Planting and Growing Pumpkins

by David Schulze

On this page, I talk about planting and growing pumpkins, with helpful tips and some advice based on my (David's) own experiences.

Before beginning read our pages on germination, soil testing and soil temperature.

Pumpkins come in all sizes, color and are grown for specific uses.

They can range from a couple of pounds like the Jill-Be-Little to the 1,000 pound plus Dill's Atlantic Giant. 

There are contest to see who can grow the largest Atlantic Giant.  But they are not good for anything except bragging rights.  The seeds nor the meat are edible.

They can have smooth skin or rough, pimple type skin.  We like to call these Frankenstein type.

Pumpkins can be grown for their meat, which will make great pumpkin pie.  There are also jack-o-lantern types used for Halloween and fall festival carvings. Pumpkins can be grown for their seeds.  And some are grown just for their looks like the mini series. 

And some will even have a combination of several of these qualities like the New England Pie which makes great meat for pumpkins and the seeds are edible as well.

Colors are orange, white, tan, striped and many in between.  We have even located a black one called Dark Knight.  We have a whole series of "white" pumpkins as well as a mini series.

There are some that are grown organically, some heirlooms, some hybrids and some just plain open pollinated.

Pumpkins will grow on the ground except for the minis--these you can put on a trellis of some sort. 

Pumpkins will do well if started as transplant but will do even better when direct sown.  The seeds are large enough that they can be direct sown with no problems.

Follow planting instructions from grower.  Below are some added tips that may not be on the growers pack.

Fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.8–6.8 is best.  I like to use raised beds for growing my seeds in.  I have poor soil so I have to bring it in.  My raised beds are about 12 inches deep.

Poor fruit development may indicate insufficient pollination.  You will need bees and other pollinators or hand pollinate.  There are many good videos on YouTube that explains how to do this.

If your female bud suddenly falls off or the fruit is not developing correctly or starts to grow then shrivels up and dies then chances are it did not get enough pollen so you may need to hand pollinate.

Time plantings so that varieties will mature for the fall market. Overexposure to sun in the field after maturity and foliage die-back reduces fruit and handle color quality.

When sowing the seeds plant them 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.  You will need to see what the grower recommends as to how much space your particular pumpkin needs to grow.

Most people will plant pumpkins to be harvested in the fall.  Here in Texas you will have about a months window to work with from the time of harvest till they start rotting if left outside.  If kept cool, then pumpkins can last form two months to many months.

Common pumpkin diseases include powdery mildew, downy mildew, bacterial wilt and phytophthora. Avoid problems with adequate soil drainage, good air flow, insect pest control and crop rotation.

There are many organic fungicides available.  You will need to experiment with them to find out what works best for your pumpkins.  It is best to pretreat for fungus on a regular basis than to wait until they start to show up.  Once they do, if possible, cut off the infected part and put in a bag and throw away.

Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and vine borers are all common pests for pumpkins.  Squash bug eggs found on the undersides of leaves may be crushed by hand.  This is the most effective way since they just smile at most insecticides.

For vine borers, cut out of vines and hill soil over the wound.  Once again the best way to keep vine borers off is too hand pick them.  It is said that white icicle radishes will deter these insects.  I have not tried it so I have no clue.  Hopefully in the future I will have the space to try this.

For other insects I like to use a combination of organics being offered on Amazon.  I keep mixing them up so I never use the same one twice.

Compost and fish fertilizer are the best in keeping the ground fertile.  The problem with synthetics is they eventually put too much salt in the ground and the plants will start to wilt in hot temps because the salt impedes the amount of water the plant can absorb.

More Tips on Planting and Growing Pumpkins

Fruits can tolerate 1-2 light frosts, however, temperatures below 28° can damage fruit. When fruit color is fully developed, clip handles close to the vine. Avoid picking up fruits by handles and take care not to damage the skin/rind.

Sun cure in the field for 5-7 days or cure indoors by keeping fruits at 80-85° with good air ventilation. White varieties should be brought out of direct sunlight once foliage starts to die back; cure inside and keep out of sun to avoid yellowing.

When watering, give new seedlings at least once inch of water when the dirt is dry to your first knuckle on your index finger.  When planting try not to direct water as this can dislodge the seeds and cause them to die.  Water, sow and do not water until the seedlings merge. 

Most pumpkin seeds will merge in 7 to 10 days but give them at least two weeks before deciding that they are not going to grow and replant them.

If you have any questions ask them below and we will try to answer you as best we can.

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