Harvest Smarts – Squash, Pumpkin + Kumara

Please be patient my gardening friends! Don’t rush to harvest your squash and pumpkins. For sure, they look ready on the outside – but until the stalk dries off, there’s still work to be done on the inside. Let it finish, and be rewarded with deeper, richer flesh.

The Quest For Sweet Squash and Pumpkins

queensland blue

While you wait for the stalk to dry, keep your crop clear of weeds or plants that are blocking light and holding the moisture in. Then check underneath and if they’ve got wet bottoms, give them a turn or put some dry stuff beneath – rot is a tragedy we can easily avoid.

During this final, stage of maturity, the green rind beneath the skin turns yellow/ orange, the seeds ripen, the skin hardens and the flesh turns a deeper hue of orange. For the full expression you must wait till it’s done.

pumpkin harvest

When the stalks are dry, harvest them cutting where the stalk meets what’s left of the vine. The stalk is key to storage – like a cork in a wine bottle, it’s sealing all the goodness in and keeping air and moisture out.

To go the full hog and develop the flesh to it’s sweet potential, cure your picked fruits for 3 or 4 weeks on a slatted surface, somewhere dry, away from direct sunlightand airy.

When To Harvest Kumara

A wheelbarrow full on the delicious New Zealand sweet potato, known as Kumara

Growing kumara in our less than ideal conditions of heavy clay soils and high rainfall, has taught me to get the tubers up as soon as they are ready. Somewhere in the realm of 120 – 150 days from planting, is when I harvest. Feel around in the soil and once the tubers are a good size – call it. Eschew common advice to wait till the tops yellow and die – you’ll be waiting for winter whereby the tubers will be blemished, and not store very well or worse going mushy.

Cold soil and kumara are not friends. So as soon as the tubers have sized up + a dry day dawns = get the kumara out of the ground and curing. 



  1. Gillian Silver says

    Thankyou so very much for sharing this.. I would have left them to yellow off !!! because we had rain this morning (yay to that) I will leave them a little longer then do exactly as you suggest. This year when I plant the new slips I will note the day in the calendar so I know when 120 days are up !!!
    You are The Best xx

  2. Tanya Delaney says

    Hi Kath
    I’m hoping you can help me with kumara please.
    I have grown the slips and I planted them then they put down roots and I trimmed all the long growth back to keep the growth to the center but no kumara just gorgeous plants.
    I live in Whangarei and have lovely friable soil with calf shed shavings in raised beds. no over watering. I planted them in October so thought they would be ready by now.
    What have I done wrong do you think.

    • Most likely that lovely friable soil with all that calf goodness Tanya. Kumara dont need much in the way of fertilising, rather mineral additions like seaweed or perhaps woodash. Dont dig is the other thing, its better to have a bit of a hard pan for tuber development- otherwise its all tops and no bottoms. Next year make a mound of your lovely soil – no digging, no fertilising and plant into the top of the mound.
      Tubers wont develop now, but if you dont need the space you could try leaving the plants in the ground – a friend got a great crop of kumara this way, the second year.

  3. Lisa Stewart says

    Hi Kath,
    I just wanted to share a kumara story which I fell upon totally by accident. I had tried in 2020 to grow kumara amongst my corn, this was pretty unsuccessful. However there was obviously some slips left in the ground and in 2021 I had an old woolen underlay lying in the garden (I often use this in the garden, I poke holes in it and grow veges through the holes) There was a hole in the underlay that a kumara began growing through. By the end of the season I pulled up the best crop of kumara I have ever grown from under the underlay.

  4. Tanya Delaney says

    I just thought I would update on my Kumara woes because I was so very excited to find that when i went out the next day i dug a little deeper and to my excitement I found four fabulous kumara which were reasonable in size! Happy happy days 🙂

  5. Jill Armstrong says

    Hi Kath
    Could you tell me please, are there any pumpkins or squash that will grow over winter in Auckland?

    I had some buttercup squash that failed and not enjoying the thought of minimal pumpkin over winter.

    Love your book and posts – all good Kiwi stuff!

    Jill Armstrong

    • Interesting question Jill and one I cannot answer not living in Auckland. I’d check in with gardeners around you – ask the gardener magazine I think most of those writers are Aucklanders. Or perhaps, give it a go in your most protected, warmest environment and see what happens, thats probably what I’d do. They need atleast 20 degree soil at transplant and for about 15 weeks thereafter for growing and good airflow too to prevent mildew. Good luck! Kath

  6. Hey Kath, thanks for the great articles. All very helpful. I tried accessing your link to curing but it’s a dead end.. Any tips? Just started the harvesting process for our beds and would love to get it right for optimal storage. Thanks in advance!