How to Grow Pumpkins

growing pumpkin

by Jennifer Poindexter

Have you ever wanted to grow your own pumpkins?

Maybe you’d like to have them to decorate in the fall or to make homemade pumpkin pie. Whatever your reason, you’ll be glad to know, they aren’t a complicated crop.

Pumpkins come in many different varieties which makes them perfect for almost any grow space because of the large variations in sizing.

If you’d like to try your hand at raising pumpkins, here’s what you should know to increase your chances of a positive gardening experience.

Growing Conditions for Pumpkins

Pumpkins can be grown in a variety of conditions. They’re hardy in planting zones three through nine. When you choose to plant them will be based around your frost dates.

They shouldn’t be planted until after the threat of frost has passed. Look at the packaging of the seeds for your chosen pumpkin variety.

See how many days it takes for the plants to reach maturity. Most pumpkins take anywhere from ninety to one hundred days to mature.

I live in planting zone eight. Since I want my pumpkins at the beginning of fall, I usually don’t plant them until the first part of July.

This may vary in your area due to weather conditions or when you’d like to begin enjoying your pumpkin harvest. Realize, they must be planted in spring or summer. The exact time of planting will be up to you.

Now that you have an understanding of when to plant your pumpkins, let’s discuss specifics about their growing conditions. Pumpkins should be planted in full sun where they have well-draining soil. Otherwise, they aren’t picky about where they grow.

Plant pumpkins when they won’t be impacted by frost, where they have adequate sunlight, give them well-draining soil, and ensure they grow during the spring or summer months, and you should be off to a good start.

How to Plant Pumpkins

There are many types of pumpkins to choose from. They come in a range of sizes which will impact how much space they need to grow.

If you choose traditional vining pumpkins, they’ll need more space. If you choose a smaller, bush variety they’ll need less.

Pumpkins may be grown in typical in-ground plots or in large containers. For smaller pumpkin varieties, choose a ten-gallon container. This is a great growing method if you’re working with less grow space.

If you’re going to grow pumpkins in the ground, start by amending the soil. It must be loosened, at least four inches below the surface, prior to planting.

You can choose to create small mounds in this plot or plant the pumpkins directly in the ground. If you choose to plant in mounds, it can help with draining the soil, and it also keeps the soil warmer.

It’s best to direct sow pumpkin seeds when the soil is seventy degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Each mound should have eight feet of space between them.

Whether planting in a mound or directly in the ground, the seeds should be planted approximately an inch deep.

If growing in rows, space the seeds one foot apart when planting. Ensure the rows have at least ten feet between them.

It should take the seeds approximately one week to germinate. Once the seedlings have sprouted, and reached three inches in height, thin them according to what type of bed they’re growing in.

In mounds, there should be three plants per hill. In typical rows, there should be three feet of space between each plant.

Once your seeds are planted, have sprouted, and have been thinned to where there’s appropriate spacing between plants, you’re ready to learn how to care for your pumpkin plants.

Caring for Pumpkins

Pumpkins have only a few basic requirements they need met while growing in your garden. To begin, they need water.

Provide your pumpkins with one inch of water per week. If this is provided by nature, you won’t need to water that week.

However, when watering by hand, it’s best to use the deep watering method. This allows you to water fewer days of the week for longer periods.

It also encourages stronger root systems to develop within your plants. You should consider mulching around your pumpkin plants as well.

This will not only help to keep moisture around your plants, but it will also serve as a barrier for weeds.

Pumpkins won’t need to be pruned, but they will need to be fertilized because they’re heavy feeders. Fertilize your pumpkins every two to three weeks with a balanced fertilizer.

You shouldn’t try to deter insects from being in your garden when raising pumpkins. Pumpkins require pollination to form their fruit.

Be mindful of the vines of your pumpkins. If the vines become damaged it could impact your harvest. 

The final step to properly caring for pumpkins is to protect the fruit of your plant. When the pumpkins begin to form fruit, place a piece of cardboard under the new pumpkins.

This will help deter rot as they continue to form on the vine. Providing basic care to your pumpkins can make all the difference at harvest time.

Garden Pests and Diseases for Pumpkins

There are a few pests and diseases you must be aware of when raising pumpkins. The most common pests which impact pumpkins are squash bugs, aphids, and squash vine borers.

Aphids can be treated with an insecticide, but you can also try spraying the pumpkins with soapy water. This will dislodge the pests from your plants.

Keep in mind, aphids can be a persistent pest. Keep your eyes open to them and be prepared to repeat treatment as needed.

Squash bugs can quickly become a huge problem. They suck the sap of small plants which can kill them. To make matters worse, they’re also known carriers of disease which can negatively impact your pumpkins as well.  The best method of treatment for squash bugs is using an insecticide.

Squash vine borers do as their name suggests. They lay their eggs at the base of your pumpkin plants and when they hatch, the larvae begin boring through the vines of your pumpkins. Again, the best method for treating this pest is using an insecticide.

Powdery mildew is the most common disease to impact pumpkins. It’s a fungus that’s frequently brought on by planting pumpkins too closely or where they don’t receive enough sunlight. You can treat powdery mildew with a fungicide.

By staying alert to these potential problems, you should be able to protect your pumpkins and help them to lead a healthy life in your garden.

How to Harvest Pumpkins

Very little, about growing pumpkins, is difficult. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that harvesting them is easy as well.

When the pumpkins have reached the correct color and their skin is hard, it’s time to harvest them. Use a sharp knife or gardening shears to cut the pumpkins from the vine.

Be sure to leave part of the stem attached to the pumpkin. This will provide an easier way of carrying your pumpkins while also helping to deter rot, as the flesh won’t be exposed.

Once the pumpkins are harvested, it’s important to cure them. Allow your fresh cut pumpkins to lay in the sun for seven days. This will harden their skins even further.

After they’ve cured, store the pumpkins in a cool, dry location. This could be a spot in a basement, in a root cellar, or even a pantry.

Pumpkins are a great plant to grow if you’re new to gardening. They do require some attention, but they aren’t overly fussy.

If you’re searching for a plant to grow that will provide an adequate harvest, and you can enjoy for both decorating and culinary purposes, consider growing your own pumpkins.

Learn More About Growing Pumpkins

pumpkin growing in garden and pumpkin blossom with text overlay how to grow pumpkins

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