Growing pumpkins is surprisingly easy, making them a popular favorite for children who are starting out into the world of gardening.
Not only are they a fast-growing plant, but also a fun plant, providing plenty of nutritious food and seeds for eating, as well as making great decorations for Halloween.
These can be expensive to buy in shops, especially at Halloween, so why waste money on something you can virtually have for free?
Firstly, we have to point out that when growing pumpkins you need quite a lot of space. These are unsuitable for small gardens, especially if you are only growing in pots. Pumpkins need to be grown in the ground if you want them to grow correctly. You may have some success growing them in containers, but the fruits are likely to be small and stunted.
You need to avoid planting your pumpkins near other smaller plants or the smaller plants will be overwhelmed.
Plant them either directly in the ground when all danger of frost has passed, or you can plant them in small 3 inch pots to transplant outside later on. This is the preferred method as it gives you better options later on when it comes to thinning them out. Germination will take up to 10 days.
Keep the young seedlings in good strong light and never let the seedlings dry out – keep them moist but not wet.
When all of your seedlings have reached 2-3 inches in height it’s time to plant them outside – but only if all danger of frost has passed – so you need to plan ahead and get your timing right.
This is the point where you have to be a bit disciplined and not be tempted to plant all of your seedlings unless you have adequate space. Take the strongest thickest seedlings and plant them outside, ideally in good quality rich soil. Bear in mind that each individual plant will produce a vine up to 30 feet in length that will be seeding additional vine shoots all the way along with it, so you need to space them apart accordingly. If you plant them too close together, you will get overcrowding issues and will suffer from stunted smaller fruits, so be very, VERY generous with your space.
Plant the seedlings in what’s termed as a “pumpkin patch”. You can make one by mounding up some rich compost approximately three feet wide and then dig a trench around the mound that is roughly four to five inches wide and deep. The trench will help to retain moisture.
Water is the key here – not too much, but never let the plants dry out. The soil needs to be moist at all times. Mulching will help a lot here. Make sure you take precautions against slugs and other garden pests. we don’t normally recommend chemicals, but for practicality, slug pellets may be your best option here.
Pollinating when growing pumpkins is very important. With luck, nature may take care of things for you when the bees and other insects are attracted to the large yellow flowers that quickly start to appear, however, you can pretty much guarantee a larger crop if you help out the process by hand pollinating.
Male flowers are flowers on their own, while the female flowers appear with a small fruit behind them. The female flowers are only able to pollinate for 24-48 hours before they wilt and the fruit develops no further, so it’s all a question of timing.
Hand pollinating is very easy; Look for a male flower that’s ready to open. Very carefully peel away the petals to expose the inner part of the flower, then find a female flower and dust the male flower against it making sure you get as much pollen as you can onto as many lobes as you can on the female flower. You need to repeat this process for each female flower that you intend to turn into a pumpkin.
If you think it might help, try setting the mood with dim lighting and some Barry White playing on the stereo – you never know – it may help. ;o)
Growing Pumpkins doesn’t take much maintenance. The key is to just ensure they are watered frequently and not allowed to dry-out. You won’t need to do much other maintenance apart from ensuring the fruits get good light. If you find the leaves start to cover the fruits, move or trim the leaves so the sunlight gets to the fruit. It takes about 4 months for your Pumpkins to fully mature.
You can tell when it’s time to harvest because the stems on the growing pumpkins will begin to crack. Avoid pulling the fruit off the vine. Use a sharp knife to slice through the stem leaving a short stork on the pumpkin. only remove the stork when you are ready to process the fruit.
As you can see, growing pumpkins is a very simple, straight forward process. If you want to include some companion plants, then marigolds are excellent and will help to keep the critters at bay.
Be sure to see my Pumpkin Seed Recipe and another article on roasting pumpkin seeds.