Did you know that pumpkins are a wonderful source of vitamin A? They are also rich in antioxidants, are packed with vitamins that are good for your immune system, have low-calorie content and can promote weight loss, and are good for your heart health. Too bad you can’t carve them and make fun Halloween decorations out of them. Oh, wait… Hm, maybe it’s time we all learned how to grow our own pumpkins (if not for Jack-o-Lanterns, maybe for that delicious pumpkin pie).
Pumpkin Growth FAQ
How Long Does It Take to Grow a Pumpkin?
As you can imagine, this really depends on the climate of the region of growth, but generally speaking, it takes between 95 and 120 days for pumpkins to reach maturity and be ready for harvest.
What Do You Put Under Growing Pumpkins?
Mulch is a great way to make sure the soil retains moisture and keeps the pumpkin more protected. It also prevents the soil from overheating. Another thing that helps is a piece of cardboard or wood that’s placed under the growing pumpkins. Since a growth condition for pumpkins is to provide them with enough water but without having the soil be too soggy, you can choose to elevate them a little bit.
What to Put on Top of Growing Pumpkins?
Sadly, pumpkins are known to be quite sweet for a variety of different pests. Before the plant actually has a chance to flower, you can use row covers to protect pumpkins from things like cucumber beetles or squash bugs. However, these covers should only stay on top at the beginning of the season and need to be removed as soon as the plant has to pollinate, so bees can have access to it.
When Should You Plant Pumpkins?
As you can imagine, the right time to plant pumpkin seeds depends on when you need them to be ready for harvest (like those that wish to have pumpkins ready for carving on Halloween should take that into consideration and plant them once the frost is out of the picture and the soil temperature has reached the desired level). For example, if you live in colder parts, you can plant the seeds in late May so that they have time to grow in time for Fall. Those that live in warmer parts can plant in mid-July.
What Are Some Good Pumpkin Varieties to Plant?
Choosing a pumpkin variety really depends on what you plan on using the pumpkins for. If you want to add more color and variety to your garden, you can plant Super Moon pumpkins, which are large white varieties that look amazing in any garden. If you’re mostly interested in making pies out of them, the Sugar Treat variety is a hybrid with a rich taste that makes it good for cooking and baking. Baby Bear is a good variety for those who plan on making pumpkin pies very often. Those of you who want pumpkins for carving should look into the Autumn Gold variety, as they are really easy to carve.
How to Grow Pumpkins Step-by-Step
Pumpkins have been growing freely in North America for about 5,000 years, so it’s more than just about growing a vegetable: it’s about tradition. If you too want to grow your own pumpkins, here are the steps that you have to follow:
- You need to select a proper spot for planting your pumpkins, as they require space for sprawling vines (you will need about 50 to 100 square feet per hill if you plant vine varieties. You can still plant pumpkins if you don’t have that much garden space. Just do so at the edge of the garden (there are also miniature varieties that you can plant).
- Pumpkins are in need of rich soil. You need to make sure it’s well-drained and not too soggy. The best way to make sure that you satisfy these greedy feeders is to add aged manure and compost to the soil before you add the seeds.
- While there is also the option of transplanting them, pumpkins have better chances of thriving when the seeds are put directly into the soil. The best time to do so is when the soil temperature is at least 70ºF (95ºF is actually the ideal temperature for sowing pumpkin seeds). Know that pumpkins can’t stand cold, so the warmer the soil, the better.
- When sowing, you need to make small pumpkin hills and put the seeds in there. This arrangement will make the soil heat up faster and speed up the germination process. These small hills will also help with other things, like pest control and drainage.
- The best way to prepare the pumpkin hills is to bury old manure about 15 inches into the ground. The alternative is to loosen the soil with a three-inch layer of comport.
- When you plant the seeds into the hills, make sure you don’t add more than five per hill and plant them about one inch deep into the soil. There should be about four to eight feet between hills in either direction.
- If you plant the seeds in the proper soil temperature, you will notice that germination occurs in less than a week.
- Whenever the plants reach about three inches in height, you can thin them to three plants per hill without disturbing the roots of the ones that remain. You can just snip off unwanted plants.
- Early in the seasons, you should use row covers to protect the pumpkins from insects. Take note that these covers have to be removed before the plant start to flower so that insects can pollinate them.
- As far as watering is concerned, you need to make sure that you water one inch every week. Pumpkins are plants that require a lot of water, particularly during fruit set. Also, make sure that you leave the fruit and foliage dry when watering, as having them wet during sunny days will most likely cause them to rot or catch diseases.
- Mulch is a great way to keep pests away, but also to suppress weeds. It can also maintain soil moisture around the pumpkins.
- Small vine varieties are easy to train up a trellis and, even if some larger varieties can be supported by one, it will be a challenge to support the fruit (there are still ways to do so, especially if you use old stockings or netting).
- Bees are a great part of having healthy and beautiful pumpkins, as they aid with the pollination process greatly. That means that you will have to be extra careful with the type and quantity of insecticide you use because you don’t want to keep the bees away from the flowers. What you can do instead is apply insecticide in the evening, when the blossom closes and it will no longer attract bees for the day.
- As far as harvesting is concerned, you want to make sure that you do so when the fruit is large because it keeps the best. The best way to determine when the harvesting time is right is by color and the finger test. Most pumpkin varieties will turn a deep and solid orange color when they’ve reached maturity. You can thump a pumpkin with the finger and notice that it’s very hard and hollow. If you press the nail on the pumpkin’s exterior, it should be able to resist puncture if it’s ripe.
- When it’s time for harvesting, use pruners or a sharp knife to cut it off its vine. If you cut and leave about four inches of stem on the pumpkin, it will last longer.
Did you know that pumpkins were once used to cure snake bites? Or that pumpkin pie is more likely to put you to sleep faster? Pumpkins aren’t the easiest plant to grow, but they can be useful for so many different things, we’re pretty sure it’s worth the effort for everyone who is passionate about gardening.