When is a pumpkin ripe to pick? An expert gives their tips

Not sure if your pumpkins are ripe to pick? Use these failsafe methods to tell

pumpkins growing in garden
(Image credit: Khanh Bui/Getty)

Pumpkin season is upon us, and with it many a gardener's question: 'When is a pumpkin ripe to pick?' Not all pumpkins ripen at the same rate, and some may look too small to pick even though they're orange. Others may look big enough to pick but still look a little green in places. Which ones are the ripe ones?

Harvesting is an essential part of learning how to grow pumpkins. Evie Lane, gardening expert at Primrose (opens in new tab), gives her top tips for telling when yours are ripe for picking. 

1. Check the color of your pumpkin first

Pumpkin patch

(Image credit: Malcolm P Chapman/Getty)

If you're wondering when is a pumpkin ripe to pick, the first thing to do is check your pumpkin's color. 'If your pumpkin is orange all the way around, it’s ripe and ready to harvest,' Evie says. If it's still got green patches over it, leave it for another couple of weeks. If your pumpkins still haven't ripened by the end of harvesting season in October, you may need to ripen them at home.

2. Give your pumpkin a good smack 

woman tending to pumpkins in vegetable patch to encouraging growth

(Image credit: Future)

This is probably the most fun method for testing when a pumpkin is ripe to pick. Evie recommends 'giving the vegetable a hard smack – if it sounds hollow, the pumpkin is ready to be picked.' 

In fact, tactile methods are easily the most reliable for testing pumpkins. Evie's other top tip is to determine ripeness 'by using a fingernail and try to puncture the pumpkin’s outer shell – if it doesn’t dent or puncture, your vegetable is ready to go.' A ripe pumpkin is a pumpkin with hard skin. 

3. Allow for variations in sizes 

Pumpkin growing in pumpkin patch

(Image credit: PhotoAlto/Jerome Gorin/Getty)

Finally, don't worry too much about sizing. As Evie explains, 'pumpkins vary in size due to their genetics.' As a rule of thumb, medium-sized pumpkins commonly used for Halloween 'can range from 10-20 pounds.' However, 'if the pumpkin seeds planted are from a small vegetable, it’s likely that your pumpkin will only grow to weigh around 4 pounds.' 

If you're growing your pumpkins from seed, it's a very good idea to know what variety you're growing, so that you're not surprised by an overly small pumpkin. The smaller varieties will be better suited to small vegetable garden ideas, but less for Halloween carving. 

Fancy learning how to grow butternut squash alongside your pumpkins? There are plenty of tips in our dedicated guide.

Anna Cottrell

Anna writes about real estate, interior design, and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications in the US and the UK. Before embarking on her writing career, Anna taught English at university level and is the author of a book called London Writing of the 1930s. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.