Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Grow Pumpkins

Whether you grow pumpkins for Halloween or for eating at Thanksgiving or to can up for the pantry, they are fun to grow. It’s even more fun to see the eyes of a child grow bigger than the pumpkins themselves when they first see them in the vegetable garden.

Knowing how to grow them doesn’t take any special skills, except that you should follow a few simple guidelines to insure that your harvest is the best possible crop. Here’s a short list of tips you can use to grow great pumpkins:

Start off with healthy soil. Add lots of compost to your pumpkin growing bed. Amend your soil well enough to allow for excellent drainage.

Make the bed, or area, as big as you possibly can, as the plants are known to sprawl anywhere they want to go.

Plant at least 3 seeds to each hill at least three feet in diameter. Each hill needs to be at least 8 feet apart. Once your seeds germinate, thin out all but the strongest of the three plants.
Water is very important to a pumpkin, so be very liberal in your watering practices. Make sure your pumpkin patch gets much more than the normal one inch per week standard for the other vegetables.

**Watering should never be done by overhead sprinklers, as this will wet the leaves and cause the potential for mildews and other diseases.

When plants are no more than three feet in diameter and the plant begins to send out vines with tendrils that help to stabilize the vines, cover the entire growing area with wheat straw mulch. If available, use a quality mulch that will be easy on the bottom of your pumpkins and decompose readily at the end of the growing season.

Pumpkins are a very hungry plant and along with proper watering practices, you should fertilize once at four weeks of growth and then every four weeks after that during the growing season. 

If you start with great soil and continue to keep the soil fertile by adding compost during the plants growth stages, you will certainly have great success. Use a quality vegetable fertilizer and water into the soil after you've applied.
Insects that can cause a reduced yield or even a complete loss of your entire crop are similar to insects that affect other squash. Squash Vine Borer, Squash Bug, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Leaf Miners and Grasshoppers are just a few that can devastate a pumpkin patch. 

Be on the lookout for these pests every day and treat according to the label of your material of choice. Hand picking insects is always a good method of control depending on how big your patch is. 

A variety of quality dust or liquid control measures are available to the home gardener, so make sure that the insect you are trying to control and the plant that the insect is on, are on the label. Please read the label of any product you use to treat and control insects. 

It is very important for you to be safe while you are applying a pesticide. Harvesting is quite simple, and the most fun part of growing pumpkins. Typically a pumpkin plants leaf growth will die back showing you the squash that have been patiently waiting for harvest. The skin must be hardened off to the point that it will take some pressure from your thumbnail to break the skin. 

When cutting a pumpkin away from the vine, leave at least three to four inches of vine attached at the top of the squash. This will help in regard to storage in a cool dark place. Once you've harvested all of your pumpkins, clear the patch by removing all of the old plants and take them to your compost pile.
Pumpkins have traditionally been used as Jack O’ Lanterns at fall festivals and Halloween, on the Thanksgiving table in the form of pumpkin breads and pies and on cold winter afternoons as pumpkin soups and stews.

The seeds are also edible after being dried out. Some people will season them with sugars and cinnamon or herbal mixtures to spice them up. Since I raise rabbits, I feed them plain seeds as a treat to their pellet diet.

And, as long as the pumpkin you’ve grown this time is not a hybrid variety, save some of the seed for next year’s patch.

No matter how you like to eat pumpkins, you’ll certainly love to grow them year after year.


  1. Steve, I liked your blog so much, i gave you a page on our church community garden blog. Please let me know if you prefer I not.


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