500 B.C. were discovered in Mexico, making North America the pumpkin's native land.
Not until recently (around 2005) have the white pumpkins been developed for their own charm and oddity, whereas before they'd be a random shade showing up amongst the orange and green squash at the local farmer's market.
The Many Types of White Pumpkins
Though the outer skin of the pumpkin may be white or even blue, the inner flesh resembles that of its better known relations of orange pumpkins.
And most varieties make fantastic pies no matter what color they are!
This is one of the smallest and the cutest of the lot, though, alas, they are not edible. They would make great craft projects for kids and excellent fall decorating. They are also quite prolific if you like giving away lots of pumpkin gifts: they produce about 400 seeds per pound!
Another small, white winter squash with a bit of green spotting. Maybe you'd like your Halloween pumpkin face to have freckles!
The Lumina pumpkin is a very popular variety that ends up at 10 to 15 pounds when fully grown, almost white enough to light up your garden without lamps, and boasts an orangey flesh.
Just referring to this variety when discussing your garden with your friends could be amusing. It needs a good amount of time to get that snowy skin, about 155 days
If the usual ribbing of pumpkins makes it difficult for you to carve your favorite jack o'lantern face, you'll appreciate the smoothness of this one. Remember that the Casper is a tad over-sweet when baking, so change the amount of other sweet ingredients to compensate.
Want a bigger, meatier pumpkin? The Full Moon can get up to 90 pounds! If you want this hefty type to stay white, better keep it in the shade.
Rupp Seeds developed this one. It has a mighty strong stem and a traditional round pumpkin shape. Keep your pumpkin in a dark and cool spot to prevent yellowing.
Gee, there are a lot of “moon” references to these white beauties. I can't imagine why that is. What makes this particular moon special is its resistance to powdery mildew and zucchini yellow mosaic virus. Its medium size will make it a bit easier to handle than its heavier relatives.
A little flattened in shape, a little ribbed, and a little sweet in taste. This is a medium-sized pumpkin that weighs in at around eight to 10 pounds and takes 110 days to mature.
The Crystal Star doesn't yellow with age as a few of the other varieties may. Around 35 pounds and 12 inches in diameter, this is a good large pumpkin for carving and cooking with its evenly-distributed pulp.
The oddball of the family with its irregular shape, thick flesh, and unusual taste. Not a really good pick for carving unless you're really determined.
It's as big as it sounds, weighing about 65 pounds. (Hey, I made a rhyme!) Store it in the sun after harvesting to get that gleaming white color.
The Snowballs pack thousands of seeds in a little, round, two-pound package. Their dark green stems contrast nicely with their white skin.
Planting White Pumpkins
Pumpkins can be grown just about everywhere, except maybe Antartica. Here's the lowdown on what you need to know.
How to Plant
Do you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain? Try planting the white pumpkin seeds in a mound of soil to avoid water-logging. High winds always knocking on your door? Plant in ditches to block the breeze.
When to Plant
If you live in the warmer climates, it is best to plant seeds outside as pumpkins do not always transplant well. Start your seeds indoors if you live in one of the colder areas. They are safe to plant outside when temperatures stay above 70 degrees during the day and no less than 55 degrees at night. Cold temperatures do not sit well with this plant.
Where to Plant
Make sure the spot you select has well-draining soil with some water retention. Pumpkins do not appreciate too much dryness. The amount of shade will depend on the type you choose. Some need shade to retain their white color. If you want the fruits to have a pleasing round shape, make the soil level and smooth. Uneven soil will make for lumpy pumpkins.
Care and Cultivation
Pumpkins have their quirks no matter whether they're red, orange, white, or blue. As you would with any plant, take special note of this winter squash's special needs.
As mentioned before, different types have their requirements to develop and maintain that moon glow tone. Polar Bear, for example, likes a little sun after harvesting while Full Moon needs shade to stay white. Your type selection may depend on what sort of sun and shade areas you have available in your pumpkin patch. Many pumpkins like about eight hours of sun a day.
If you want to make doubly sure that you get the blinding white you desire, only use organic fertilizer that won't mess with the pigment of your pumpkins. Add fertilizer on a regular basis to keep your pumpkins fat and fed.
