While most people usually
buy their Halloween pumpkins from stands or stores, some actually grow their own. While it's not as easy as sticking a seed in
the ground and watering it occasionally, it isn't as difficult as you might think and can
be a lot of fun. Pumpkins grow best in a sunny
area, preferably where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.
Generally pumpkins require four to five months of frost-free growing days to reach
maturity. The seeds should not be planted until the temperatures consistently reach the
low 70's during the day. this is usually in late May, but may be different depending on
your local climate.
Pumpkin plants love lots of growing space. A
single vine can grow as long as twenty-five feet and will have many vine shoots along it's
length. Select an area in your yard with ample space for the number of
pumpkin mounds you want to plant. Build up as many mounds as you have room for with
loosely packed soil. If you plan on planting more than one mound of pumpkins, separate
each mound by at least 10 feet. Each mound should be about three feet in diameter and
placed about ten feet from each other. Surround each mound with a six inch wide by six
inch deep moat to help hold water around the plants roots.
Pumpkins need lots of indirect water,
but the soil of the mound should be kept moist, not wet. As it gets warmer you may need to water more than once a day. The best
indicator is the plants leaves. If they are green and look healthy, they're probably
getting enough water. If the leaves look wilted, give them more water. We like to use an
inexpensive drip system. This uses drip hose that is buried under the mound and is turned
on twice a day for about an hour. Although not necessary, you can soak the pumpkin seeds
in water the night before planting. This helps to soften the outer shell and make
sprouting easier and faster.
In each mound, make four or five seed holes
about an inch deep in a circle around the middle of the mound. Drop a seed into each hole
and fill in the hole with loose soil. In addition to watering buy way of the motes you
should also carefully water the top soil. This should be done very gently with a sprinkling can to avoid
washing away any of the covering soil. For the first week or two the seeds start
Generally it takes between 7 to 14 days for
the seeds to sprout and crack though the top soil. Within a day or two you should see the
sprout with two baby leaves have broken through the top soil and unfolded. Pumpkin
flowers only bloom for one day and then fold into themselves. By night fall the flowers
are sealed closed, never to be seen again.
About two weeks after the seeds have sprouted the seedlings should
be established enough to thin them down. Pulled out all vines except two or three of the
healthiest and largest plants on each mound. If necessary the vines should be shifted so
they get as much sun as possible. The pumpkins should be slightly rotated so they
Pumpkin plants have two kinds of
flowers - male and female. They will look about the same being a golden yellow in color.
The male flowers, which usually appear first, sit on the long thin stems and are generally
more plentiful than the females. The female flowers sit much closer to the vine for
stability ready to produce it's young. Like most plants bees gather pollen from the center
of the males and deposit it inside the female flower. After the plants have developed
flowers tiny pumpkins will appear.
Pumpkins plants are vigorous
growers and usually need some pruning just to keep them from taking over your property.
Pumpkin plants have two vines, a main one and a secondary one that usually grow in
opposite directions. Each of these vines will produce secondary vines which can be
selectively pruned as the plant grows. Generally you should try to cut these new side
shoots as they begin to develop. Only trim as much is as necessary to keep the plants in
the garden space you're growing them in. If by the time a pumpkin has grown to the size of
a grapefruit and looks unhealthy or shriveled, it should be removed. This will allow the
healthy pumpkins more water and nourishment.
In addition to water pumpkin
plants need food. Fertilizing your pumpkin patch is pretty easy. We use a water soluble
fertilizer such as Miracle-Grow, once a week. Pumpkins can be attacked by a variety of
pests and disease. Beetles, aphids and vine borers are not most common insect invaders,
while gophers and moles tend to be the animals that will want to eat your plants. Mildew
can be a common threat causing your pumpkins to rot on the vine. Check your pumpkin patch for weeds regularly and
remove them. The developing pumpkins should be handled as little as possible.
To help encourage the classic
"rounded" pumpkin, wait until the pumpkin is at least a month old, then very
carefully lift the stem and vine in one hand and the pumpkin in the other and adjust it so
that it's bottom sits flat on the ground or a thin piece of wood. Your pumpkins will be ready to harvest once
the color of the fruit has deepened into a deep orange. When cutting be sure to leave
several inches of stem, this will helps the pumpkins stay fresh. At this point you can let
them cure in the sun for a week to ten days. If you store the pumpkins in in a cool, dry
place they can last for months.
here for more info on growing your own pumpkin patch!