Grow Your Own Pumpkin This Year
Who doesn’t look forward to autumn and pumpkin spice lattes? You swear that it’s your kids who drag you to the pumpkin patch every year, but you’re not fooling anyone–we know you live for fall, too.
Don’t be intimidated by growing pumpkins at home–pumpkins are actually one of the easier vegetables to grow. A member of the gourd family, pumpkins are close relatives of summer squash and have been cultivated as a food source for thousands of years.
Read on to learn which pumpkin varieties to grow, how to plant pumpkin seeds, and how to harvest your own homegrown pumpkin to use however you see fit.
Choose your favorite pumpkin seed variety, or try growing a new one
The hardest part of growing pumpkins is deciding which variety to grow!
Do you prefer a classic orange carver, like Jack-O-Lantern? Or a famously delicious eating pumpkin, like Musquee de Provence? If you’re interested in the rare and exotic, try your hand at growing the North Georgia Candy Roaster, an unusually shaped long pumpkin that tastes sugary sweet. How about a pumpkin that doubles as both fall decor and your pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving? Consider the artfully striped Pepitas Hybrid. Whether you decide to grow carving pumpkins, cooking pumpkins, or decorative gourds, we have the perfect variety for you at Seeds ‘n Such.
Start pumpkin seeds indoors to get a headstart on the growing season
Most gardeners direct sow pumpkins in late spring after all the danger of frost has passed. Pumpkins are heat-loving annuals that don’t tolerate cold temperatures, so wait until your soil temperature has warmed up to at least 70°F before planting pumpkin seeds in the ground.
The majority of pumpkin varieties are long-season types that take between 90 and 110 days to mature. Gardens in milder climates can direct-seed pumpkins and be assured ripe pumpkins before October, but gardeners in colder climates can get a jumpstart on the growing season by starting pumpkin seeds indoors, about two to three weeks before their region’s last frost.
Amend the soil for prime nutrition and pH levels
As soon as your soil is workable, you’ll want to start prepping your garden beds. Pumpkins thrive in slightly acidic soil, with a pH ranging between 6.0 and 6.8. Perform an at-home soil pH to determine your soil’s pH value and, if needed, add soil sulfur and compost to acidify your soil.
Pumpkins require a lot of nutrients and water to form the large, colorful fruits that we all love, so make sure that your soil has been recently amended with compost and a balanced fertilizer to give your pumpkins plants the proper nutrition they need. Pumpkins need about an inch of water a week to be healthy, so if you don’t get consistent rainfall in your area, you might consider installing a drip irrigation system to keep your pumpkins producing.
Direct sow or transplant pumpkin seedlings into mounds
To plant pumpkins in rows, you’ll want to build up several mounds at least six inches high and between three and five feet apart from one another. The mounds help warm up the soil faster than the surrounding environment and ensure good drainage. Make a crater on the top of the mound and add a few handfuls of compost and a balanced fertilizer.
When the soil has warmed up enough, place three or four pumpkin seeds in each mound. Cover lightly with more soil and water the mounds thoroughly. Expect to see pumpkin seedlings sprouting in a little as a week!
Grow pumpkins in containers or on a trellis to save space
Pumpkins do have a reputation for taking up a lot of space. If possible, restrain your pumpkin patch to an out-of-the-way corner of your garden, where the vines can freely sprawl and will be less likely to overtake your other garden vegetables. You can also edge your garden with pumpkin plants and train the vines to grow outward rather than inward.
But just because you don't have acres of land doesn't mean you can’t grow pumpkins–smaller pumpkin varieties like Small Sugar Pumpkin do just as well in a large container pot or raised bed.
Trellising pumpkins vertically has also become more popular among vegetable growers–string netting between multiple T posts, just like you would with tomatoes or peas. Train the pumpkin vines up, tying when necessary, and when the vines start making fruit, tie a piece of cloth or netting under the fruit to make a “basket” for additional support.
Harvest pumpkins for dinner or decoration
While most pumpkin varieties take between three and three and a half months to mature, when you harvest your pumpkins depends in part on the variety and its intended use.
Look for yellowing leaves and vines that have started to die back–that’s the first sign that pumpkins will soon be ready. Once you find a fruit, check its ripeness by trying to mark the skin–if you can’t easily scar the pumpkin with a fingernail, it’s ready.
Cooking pumpkins can be harvested as soon as the fruit turns its mature color–try to harvest these on the younger side for the sweetest fruits. Carving pumpkins can stay on the vine a little longer.
Harvesting pumpkins is only the beginning of the process–you’ll need to cure homegrown pumpkins, just like you would onions, to keep the fruit from rotting over time. Curing pumpkins can be as easy as leaving them in the field for a few extra weeks. If your forecast is anything but sunny, you’ll want to bring your pumpkins inside a greenhouse or a porch–somewhere dry with decent sun exposure. Give it a few weeks and you’ll have your very own fresh and beautiful homegrown pumpkins!Want a little more information on pumpkins? Let this guide be your go-to for growing productive vining vegetables. Trust us–you’ve got this! The pumpkin patch of your dreams awaits.