How to Grow Pumpkins
Instructions for Growing Pumpkins
in Your Garden
While technically a fruit, pumpkin is a winter squash that's called a vegetable. Depending upon the variety and gardening conditions, each plant can produce anywhere from 3 to 12 pumpkins per vine, ranging in size from 1 lb to hundreds of pounds each. When growing pumpkins, the larger the fruit size, the longer it takes to reach maturity.
In addition to needing a long growing season, growing pumpkins requires significant garden space. (Vines can sprawl to 20+ feet long.) You can save space by growing pumpkins with corn. Don't plant near potatoes. (Review companion planting.)
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: Short on space? Grow a bush variety.
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Pumpkins are a warm weather crop that tolerates neither frost nor cold. But growing pumpkins is possible in most gardening climates. Get an early start, as once the season cools, the yield will be smaller.
For best results in growing pumpkins, pick a sunny garden location.
Good drainage is very important for growing pumpkins.
In cooler climates, get a jump start on growing pumpkins by starting the seeds indoors 4-5 weeks early. Plant the seeds in pot with seed-starting mix, 1” deep. Keep lightly moist and warm.
Or, after the last frost has passed, plant pumpkin seeds directly into the garden soil. Mound up "hills" of soil (~2-3 feet wide), and plant seeds 1" deep at 4-5 different locations in the "hill."
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: Important: Allow at least 6 feet between hills (or as recommended on the seed packet for the variety you selected).
When the first true leaves appear, thin each "hill" to 2 or 3 plants by cutting off the plants to be discarded at ground level (this prevents disturbing the roots of the remaining pumpkin plants).
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: If you're growing giant pumpkins, allow at least 60 feet (or more) for the vines to wander. Your giant pumpkins will reach their maximum size if you pinch off all other fruit on that same vine.
Water frequently during dry periods. Drip watering works well for growing pumpkins.
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: When watering, keep the water off the leaves and vines to help prevent plant diseases.
During very hot weather, the pumpkin plants may wilt. Keeping the soil moderately moist will help them recover.
They are heavy feeders, so growing pumpkins requires a frequent supply of fertilizer. When you see the first fruit forming, apply liquid fertilizer (such as compost tea or kelp). Then repeat the application every few weeks.
Too much fertilizer makes an abudnance of leaves, but few pumpkins. If this happens, or if you have very rich garden soil, cut-off some of the pumpkin leaves to encourage the plant to focus on the growing pumpkins instead.
If growing pumpkins, powdery mildew or bacterial wilt can be common problems. Spreading the disease can be minimized by not handling wet leaves/vines. Pinch off the infected leaves and dispose of immediately (wash and dry your hands before handling other plants).
Other challenges when growing pumpkins: Aphids and pumpkin beetles enjoy pumpkin plants. Also, pumpkins can catch Viral Mosaic, spread by insects moving from plant to plant.
Another problem is that the fruit can rot before reaching maturity. Avoid this by raising the pumpkins off the ground, by nestling them on rocks, lumber, etc.
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: Practice good vegetable gardening by rotating your crops each season. This, combined with proper spacing between plants, and fertilizing with compost tea can prevent many plant diseases.
Depending upon the variety and size, pumpkins take 3 to 4 months (avg) to reach maturity. When the vines die down and the rind hardens, cut the pumpkin from the vine.
Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins: For easy handling and better long-term storage, leave 1-2 inches of stem attached.
For long-term storage, harvest the pumpkins before frost. Cure them by leaving (picked) pumpkins in the sun for two weeks in dry weather. Handle gently to prevent bruising and store in a ventilated 50-55 degrees (F) space.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.