Starting, Growing and Harvesting Pumpkins From The Home Veggie Garden

Growing pumpkins for Halloween or Thanksgiving pies is pretty basic gardening.

Remember that this is just a big squash plant and you'll be fine.

Large Fruit

For good size fruit, start the seed indoors in 4 inch pots in the first week of May. Plant 2 seeds per pot and thin to the most vigorous. Keep the soil temperatures at 70F to germinate and then grow on at 60F for thick sturdy stems. Feed lightly with half strength fish food emulsion on a weekly basis.

Transplant into a sunny spot leaving approximately five to eight feet between plants. A big pumpkin will require a 15 foot diameter circle to grow in. Never let them wilt or stop growing as this will check the size of the fruit. They love compost so you can overfeed them. In the spring before planting, work as much as you can into the basic planting area and then be prepared for a weekly fish emulsion and/or compost tea feeding every week during the growing season.

basil citriodora boxwood

Pumpkin 'Borde Galeux d'Eysines a very warty heirloom pumpkin with amazing firm flesh and great taste

Don't Wet Leaves

Try not to wet the leaves when you water this plant; you may run into mildew problems if the leaves are kept wet.

A pumpkin will keep producing fruit right up to frost because it produces both male and female flowers on each vine. If you want really large fruit, the trick is to wait until you see the fruit reaching the size of baseballs on regular plants (volleyballs on giant varieties) and then leave only three fruit closest to the vine planting spot – cutting off any fruit that are developed further out on the vines. Do not disturb the leaves, we need them to produce energy for the main plant and the three fruit you'll leave. If you want to produce the biggest fruit possible, only leave one pumpkin on each vine. Remove all flowers as they grow and prune off any fruit you miss.

Harvesting Pumpkins

Harvest the fruit when the skins are bright orange and hard. Do harvest before a hard frost as this will degrade the skin and it will start to rot. If there is no hard frost, the fruit can be left on the vine right up to Halloween.

Leave a few inches of stem on the pumpkin if you're going to try to store it.

Book cover Vegetable Gardening

If you are not interested in huge pumpkins, then you can direct sow the seed at the end of May when the ground warms up. Plant two seeds to the foot and thin out to one plant (the strongest) every two feet apart in the row. If you are growing in hills of four to five feet in diameter, go with two plants per hill. Grow them as above for good success.

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