Can Pumpkins Survive a Frost?

Whether it is for Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns or baking pies from scratch, growing your own pumpkins is fun to do. Depending on where you live, you may be wondering if your weather is suited for growing pumpkins. 

Can pumpkins survive a frost? A light frost will not damage pumpkins, but a hard frost will damage the vines and the pumpkins. Mature pumpkins will be alright to harvest right away, but young pumpkins will not mature enough to survive.

If you find yourself facing an early frost that threatens your pumpkin patch, there are some damage control techniques you may utilize to get the most out of the situation. 

Interested in saving your zucchini from frost? Be sure to check out this article we wrote for some more useful tips you can use to also save your pumpkins from the cold.

Recovering Pumpkins After a Frost

If you find yourself waking up to a frosty ground and a garden full of pumpkins, check to see how intense the frost was so you will know if your pumpkins can recover.

Light Frost

If the frost is light, your pumpkins are probably going to survive. Frost is frozen dew, and a light frost is gone as soon as the sun is shining on your garden. A light frost happens when the temperature barely gets into the freezing range. Recovery is possible after a light frost.

Hard Frost

If the temperatures drop too low, a frost capable of destroying your plants that are not hearty enough to survive will happen. According to the blog “Frost and the Fall Garden” by Ruth Dobsevage, the frost damages the plants by freezing the water already inside the plant cells. This causes the cells to die. Recovery is not possible after a hard frost.

Can I Do Something If I Know a Frost Is Coming?

Michigan State University discusses the best way to protect your pumpkins if you know a frost is coming 

There are a few different items you can use to cover your pumpkins in the event of a frost:

  • Frost blankets
  • Old blankets
  • Newspapers
  • Cardboard

These items will protect them if the temperature gets into the low 30’s. However, be sure to avoid plastic as protection. Plastic creates a barrier that can trap moisture. This moisture will create frosty conditions under the plastic rather than protect the plants. 

How Fast Do Pumpkins Decay After a Frost?

Michigan State University discusses the issue of pumpkins’ thin skin and how cold weather can affect how quickly they decay.

Pumpkins and other squash begin to decay after a frost passes. Pumpkins have thinner skin that does not offer them much protection in cold weather, which makes them sensitive to the cold. According to Rocky Mountain Gardener, temperatures below 28 degrees ruin the flesh of the pumpkin.

Why Does My Hardiness Zone Matter?

The hardiness of a plant determines how well it can grow in colder weather. The United States is divided into eleven hardiness zones, and each zone has a different temperature average and length of winter. Gardeners should be aware of the hardiness zone of the area they live in. 

Knowing your hardiness zone helps you know when to plant because you can plan around typical weather patterns. You can find your hardiness zone in the Farmer’s Almanac here. This is an excellent resource for hardiness-specific planting times.

Temperature is only one of the laws of plant growth. Discover the rest here in this brief article: “Six Laws of Plant Growth for Food Production”.

When to Plant Your Pumpkins

According to the University of Minnesota, gardeners should wait a couple of weeks after the last spring frost to plant pumpkins outside. You can start growing the seeds inside to get them strong enough to be transplanted outside once you are sure that the soil is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you plant your pumpkins too early, you increase the risk of the seedlings dying; however, planting them inside can give you a jump start on the season. 

When to Harvest Your Pumpkins

The University of Minnesota recommends that you harvest your pumpkins before the first frost of the fall. You will want to leave a bit of stem on the pumpkin because pumpkins with stems do not rot as fast as those without their stems.

Also, find a sunny spot outside to cure your pumpkins after harvesting. Curing should take a couple of weeks, but if you find the weather turns too cold, cure them inside in a warm area with plenty of airflow. 

My Pumpkins Are Safe; What Do I Do with Them Now? 

Your harvested and cured pumpkins can last you two or three months, but you may have too many pumpkins to go through in that short amount of time. If you want to enjoy your pumpkins even longer, you can freeze them.

Freezing Pumpkins

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, pumpkins are perfect candidates for freezing for future use. 

To freeze your pumpkins, follow these easy steps:

  • Cut the pumpkin into quarters
  • Scoop out and save the seeds.
  • Roast the pumpkin in a roaster, skin down, with a lid on. Make sure to add a bit of water.
  • You can tell if it is ready when it is tender to a fork or knife.
  • Let the pumpkin cool.
  • Cut the flesh away from the skin.
  • Chop into chunks and freeze.

If you want to use some of the pumpkins for pies or bread, you can puree the pumpkin until it is smooth before freezing.

Defrosting Pumpkins

To defrost your cubed or pureed pumpkin for eating, follow these steps:

  • Empty the contents of the bag onto a glass pie pan or something similar.
  • Defrost in the microwave for a couple of minutes at a time until soft.

What Can I do with the Seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and good fats. The seeds also include iron and B vitamins, as well as a few other great nutrients. 

The folks at The Kitchn compiled a list of ideas for using pumpkin seeds. Some of the favorites are listed below.

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds are tasty and good for you. To make them, roast the seeds in the oven with some olive oil and sea salt before enjoying. You can also add your favorite spices before roasting.
  • Use your pumpkin seeds as a soup or salad add-in
  • Use your roasted seeds to add flavor and texture to side dishes, such as cornbread casseroles or sweet potatoes. 
  • Pumpkin seeds make a great add-in for granola.

Are All Pumpkins Good for Eating?

As long as a pumpkin is mature, it is good to eat. All pumpkins are edible, but some pumpkins are better for certain types of food. The Pumpkin Nook is an excellent resource for all things pumpkin-related.

Some basic pumpkin cooking tips are listed below:

  • If you are baking pies, you want to stick with sugar pumpkins or sugar pie pumpkins. These are sweeter than other pumpkins, and because the texture is smoother, they work well in pies.
  • Carving pumpkins make great Halloween decorations, but they are also great for cooking. It is recommended to stick with the small to medium size for carving pumpkins. 
  • Miniature pumpkins do not have a lot of pumpkin in them, but they are edible and useful for cooking.
  • Giant pumpkins are edible, but the bigger they are, the stringier they are. It should be noted that they take on a more squash-like quality, but they are still a favorite for cooking.

In Conclusion…

If you are willing to do the gardening work and plan ahead, you can have a successful pumpkin harvest in spite of frosts. If you keep an eye on the changing weather, you should have no problem harvesting your pumpkins in the fall. Follow the advice in this article, and you’ll have beautiful Jack-o-Lanterns and yummy food to enjoy!

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