It’s almost pumpkin season, and while they’re already showing up in supermarkets, if you’re growing your own pumpkins it’s likely that they’re not quite ready yet. Whether you’re a pumpkin pro or want to research how to grow your own for next year, these tips can help you grow pumpkins for pie, Jack-O’-lanterns, or just to feed the critters in your yard.
First Up, Planting.
Pumpkins and squash have a very long growing season, about 100 days to 120 days, to mature depending on the pumpkin variety. This means you’ll want to plant them as early as possible. If you’re growing them from seeds, sow seeds indoors during March or April and then after you plant the seeds let the plants start to grow indoors until the danger of frost has fully passed.
Where to Plant.
Large pumpkins need a lot of space as they have sprawling vines that can take up to 100 square feet of space. These pumpkin vines can be trained on a trellis; however, supporting the fruit can take a little bit of imagination. Miniature varieties will utilize less space, so choose the variety that works best for your situation.
Pumpkins like full sun to light shade, so choose your planting location with that in mind as well.
When planting pumpkins place the seeds or seedlings in the ground in a mound. This will help the seed create new roots and allow it to warm quickly, improving drainage and deterring pests. Use pre-fertilized soil, compost, or manure and continue to feed them throughout the growing season, as pumpkins are extremely heavy feeders.
Not every flower will bear fruit as some flowers are male and the male flower is there to fertilize the female flower. Make sure to be careful when spraying because bees are necessary to spread the pollen and many insecticides also kill beneficial insects such as bees.
Pumpkins are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases including squash vine borers, aphids, and powdery mildew, so be on the lookout for these and treat accordingly.
To make sure the fruit lasts a long time, only harvest the pumpkin when it’s fully mature. To test if the pumpkin is mature, thump it with your finger—it should sound hollow and the rind should be hard. It should also resist puncture if you press your fingernail into it. The pumpkin should also be a deep bright color (depending on the variety, this can be orange, yellow, green, or even white). When harvesting be sure to cut, not break, the stem and include several inches of stem on the pumpkin. This will help the pumpkin to keep as long as possible. After you harvest the pumpkin let it cure in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin. Once that’s all done you can get cooking, or carving, to your heart’s content.