How to Grow Pumpkins



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Days to germination: 10 days
Days to harvest: 110 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Frequent regular watering
Soil: Well fertilized with good drainage
Container: not suitable

Introduction

Pumpkins are one of those vegetables that tend to get relegated to the back of the yard, and almost forgotten about until the fall when it’s time to pumpkins for Halloween.

And of course, there are those dedicated gardeners who plant pumpkins in the hopes of growing a huge prize-winning monster pumpkin they can show off to the neighbors. You can even buy seeds for varieties known to produce enormous fruits, though there are no guarantees that you will have a record-breaking pumpkin in your garden. The most popular variety for size is called “Prizewinner”.

Besides making Jack o’ Lanterns, pumpkins can be used in pie fillings, soup and many other dishes. The orange flesh is high in vitamin A , and pumpkin seeds are great sources of magnesium, zinc and iron.

Starting from Seed

If you have a long growing season in the summer, you can plant seeds directly out into the garden. Otherwise, start your seeds indoors about 4 weeks before your area is due to have its last frost.

In loose soil, plant pumpkin seeds in small pots about an inch below the surface. Keep the soil moist and the seeds should sprout in between 7 to 14 days. They will need lots of sun while they are growing. More than one plant can be grown in each pumpkin hill, so you can start 3 or 4 seedlings together in the same pot for later transplanting together.

For planting seeds directly into the garden, you should plant 4 or 5 seeds in a small hill of soil. Considering how much space pumpkin plants take, keep your hills at least 10 feet apart. They should be planted in a sunny area away from anything that will shade them. The vines can grow up to 30 feet long, so plan your garden space with lots of room to spare.

After the seeds have sprouted and grown a bit larger, choose the strongest 3 and pick out the others.

Transplanting

Just like when you are planting seeds into the garden, you can transplant your young seedlings into small hills with at least 10 feet between each hill. If the seedlings are quite large, just put 2 or 3 in each hill. For smaller ones, plant 4 or 5. Once they start to grow larger, pluck out the two weakest ones to leave 2 or 3 strong plants in the hill.

Growing Instructions

Because they usually sprawl over the yard, and take all summer to produce their orange fruit, pumpkins tend to get forgotten which isn’t the best thing for them. If you really want big tasty pumpkins, you do need to tend them as much as any other plant in your garden.

Pumpkins are considered to be “heavy feeders”, so your soil should be rich and added compost can help a lot. Regular fertilizing will also make sure you get the biggest pumpkins. Water on a regular basis as well. Just remember where the center of the plant is so you can focus your watering right on the roots, not on the vines and leaves.

Once the plant starts to produce fruit, you can increase the size of your final pumpkins if you pick off the new blossoms after the first 4 or 5 pumpkins start to develop. The plant can dedicate more resources that way, and you’re not stuck with a bunch of tiny (and useless) pumpkins come fall.

Containers

Considering the size and spread of the pumpkin, its not usually a good candidate for container growing. There are some varieties that are smaller, like Jack-be-Little, but you still would need a very large container (several feet across) and the vines can spill out over the sides. It might be suitable for your yard situation if you still have a good amount of space. Definitely not for small balconies.

Pests and Diseases

Powdery Mildew can be a fungus problem with pumpkins, particularly if the weather has been very humid. This is another reason to only water the roots of the plants, as extra water left on the leaves can make them perfect targets for fungus. You can spray the leaves with a fungicide, though you should use natural products if you intend the eat the pumpkins.

Cucumber beetles and vine borers are two major insect pests for pumpkins. The beetles are fairly easy to see on the leaves, but the vine borers are hard to spot. They dig into the vines (usually near the main stalk of the plant) and kill it almost invisibly. Regular applications of pesticides can keep both pests away.

While the pumpkins are small and soft, they can be vulnerable to snails and slugs as well. Pouring sand around the pumpkin can keep them away, as would a ring of diatomaceous earth on the ground around each fruit. Once the pumpkins have grown a bit and start to harden, they are usually safe.

As the pumpkin fruits grow and begin to settle on the dirt, they can develop rot where they touch the earth. A plastic coffee can lid or something similar can be placed under each pumpkin to keep it protected from the earth.

Harvest and Storage

If you only let your pumpkin vines produce 4 or 5 pumpkins, they will likely each grow to around 8 to 10 lbs. Of course, the varieties intended to produce huge fruits will be larger. They can grow up to 100 lbs, but don’t count on it.

A pumpkin is ripe for picking when the skin on the outside is tough and the colour is deep orange. Use a knife to slice through the thick vine. It’s a good idea to leave enough vine to use as a handle to carry your pumpkin. You can store pumpkins in a cool dry place and they can last several months as long as you don’t let them freeze. Make sure they are not piled up and have plenty of ventilation.

4 Responses to “How to Grow Pumpkins”

  1. Charlotte  Says:

    Most sites recommend not to use the stalk as a handle because the pumpkin rots from the end of the stalk- if the stalk breaks off when it is being carried, the pumpkin will store badly as it will rot faster.

  2. lacey  Says:

    how come everyone says pimpkin seeds rule

  3. bj Ricci  Says:

    Last Oct. as a school project my 5 year old grandson planted some

    pumpkin seeds. (we live in RI ) The plant has had many flowers and grew one tiny pearl size pumpkin. The little pumpkin fell off, we didn’t
    think it would mature but it was very exciting for the kids to watch (I did take pictures). My question is, will this plant survive till spring when we can plant it outside or will it die after a certain amount.
    of time? I couldn’t figure out why the teacher would have the kids plant seeds in Oct. but I can see why now. It’s been fun and a family focus that we watched everyday. Thank You BJ RICCI

  4. Luis  Says:

    In January 2013 I planted several pumpkin seeds from the USA in Peru, to be more specific in the tropical rainforest region. They started to grow and after some weeks vines started to grow. However when it started having flowers, there only appeared male flowers. The pumpkin plant didn’t produce any female flower and after three months the plants just died. I really don’t understand why that happened and I’m going to try again sowing Pumpkins from the USA.

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