I love growing pumpkins and so do my grand kids. Do you know how to grow pumpkins? When seeing those big beautiful orange pumpkins just makes me want to smile. When pumpkins get ready for harvest always bring in the fall and the pumpkins are another great fall decoration also very nutritious.
Pumpkins are not just for Halloween and Jack-O-Lanterns but are also great for desserts like pies, cookies and pumpkin bars. Pumpkins are also good for soups and even mashed pumpkin, kind of like potatoes but pumpkin. I may need to try that. I never had mashed pumpkin. I wonder which pumpkins are best for eating? Keep reading and we will learn together. I will also talk about how to grow a pumpkin.
The History of the Pumpkin
The pumpkin is part of the Cucubitacea (gourd) family and is considered a winter squash. The history of the pumpkin, archaeologist have evidence, pumpkins are native to southwest United States, Mexico and throughout South America, including Columbia, Ecuador and Peru.
Pumpkins are one of the oldest crops grown in the western hemisphere, the other is corn. Pumpkins have been cultivated since around 3,500 BC. They say Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips on open fires for food. That actually sounds good, with a little butter.
The colonist prepared pumpkin by removing the tops, removing the seeds, then filling the inside of the pumpkin with a mixture of milk, honey and spices then baked. That was their pumpkin pie back then.
Most people use pumpkins for decorations during Halloween and Thanksgiving. The small petite pumpkins are the ones good for making fresh pumpkin pie and the big ones are best for decorations and jack-o-lanterns.
Things to Consider when growing Pumpkins
Things to consider when growing pumpkins. I started my pumpkin seeds indoors to give them a little head start for where we live. I live in hardiness zone 5 and we have a short growing season and these need to be ready to harvest by October. I just planted my seedlings the first weekend of June. I have direct sown before but the pumpkins were still not ready before a frost. I think I had one pumpkin that was harvested when it was ready.
This year I planted 2 varieties of pumpkins; Jack-O-Lantern from Burpee and Big Max from Sow Right Seeds. There are several varieties from small sugar pumpkins that get 4 to 6 lbs to big moon pumpkins that max 200 lbs. Which leads me into my next topic, there are things to consider when growing pumpkins, like having a place big enough to grow pumpkins. Pumpkins need to be able to spread out. The vines can stretch 20 feet long. You can direct the vines where you want them to grow when they are young but once they become established and begin to flower, the vines need to be left alone or you will not get pumpkins.
You will also want to decide how big or small you want the pumpkins to be. They range in a variety of sizes. Do you want pumpkins to eat or just for decoration or both. I am going to review some varieties below that range in size but will all be edible.
Pumpkins love the heat and should not be planted in ground until the soil is warm enough and the risk of frost has past. Like I said I just planted mine the first week of June, and is typically the ideal time unless you live in a warm climate. Pumpkins have a long growing season, you can start them indoors about 3 weeks before planting outdoors.
When direct sowing or planting seedlings, go by growing instructions on the back of the seed packet for spacing of seeds and/or seedlings. To increase your chances of having a successful crop, is to create hills of dirt for the seeds or seedlings. The hills warm up faster than the flat ground and water drains faster too. Planting in hills will allow the vines to flow downward.
How to care for Pumpkins
Do you know how to care for pumpkins? Pumpkins are heavy feeders so you will want to use an organic fertilizer for vegetable gardens like Garden-Tone. Feed your pumpkins every two weeks. You can also use manure or compost in the soil regularly too.
Pumpkins need deep but gentle watering once a week once they are established. About an inch of water to the plants at a time. Adjust water schedule according to the rain or lack of rain in your area and hot temperatures. Note, pumpkin leaves will wilt in the heat of the day, even when their soil is still moist. So check the soil before watering too much. Water the plant by the roots not the leaves, keep the foliage as dry as possible. Dampness of the leaves can lead to rot and promote disease.
Apply mulch to your garden beds to retain moisture in the soil and also keep weeds away from stealing water and nutrients from your plants.
Most common pests for pumpkins are cucumber beetles. Planting companions for pumpkins to keep pest away, leeks, onions, and dill. Keep pumpkin patch well weeded this will also help keep pests and disease away.
Sugar – This is a small pumpkin size and popular for making pies but also can be used for decoration. The flesh of the pumpkin is fine-grained and sweet, perfect for baking. Plant seed 1″ deep, 4″ to 6″ plant spacing, full sun, soil temperature 70 to 85 degrees and germinates 6 to 12 days.
Jack-O-Lantern – this medium size pumpkin is the best for, you guessed it, carving jack-o-lanterns. This pumpkin is also excellent for cooking too. Plant seed 1″ deep, 4″ to 6″ plant spacing, full sun, soil temperature 70 to 85 degrees and germinates 6 to 12 days.
Casper – These pumpkins has white skin that makes it a fun choice for painting or carving. This fruit reaches 10 to 15 lbs and about 8-12″ around. This pumpkin is sweet orange flesh works well for baking and other culinary uses. Plant seed 1″ deep, 36″ to 48″ plant spacing, full sun, soil temp 70 to 90 degrees and germinates 7 to 10 days.
Big Max – This is an enormous size pumpkin and has perfect handles. “Big Max” is the ideal exhibition or carving pumpkin. With little care these pumpkins can reach 100 lbs or more. Plant seeds 1″ deep, 4″ to 6″ plant spacing, full sun, soil temp 70 to 90 degrees and germinates 7 to 14 days.
Big Moon -These pumpkins can reach 200 lbs! This is a very rare variety. Plant seeds 1″ deep, 4″ to 6″ plant spacing, full sun, soil temp 70 to 90 degrees and germinates 7 to 14 days.
Pumpkin Growing Tips
Here are some pumpkin growing tips. Pumpkin vines are quite delicate, use caution to not damage the vines, this will reduce the amount of pumpkins you get and reduce the quality of the pumpkin.
Pinch off the fuzzy ends of the vines after a few pumpkins have formed to prevent vine growth. This will allow the plant to concentrate on forming the pumpkins.
You can prevent decay and damage from insects, by placing a piece of cardboard or thin board underneath the pumpkin as they ripen. Get them off the ground to prevent rotting. You can also rotate the fruit once a week to promote even coloring.
Bee’s are needed to pollinate the pumpkin flowers. Do not use sprays even if it says organic while the flowers are open. If the flowers are closed you can spray or forming fruit. Any spray, even organic spray can poison the bees. Adding a bee house by your garden will also attract more bees for pollination.
When to Harvest Your Pumpkins
The way to tell when to harvest your pumpkins is when their rinds are hardened and they have achieved the full color of the pumpkin variety you planted.
Harvest pumpkins before the first heavy frost. Frost will damage your pumpkins. When harvesting you sharp pruning shears to cut the pumpkin from the vine several inches from where it is attached to the stem.
There are definitely more varieties of pumpkins then just the ones I mentioned. Depending on the seed company they have the same variation with a slightly different name. The key is to have a large space for the pumpkin vines to spread out. I didn’t know about pinching off the fuzzy ends of the vines after a few pumpkins have formed until I was researching for this post.
Are you planting pumpkins in your garden? If so, which kind?
Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you and let me know what you have in your garden!