While the plants will suffer from lack of water, they don't like swimming in it either. Make sure the drainage is excellent but don't let them dry out. Mulch can be helpful in maintaining this balance.
I don't want to sound like a nagging mother who beats you over the head with the obvious suggestions, but here I go: the bigger the pumpkin, the more space it will need. Feel free to respond with a well-deserved “Duh!” Even if the pumpkins themselves will not be that big, the vines can spread quite far and wide, so allow plenty of room for those green curlicues.
Bees are quite important for pollination so choose plants that will attract bees to your patch: bee balm, Black-eyed Susan, and lavender for example. Sunflowers can help deter pests that want to munch on your vines.
Harvesting and Storing White Pumpkins
Are you craving pumpkin pie or do you like roasted pumpkin seeds to snack on? Here are some harvesting and storage tips for the fruit and the seed.
Harvesting Tips for Pumpkin Fruit
- Keep track of how long it takes for your chosen type of pumpkin to mature. If left too long, the skin may yellow or freckle, or the fruit may begin to rot from the bottom.
- Flick the pumpkin with a finger and listen for a hollow sound. Check for resistance by pressing a fingernail into the skin. If the skin remains intact, it's ripe.
- Use a knife to cut the pumpkin from its vine. Ripping it free, besides just being plain rude, will leave a ragged stem that may shorten the life of the pumpkin.
- Most fruit will need to be stored in dry, cool, shaded places. Some types, like the Polar Bear, appreciate a little sun after harvesting.
Harvesting Tips for Pumpkin Seeds
- Rinse the seeds as you pick them out of the pulp and spread them on a paper towel to dry for about a week.
- If using the seeds for planting, store them in an envelope with your other seeds or in the refrigerator.
- If storing for eating, you might want to roast them first before placing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Pests and Diseases
Though pumpkins are rather hardy, they have a few enemies. The following information will tell you about the little invaders and what to do about them.
Aphids are often the first on the list of pests. These tiny green or white bugs can multiply rapidly and love to nibble on leaves and blossoms. Best to crash their party as early as possible with a good blast of water. Introducing ladybugs will help control the population as well.
Beetles, whether they are Cucumber Beetles or Squash Bugs, are usually best handled by picking them off and drowning them in a tub of ammonia mixed with soapy water. Sunflowers planted nearby and timed to bloom before the pumpkins can distract the beetles from feasting on them.
Powdery mildew may have you rethinking that next powdered doughnut you were about to eat. It looks like its name, and it can live in the soil and move with the wind. A bit of fungicide can curb it. Crop rotation can help avoid infecting plants through the earth.
Learn more: How to control and prevent powdery mildew
Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus
Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus, as well as a few other similar viruses, are often transferred to pumpkin plants through nasty little critters like the aphids mentioned above. If infected early, the fruit can be severely reduced. Weeds also spread infection so be diligent about weeding and controlling pests. Consider planting varieties that are resistant to viruses and mature earlier rather than later.
Q: How long do pumpkins take to grow?
A: Pumpkin plant growth stages will vary with the different types, some maturing as early as 90 days, some as late as 155 days.
Q: Help! My pumpkin is turning yellow! What am I doing wrong?
A: Check on the type of pumpkin you're growing. Some pumpkins need a little more shade or else they will yellow a bit. Others, like the Polar Bear, might need some sunning in order to achieve their blinding white color. And keep track of how long the fruits have been on the vine; some turn yellow as they get older.
Want to sound mysterious or haunting at your gardening group's next Halloween party? Tell them about your Caspers, your Full Moons, your Silver Moons, and your adorable little Baby Boos.
Then quickly shift to Christmas by throwing in a few comments about Polar Bears and Snowballs to really confuse them. It will probably annoy the ones who hate seeing Christmas merchandise at the same time as Halloween in the stores, but that can be fun, too.
Please let us know about your experiences with this gorgeous white winter squash in the comments below.
Mention this article to your friends so they can spruce up their sea of orange with a few luminous globes as well.
Thanks for stopping by!