Pumpkins can be made into sweet or savory dishes, used as cozy outdoor decorations during autumn, or sold for profit. Growing pumpkins really is very easy. They require very little maintenance, spread like crazy, and typically produce more pumpkins than you can imagine!
We’ve discussed a lot of gardening topics around here. Check these out: Knowing When to Plant a Garden, Letting Chickens Till Our Garden, My Gardening Schedule, The Basics to Harvesting Pumpkins, and much more!
Learn everything you need to know about planting, tending, and harvesting pumpkins. We’ll discuss when to plant the seeds, how to water them, weeding tips and tricks, and more! You’ll be sure to gather in an abundant crop of pumpkins come autumn if you follow this process. Find even more gardening topics at the very end of this blog post!
When to Plant
The first step in a successful pumpkin harvest is knowing when to plant the seeds. You’ll need to know your growing zone (find it here) and your average last frost date (find it here). These two bits of information will aid you in picking the right time for planting!
Pumpkin seeds do not germinate in cold soil, so they need to be planted after the chance of frost has passed. Plan to plant pumpkins in late spring or early summer for a fall harvest. Pumpkins typically take 95 to 120 days to mature.
Keep in Mind: If you love fall and would like to have pumpkins in time for decorating for the season, plant them in early July. If you want it in early July, plant in early March.
Choosing a Location for Planting
Pumpkins grow on vines and need plenty of space in order to thrive. Seriously, do not underestimate how much space they will take over! Our first year of pumpkin planting resulted in vines up the corn stalks, over the cucumber trellis, and beyond!
Choose a place in your yard with the following qualities:
- 20 or 30 feet (6.1 or 9.1 m) of open space. Your pumpkin patch doesn’t have to take up your whole yard. You can plant it along the side of your house, or along the fence in your backyard.
- Full sun. Don’t choose a spot under a tree or in the shadow of a building. Make sure the pumpkins will get plenty of sun all day long.
- Soil with good drainage. Clay-based soils don’t absorb water quickly, and aren’t as conducive to growing pumpkins. Choose a spot that doesn’t have standing water after heavy rains.
Selecting Pumpkin Seeds
There are an abundant amount of pumpkin varieties to choose from! Here are a few of the main qualities that most home gardeners desire in their pumpkin crop:
- Pie pumpkins, which are meant to be eaten.
- Large decorative pumpkins that can be carved into jack o’lanterns. The seeds in these pumpkins are edible, but the flesh is not flavorful.
- Small decorative pumpkins, often called mini pumpkins.
- Build small mounds of dirt in a row for the pumpkin seeds to be planted into. The hill helps improve soil drainage and allows the sun to heat the soil faster, speeding up germination.
- Place the seeds 1–2 inches deep in the mounds. It doesn’t matter which side of the seed is facing up.
- Plant 2-3 seeds within a few inches of one another in case some decide not to sprout.
- Begin creating another row of hills that is about 10 feet apart from the first row. This gives vining varieties lots of room to expand!
- Cover the seeds with soil and water! They should sprout within a week of planting.
Pumpkin plants need a lot water, but they shouldn’t get too much. Make sure that the soil is dry before watering again. Deep, infrequent waterings are ideal.
Try not to get water on the pumpkin leaves. This encourages the growth of a fungus called powdery mildew, which can cause the leaves to wither and the plant to die. Water in the morning, rather than at night, so any water that gets on the leaves has time to dry in the sun.
When the plants first sprout (in about a week or two), adding fertilizer encourages health pumpkin plant growth. Go to your local nursery and ask for a fertilizer you can add to your pumpkin bed.
In order to produce healthy pumpkins, you’ll have to weed and monitor them throughout the growing process.
- Weed the patch often. Don’t let the growth of weeds crowd out the pumpkin plants or absorb the nutrients they need to thrive. Plan to weed a few times a week.
- Check the pumpkin leaves and blossoms for beetles, which eat plant tissue and ultimately kill the pumpkin plant. Scrape them off the plant a few times a week.
- Mulch around your pumpkins to keep weed pressure down and conserve soil moisture.
- Aphids are pests that threaten a lot of garden plants. They can be found on the undersides of the leaves, and if you don’t take care of them, they’ll kill the plants quickly. Spray them off with water in the morning so the leaves have time to dry.
- If necessary, use an organic pesticide to rid your plants of pests. Ask about products at your local nursery.
I’ve written an entire blog post on harvesting pumpkins! Read all about it right here. In this post, I discuss methods for telling when to harvest pumpkins, how to do it, and how to make them last as long as possible after harvest.
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- How to Properly Watering the Garden
- Managing the Garden with a Schedule
- My Herb Garden
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