Pumpkins are a FRUIT and not a vegetable – did you know that? Pumpkins are one of the most fun types of fruits to grow. They are not that hard to care for, but they do require lots of space. Their roots can extend as long as twenty feet, which definitely cannot fit any container.
Unlike other fruit and vegetables, pumpkins don’t grow well squashed close to or sharing space with other plants. For example, growing them with potatoes will mean they don’t get enough food to grow properly and the pumpkins will not fruit well. So if you do not want to make a mistake in growing pumpkins, then give them lots of their own space.
How does one go about growing pumpkin?
One needs seeds – right? And I know from scraping out pumpkin and adding pulp and seeds to a compost heap, that it seems magical that overnight pumpkin plants begin to grow and spread like crazy. Do you think that perhaps the bean stalk was NOT a bean stalk but a pumpkin vine trailing upwards? Nowadays, with so many people not having backyard gardens, many are growing a pumpkin vine but supporting it on a sturdy trellis and training the vines ( which seems to grow overnight) around the trellis and training it upwards.
Height: 1.5 to 3 feet
Spread: 5 to 15 feet
Most varieties grow on vines that spread 8 feet or more. Even smaller bush types spread 5 feet or more.
A Project Plan for Growing Pumpkin:
- Step 1: Pick a Garden Spot
- Pumpkin vines needs lots of full sun – up to 10 hours a day, so plan your Pumpkin Patch for a space that gets direct sunlight.
- Pumpkins prefer full sun, but it is one of the few vegetables that will thrive under partial shade.
- Requires plenty of well-drained, highly fertile, loose soil. This should be high in organic matter with pH between 5.8 and 6.8. You can obtain ph strips from your chemist a little more cost effectively than gardening centers. I have also found them in pet shops ( used for fish and water) but horrendously expensive.
- Plentiful and consistent moisture is needed from the time plants emerge until fruits begin to fill out.
- They need lots of space and ideally should be contained within their own isolated garden bed or they could take over the whole garden.
- Step 2: Prepare the Seeds for Planting
- Propagate from seed.
- To prep the pumpkin seeds for planting, you need to file the edges of the seed with a nail file. You should file all edges of the seed lightly except the pointed end. Filing the edges makes it easier for moisture to get inside and for the leaves to emerge from the shell without damage. The shell is very thick and the leaves will sometimes have difficulty splitting open the shell.
- To also help with germination, put the seeds in a jar filled with warm water for an hour or two to help the seeds sprout faster. After soaking the seed, drain off the water and pour the seeds into a plastic bag and then seal the bag.
- Plant seeds inside in 2- to 3-inch pots 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting outside. Sow 3 or 4 seeds per pot and thin to one or two plants by snipping off the weaker plants to avoid damaging the roots of those that remain.
- Germination temperature: 60 F to 105 F – Will not germinate in cold soil. Wait to plant until soil reaches at least 65 F — preferably 70 F or more. Germinates best at 95 F. In Australia, in autumn, germinate the seeds in little paper mache cups made from used wet newspaper inside, where the temperature can be controlled. Days to emergence: 5 to 10 – Should germinate in less than a week with soil temperature of 70 F and adequate moisture.
- Days to emergence: 5 to 10 – Should germinate in less than a week with soil temperature of 70 F and adequate moisture.
- When planning your garden will in advance, the best time to sow directly into garden patch with seeds under a mound of dirt, is in late summer.
- Seed can be saved 6 years.
- Step 3: Plant the Seeds
- Seeds much be placed one inch below your seed starting mix.
- Harden off seedlings by cutting back on water and reducing temperature inside before transplanting outside.
- There must at least half a foot of space separating each seed to ensure there is room for pumpkin vines to grow.
- Once leaves start sprouting out, then it is time to plant them in your patch. Remember to give them space to grow.
- Step 4: Water the Plants
- Pumpkins – unlike most plants – do not like getting too wet.
- An excellent irrigation system in your patch would be enough for watering pumpkins.
- Pumpkins require a lot of water — about 1″ per week. You will need to keep the soil evenly moist, but you want to keep water off of the leaves so be sure not to use an overhead sprinkler for irrigation. Use a garden hose equipped with a misting nozzle to lightly water the mounds.
- If you have to do this manually, make sure that you only perform drip watering and that you do not accidentally drown your pumpkins’ vines and leaves with water.
- Apply water to your plants early in the morning so excess moisture will not be left on leaves. Excess moisture can promote disease and pest problems.
- Step 5: Care of plants
- Black plastic mulch can speed growth, and help keep weeds and insects away.
- Remember to remove mulch to allow insects to buzz around and pollinate the blossom.
- Squash and pumpkin depend on bees to pollinate the blossoms.
- Female flowers must be fertilized for you to get a pumpkin. Male flowers show up first and the female flowers arrive a week later. You can identify the female flowers by the swollen base just below the petals. It will look like a tiny pumpkin.
- If you don’t see active bees in your garden, you can assist pollination by spreading the pollen by hand.
- You can self-pollinate by transferring pollen from male to female flowers by hand with an artist’s brush.
- Wearing gloves, you brush the male flower first to gather pollen and then brush the center of the female flower with the collected male pollen. Be sure to handle the delicate blossoms gently.
- Each flower is open for only a half a day, usually in the mornings. Then they fold shut and do not open again to next morning.
- Picking and hints and tips
- Pumpkins like to eat a lot (hence their size), but it is best not to feed them too much as this will only encourage them to grow lots of leaves but not so much fruit.
- Add a little diluted fertilizer to the soil when your plant bears its first fruit.
- If there are too many leaves, this means your soil is brimming with organic content and fertilizer – pinch off a few leaves from your plants. This will help redirect your plant’s efforts to bearing fruits.
- Pumpkins will be ready for harvest 95 to 120 days after sowing.
- Pick pumpkins when they are deeply colored, deep orange or golden white and stems and vines have dried and turned brown. The rind should be hard, not easily penetrated by a finger nail.
- Use a pruning shears to cut the vine; leave 2 to 4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin so that it does not readily dry out.