Are you a fan of Halloween festivities? Or perhaps you simply love the idea of homemade pumpkin pie? Growing your own pumpkins can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour, and with the right advice, it’s easier than you might think. This article is here to guide you through every step of the pumpkin-growing process, from preparing your garden to harvesting and storing your homegrown pumpkins.
Choosing the Right Pumpkin Varieties
There’s a vast array of pumpkin varieties available to grow, ranging from the classic orange ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ for Halloween carving, to miniature, sweet ‘Sweetie Pie’ perfect for pies, to the gargantuan ‘Atlantic Giant’ if you’re interested in growing a potentially prize-winning specimen. Research and select a variety that suits your needs, preferences, and available space.
Sowing Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkins are warm-season plants that cannot tolerate frost. Therefore, it’s best to sow your pumpkin seeds indoors from late April to May or directly outdoors when all danger of frost has passed, usually from mid-May to June in many regions.
- Indoor Sowing: Start seeds indoors by sowing two seeds 2.5cm deep in a 7.5cm pot filled with seed compost. Keep them at a temperature of around 20°C until they germinate.
- Outdoor Sowing: If sowing directly outdoors, plant two seeds together (to ensure at least one germinates) 2.5cm deep and about 1.2m apart.
If you’ve started your pumpkin seeds indoors, they’ll need to be transplanted outdoors once they have developed their second set of true leaves and after the last frost. Harden them off for a week before planting them in their final growing position.
Preparing Your Pumpkin Patch
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot in your garden. Pumpkins are heavy feeders, so it’s important to prepare your soil well. Dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost a few weeks before planting. If space is limited, consider growing pumpkins vertically up a sturdy trellis or fence.
Caring for Your Pumpkins
- Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially when the plants are flowering and setting fruit. Try to water in the morning to avoid wetting the leaves, which can lead to mildew.
- Feeding: Apply a high-potassium liquid feed, such as tomato fertiliser, every two weeks once the flowers appear.
- Training and Pruning: Train vines to grow in the desired direction. As the plant grows, pinch off the fuzzy ends of vines after a few pumpkins have formed to concentrate the plant’s energy.
- Preventing Rot: Place a piece of cardboard or wood under growing pumpkins to prevent rot and keep them clean.
Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins
Pumpkins are typically ready to harvest in late September to October. A ripe pumpkin has a hard skin that resists pressure and a rich, uniform colour. Cut pumpkins from the vine using a sharp knife, leaving a good amount of stem attached.
Cure your pumpkins in the sun for about a week or inside if the weather is bad. Then store them in a cool, dry place.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to grow a pumpkin?
Most pumpkin varieties need between 90-120 days to mature from sowing.
Why are my pumpkin flowers falling off?
Pumpkin plants produce both male and female flowers. The male flowers typically open first and fall off shortly after they’ve released their pollen.
Can I plant the seeds from a store-bought pumpkin?
Yes, but the type of pumpkin you’ll get might be a surprise. Many store-bought pumpkins are hybrids, and their seeds may not produce an identical pumpkin.
How many pumpkins will one plant produce?
On average, a healthy, well-tended pumpkin vine will produce 2-5 pumpkins per plant.
Whether you’re growing pumpkins for cooking, carving, or simply for the joy of it, these robust and fascinating plants are sure to provide a rewarding gardening experience. Now that you have all the knowledge you need to get started, why not give it a try? Your autumn celebrations will be all the richer for it!