How to Grow Pumpkins at Home
Pumpkins are loved by Americans for cooking, making pie, or even carving for holidays. They are the native plant of North American, and history has shown that pumpkins have been planted 5000 years back. Despite their long time to grow, around 80 to 100 days of frost-free until it can be harvested. Here is how to grow pumpkins at home.
It is recommended for those living in southern states to start planting pumpkins in early June, and for those living in northern states, you can begin planting a bit earlier in late May. Pumpkin plants are susceptible to temperature as they require a warm environment to grow. Cold weather can damage the seeds and young seedlings.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Preparation and Germination
Best Time to Grow Pumpkins
The best practice in growing pumpkins is by planting the seeds directly in the soil. That is why the soil’s temperature and surroundings will play a significant role in whether the seeds or seedlings will survive the frost. Temperature ranging from 75 Fahrenheit to 90 Fahrenheit is optimum for growing pumpkins.
If you have a short growing season, germinate the seed indoors in peat pots three to four weeks before last spring frost. When the frost is over, the soil temperature is warm; you can transplant the seedlings in the soil. Always check the soil temperature before you transplant; cold soil temperature will damage your seedlings right away.
Best Place to Grow Pumpkins
- Growing pumpkins will require a large space for them to sprawl, and the optimum size is around 70 square feet per pumpkin plant.
- If you have a space constraint, try planting them at the edge of the garden and direct their sprawling vines along the sidewalk or lawn.
- Or you can try to plant miniature pumpkin varieties that can be grown in buckets and require less space to grow.
- Prepare your soil by mixing with some compost or manure to give rich nutrients to your ground. Pumpkins love rich soil and will grow healthy. Your soil also needs to be well-drained to prevent waterlogging, which can cause the pumpkins root to rot, and later, the plant will die.
Soil Preparation for Growing Pumpkins
- Pumpkins are one of the vegetables that require constant heavy feeding through the growing process. They need soil rich in minerals and nutrients to grow and produce good pumpkins.
- “Pumpkin hills” are the mixture of soil, compost, and aged manure that you shape like mini hills in your garden. These hills are the place you will germinate your seeds later.
- To prepare the hills, dig the soil up to 13 or 15 inches and fill it in with the aged manure and compost. Then, make a small hill with a mixture of soil and compost.
- The scientific reason why “pumpkins hills” are needed is that the hill shape will help retain heat, thus making the soil warmer and germinating the seeds faster.
- Hills should be spaced around 3 to 5 feet apart.
Germinating the Pumpkin Seeds
- Dig a small hole 1 inch deep for each hill.
- Put in around four or five seeds for each hill and cover the hole lightly.
- With an optimum temperature of 70-80 Fahrenheit, pumpkin seeds should germinate in five to seven days, and they will emerge on top of the hill in seven to ten days.
- After a week, limit 2 or 3 plants only per hill by cutting the unwanted plants. Don’t pull it out, as it might break the roots of plants we want to keep.
- Too many plants on a hill can cause pumpkin plants to grow unhealthy because of the competition. So it is best to thin the plants to a maximum of 3 plants per hill.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Plants Care
- Watering: Pumpkins plants need a large amount of water. Make sure to water them daily, especially when they start fruiting. However, please ensure that the fruit and foliage are always dry because they can quickly get rotten and catch a disease.
- Weed control: Scatter mulch around the plants to keep weeds under control and maintain moisture in the soil due to less condensation. Pumpkin plants have shallow roots, so it is easy to break the roots when you are weeding. That is why it is best to prevent any weeds from the early beginning of planting the pumpkins.
- Trellis training: You can train most small vine pumpkin plants to climb the trellis. For larger pumpkin varieties, they can be trained for trellis, but you will need to spend some effort to support the plump fruit later on. You might need to use the netting to give the extra support for the fruit.
- Insect control: For early age plants, it is best to use the covers to avoid any insect problem. Remember to remove the cover when the plant starts flowering so the insects can do pollination. If you wish to use pesticides, use them minimally so bees can help the pollination process. Heavy usage of pesticides might affect the bees and lower the chance for pollination.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Fruits Care
- Pumpkin plants need a high amount of nutrients to produce perfect plump pumpkins.
- Compost and aged manure will help the pumpkin plants to get the nutrients and minerals they need to grow and produce large pumpkins.
- You also can use a fertilizer with high nitrogen formula during the first one month of the plants. Before the plants start to bloom, use a high phosphorus fertilizer to produce healthy flowers for pollination.
- Once the plants have started to fruits, you need to cut the vines to stop the plant’s growth, and plants can use nutrients on fruit’s growth.
- If you are looking to produce large pumpkins, limit the fruits to two or three pumpkins per plant and regularly cut the vines.
- You should regularly turn the pumpkin fruits to develop an even shape. Do it carefully as not to break the stem.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Harvest
- Pumpkins should be harvested when they are mature so you can keep them for quite some time. If you pick them when the fruit is still not ripe, the fruits will not last long, and the taste will not be the same as the matured fruit.
