How to Grow Your Own Pumpkins From Seeds

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Pumpkins are a fall staple and when it comes to their varieties, the options are endless. You can choose from white or orange, mini or large and even carved kinds or ones that are perfect for baking pies. While you can certainly take the easy route and grab some at your local pumpkin patch, it can be just as fun to grow them all on your own.

About Pumpkins

Did you know pumpkins have been grown in North America for almost 5,000 years? It’s a lot of fun to grow this native plant.

There are two requirements to growing pumpkins: having the space to grow them and a long growing season (generally, from 75 to 100 frost-free days). Growers in northern locations need to plant by late May; in extreme southern states, plant by early July.

Pumpkins are heavy feeders and require a lot of nourishment.  That said, if you feed and water them as directed, pumpkins are easy to maintain.

Selecting pumpkin varieties for your home garden

When selecting the types of pumpkins you want to grow, the varieties you choose will depend on whether you’re looking for a good pie or eating pumpkin, a large carving pumpkin for Halloween or something more unique and decorative.

Now, just to clarify, all pumpkins are technically edible, however some varieties have a lower sugar content and a higher water content, making them less flavourful and appealing, but good candidates for carving and decorating.

If you’re just getting started growing and using pumpkins at home, here are a few of the varieties:

  • Pie Pumpkins
  • Carving Pumpkins
  • Unique Heirloom Varieties

When to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Before you can grow pumpkin seeds, you need to know when to plant pumpkin seeds. When you plant your pumpkins depends on what you plan on using them for.

If you plan on making jack-o-lanterns with your pumpkins, plant your pumpkins outside after all chance of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65 F. (18 C.). Take into account that pumpkin plants grow faster in hot climates than cold climates. This means that what month to plant pumpkin seeds changes depending on where you live. So, in cooler parts of the country, the best time when to plant pumpkin seeds is in late May and in warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins for Halloween.

If you plan on growing pumpkins as a food crop (or for a giant pumpkin contest), you can start your pumpkins indoors about two to three weeks before the last frost date for your area.

How To Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Sow seeds 2cm (1″) deep. Sow 3 seeds in each spot you want a plant to grow and thin to the strongest plant. Space plants at a minimum of 90-120cm (36-48″) apart in rows 120-180cm (48-72″) apart. If starting transplants indoors, consider using the 12-cell plug inserts.

Growing Pumpkins from Seeds

Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. These big plants need lots of food. Choose a sunny spot with fertile, well-draining soil. Dig in a generous quantity of finished compost and/or composted manure. Dig in 1 cup of complete organic fertilizer under each plant. All pumpkins grow male flowers first, then the female flowers are produced. The female flowers have tiny fruits at the base of the petals and require pollination by bees, mostly. Incomplete pollination is common at the beginning of the season, and results in small fruits that are misshapen at the flower end. Discard these damaged fruits before they rot.

For the largest pumpkins, feed weekly throughout the growing season with fish or kelp based fertilizer. Keep the huge plants well watered, particularly in hot weather. Always water the soil, and avoid any form of overhead watering other than rain. Fruit will grow larger if you keep only one fruit per vine. As the fruit develops, try to gently encourage it to grow at a 90° angle to the vine itself. The largest pumpkin varieties will grow on their sides.

Pumpkin Pests and Diseases

Unfortunately, pumpkins are prone to some types of pests and diseases. Cucumber beetles can be the most common pest problem; they love eating up foliage on pumpkin plants as well small seedlings won’t survive an attack from these insects!

What you can do about this, is covering your pumpkin plants with some garden fabric to prevent the pests from attacking.

Other pests that can be problematic for pumpkins, include: squash-vine borers and leaf miners. Planting companion plants with your pumpkin – leeks or onion are good choices- will help keep these pests away as they deter them from eating the plant altogether!

Pumpkins are also vulnerable to some diseases, such as powdery mildew, or fungus infections in humid conditions, or downy mildews, which thrive when there are wet ground surfaces nearby.

To prevent disease from affecting your patch you need to keep weeds out by maintaining good garden hygiene like weeding often so no unwanted disease takes over!

Harvest Pumpkins

After several months of growing, your pumpkins will reach maturity when the rinds harden and reach the desired shade. Definitely harvest before a heavy frost, which will damage the fruits, Burpee advises. Cut the vine with pruning shears leaving several inches of stem attached. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor — either by carving, cooking, or decorating.