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How to Grow Pumpkins

pumpkin plant


There's something special about pumpkins. Everybody loves pumpkins. People are fascinated by them. It is the only fruit or vegetable that people play with, and we do so in a big way. And, every gardener loves to grow pumpkins. Many people do not believe they have the space. But read on. You will be pleasantly surprised, to discover that you can  plant a few seeds and be growing pumpkins in very small and unique places.

Did you Know? A pumpkin becomes a Jack O' Lantern, when it is carved.

Varieties of Pumpkins:

There are literally hundreds of varieties of pumpkins, from the small miniatures which only weigh a couple of ounces, to the giant varieties that routinely show up at fall weighoffs at over 2,000 pounds and more! See the world record giant pumpkin

Pumpkins belong to the "Cucurbita" family. There are a wide range of varieties falling into these categories:

Cucurbita Moschata-- This group of primarily squash includes the pumpkins frequently used for commercially canned pumpkins. Commercial pumpkin varieties usually have a tan-colored skin.

Cucurbita Pepo- These are the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins you carve on Halloween, as well as the cute little miniature pumpkins that fit in the palm of your hand. Some of the most popular varieties include:

Cucurbita Maxima- Maxima, as it's name implies, are the giant pumpkins. Giant pumpkin growing has become a very popular hobby. Giant pumpkin growers are among the most devoted, and perhaps fanatical of gardeners. Popular giant pumpkin varieties include:

More on Varieties of Pumpkins

Days to Maturity:

Days to maturity varies widely, depending upon variety. Plan 90-100 days for miniature pumpkins, 100-120 days for Jack O'Lanterns and 130-160 days for giant pumpkins.

How to Grow Pumpkins:

Pumpkin plants can be started indoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Or, seeds can be direct seeded into your garden. Plant these tender annuals outdoors after the last frost date for your area.

Pumpkins are vining plants that can quickly spread very far. Follow the spacing directions on the packet. They can vary significantly variety. Water well after planting, and a second time two to four days later, only if there has been no rain.

Pumpkin seeds can be planted in hills four to six feet apart. Sow four to six seeds per hill, thinning to two to three. Or, plant in rows six inches apart, thinning to 1 to 3 feet apart, depending upon how much space you have. Plant miniatures closer, and Giants farther apart.

Pumpkin plants are big feeders. They need a very rich soil, with lots of compost and manure (if you can get it). Fertilize on a regular basis. Use a high nitrogen formula in early plant growth. Switch over to a fertilizer high in Phosphorous (the middle number) just before the blooming period.

On occasion, pollination can be a problem. For tips and information on pollination, see:

The plants also need lots of water. Try to keep the soil moist, not wet, at all times. It is also important to avoid getting the leaves wet, if possible. Heat and humidity is the perfect ingredient for powdery mildew, a major problem for your pumpkin patch. Also, avoid watering near dark. 

pumpkin plants, pumpkins seeds, varieties, grow growing

 Is your garden space limited? When it come to growing pumpkins, where there's a will, there's a way. Let the vines grow across the lawn or sidewalk(see picture above). It's only for a few weeks. You might be amazed at some of the places that people have grown pumpkins. We received an email from a woman in Los Angeles. She was growing pumpkins on the rooftop of a high-rise apartment, inside of an old kiddie pool. It is also possible to grow them, in big 5-10 gallon buckets is possible. Try miniature varieties in buckets or large containers on your deck. Let the plants hang off the deck.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable

Ideal Soil pH - by vegetable

When to Pick Pumpkins:

It's easy to tell when a pumpkin is ripe. It turns a bright orange. Pick pumpkins when ripe, and put them somewhere in or around the house where they can glow!

If your pumpkins ripens early, we recommend you pick them before an animal finds them and decides to eat it for dinner. Store them in a col, dry place out of sunlight until the weather cools in your area. Once the weather cools, bring them outside for display.

Tip: The stem gives pumpkins character. Use a sharp knife to cut the stem. And, never carry a pumpkin by the stem, as it can break.

See more Pumpkin Picking Tips

Insects and Pests:

Gardeners love pumpkins. Insects and a wide variety of pests love 'em, too. The most common insects are Cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs. Dusting or spraying regularly before an infestation occurs, is recommended.

Squash Vine Borers (SVB's) are a serious problem in some areas. SVB's bore into the vine, and eats the vine from the inside out. Untreated, it ends your season. More on Squash Vine Borers.

Squash Bugs will suck the juices of plants. If severe, the plant will die. More on Squash Bugs

Among the animals that love pumpkins (either the plants or the fruit) are bunnies, woodchuck, squirrels and deer. Use animal repellent like pepper and garlic sprays as needed. More on sprays.

Pumpkin Plant Diseases:

A variety of diseases affect pumpkin plants, most notable is powdery mildew. Apply fungicides at the first sign of a problem. Better still, apply them before plant disease problems occur. Hot, humid weather encourages pumpkin diseases.

Tip: Allow enough time after watering for the leaves to dry before evening. Water on the leaves in warm weather encourages plant disease.


Pumpkin plants are tender annuals. Protect them from frost and cold weather both spring and fall. Weather below 50 degrees will slow or even stunt their growth.

Pumpkin Recipes:

May we suggest:

More Information:

Pumpkin Nook is the internet authority on pumpkins. From how to grow, to recipes and history, it's all there.

Pumpkin Carving - After you've grown 'em, it's time to decorate and carve 'em.

Jack Be Little Pumpkins

How to Grow Big Pumpkins -and small ones, too.

Pumpkin On a Stick!? Perhaps.......  

Pumpkin Trivia


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