- If you want small pumpkins, make sure you plant the small variety plant and vice versa. Don’t pick large variety pumpkins at small-sized fruit because you like the size as it is not yet matured.
- How do you know the pumpkins are ready to pick? For the most variety of pumpkins, it is ripe when the color turns dark orange. Another way is to knock on the pumpkin; the shell should be hard and sounded hollow.
- It is best to cut the pumpkin’s stem at least two inches from the fruit and help pumpkins stay fresh longer.
- Don’t drop or throw pumpkins, as it might bruise them. Bruised pumpkins will not last as long as other pumpkins.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Curing and Storing Pumpkins
- Excellent and healthy pumpkins can last for eight to twelve weeks if cured right.
- The curing process is done by drying the pumpkins under the sun for at least one to two weeks to toughen the outer shell.
- Curing will also help to heal any wounds on the fruit skin and improve the pumpkin flavor.
- Then, you can store the pumpkins in a dry and cool cellar for other time use.
- Make sure to use padding made of wire mesh and newspaper to keep the pumpkins, and never stack your pumpkins on top of each other as the preHijinks – Perfect for pumpkin pies thanks to natural and creamy sweet flesh. This pumpkin variety produces almost identical sizes and shapes small with about seven to nine pounds. It is ready to be harvested around 90 to 100 days from the day you sow the seeds. This variety also is very resistant to powdery mildew and other diseases that are common to pumpkin plants. This pumpkin variety will produce up to fifteen fruits for one single plant.ssure and cause bruising on the pumpkins.
- Ensure the storage place is adequately ventilated as some pumpkins can produce ethylene gas, which causes the fruit to grow faster.
How to Grow Pumpkins – Preferred Varieties
Perfect Pumpkins for Cooking
Hijinks – Perfect for pumpkin pies thanks to natural and creamy sweet flesh. This pumpkin variety produces almost identical sizes and shapes small with about seven to nine pounds. It is ready to be harvested around 90 to 100 days from the day you sow the seeds. This variety also is very resistant to powdery mildew and other diseases that are common to pumpkin plants. This pumpkin variety will produce up to fifteen fruits for one single plant.
Baby Bear – This rich-orange pumpkins variety is one of the most favorite pumpkins in the United States, both for cooking pie and Halloween carving art. The flesh is categorized as fine-grained and creamy, which perfect for pie filling and soup. You can harvest the pumpkins about 100 days from sowing. You can get about eight to ten pumpkins from each plant you grow
Peanut Pumpkin – The peanut pumpkin’s trademark feature is the peanut-like texture grown on the pumpkin’s light pink shell. The “peanuts” actually the excess glucose (sugar) that buildup on the skin. Yup sugar! Peanut pumpkin is edible, and the flesh is very delicious and, of course, sweet. You can harvest the pumpkins for around 100-110 days, and it is perfect for any cooking, especially pie.
Perfect Pumpkins for Carving
Autumn Gold – This variety is one of the All-American Selection (AAS) winners. Autumn Gold pumpkins are usually used for carving and decorations for the holiday season. The pumpkins will mature in about 110 to 120 days with a weight of around seven to ten pounds. Each vine can produce up to 5 pumpkins at one time.
Perfect Pumpkins for Jumbo Size
Dill’s Atlantic Giant – This pumpkin variety will produce the fruit with a weight of over 1000 pounds. However, this variety requires more than 120 days to mature, a lot longer time to mature than other pumpkin varieties. So, if you plan to grow this pumpkin variety, you need to sow your seeds early indoor, so after the frost ended, you can straight away transplant the seedlings in the garden.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Grow Pumpkins
Can I grow the seed from pumpkins I bought from the market?
Seeds for growing plants are usually taken from pumpkins that are harvested when the seeds are matured. However, farmers usually will harvest the pumpkins once the pumpkins are matured even though the seeds are still not matured because it will need a much longer time for the seed to mature.
So, it is best to buy seeds from a credible brand because they are specifically produced for sowing.
Can I grow pumpkins in a pot or container?
Yes! You can grow pumpkins in a container, but you need some space for the sprawling vines to explore your garden. A medium to a large-sized pot is perfect for pumpkins and makes sure the soil is rich and always water the plant because it tends to dry quicker than the ground.
Pumpkins plant flowers fall off. Is it normal?
Pumpkins plants produce both female and male flowers. They need pollination to happen and will result in fruit. Bee and other insects will do the job for you by bringing the spore from male flowers to female flowers. Male flowers tend to bloom first and fall off after some time. It is okay as long as your female flowers are pollinated.
Do I need to put anything under maturing pumpkins?
Putting cardboard or straw under a pumpkin will help elevate the fruit, thus preventing insect damage or decay due to stagnant water on the ground. Also, it will keep the pumpkins clean, and during summer, it can cool the pumpkin from the stinging heat of the bed.