Growing pumpkins can be easy if you follow a few tips. These tips will help you grow pumpkins that are healthy and produce delicious fruits.
Start fertilizing your pumpkin plants when they’re young. Apply a balanced fertilizer that contains phosphorous and potassium as well as nitrogen. Fertilize again before fruit sets and again partway through the fruit development cycle.
Preparing the Soil
Pumpkins are a heavy-feeding crop, so they need plenty of rich, well-draining soil. If you’re planning to grow pumpkins in your garden, prepare the soil a year in advance by working in a good organic fertilizer, like compost or manure.
Soil testing is an excellent way to determine the pH of your soil and make sure it’s ideal for pumpkins. A quick kit available at your local gardening center will test the soil and help you decide on fertilizer requirements.
Pumpkins grow best in a sunny, rich, well-draining garden location with soil that is slightly acidic to neutral in its pH range. If your soil is extremely acidic, you may want to consider liming it before planting.
Pumpkins are heavy feeders, and they need a lot of nutrients to grow properly. Before planting, mix in lots of compost and aged manure to boost the soil’s nutrient levels.
Then plant the seeds in a sunny, well-drained location with plenty of space for sprawling vines to run. Place them in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sun per day and cover the ground with a layer of mulch or straw to retain moisture during dry spells in summer.
Seeds should be planted an inch deep and rows should be six feet apart. After they’re a few inches tall, thin to a single pumpkin plant per row.
Then, pollinate the flowers by hand or by insect pollination (bees are ideal). Male pumpkin flowers appear first and need to be pollinated before female flowers can appear on the same plants. For best results, plant flowering herbs nearby to attract pollinators.
Pumpkins are one of fall’s staples, whether they’re carved into Jack-o’-lanterns or eaten for pie. But like any plant, pumpkins need a bit of TLC to thrive.
To do this, pruning is a great way to promote growth and encourage larger fruit. To properly prune your pumpkin vines, wait until they’re about 10 feet long and then cut off any fruit that you don’t want to grow to maturity.
Then, bury the cut end of the vine in soil to prevent disease and retain moisture. You’ll also need to prune secondary and tertiary pumpkin vines growing off the main vines.
Secondary vines grow at a 90-degree angle from the main vine, which helps keep them away from each other and allows air flow. To prune them, measure about 10 feet from where the runner shoots off of the main stem and trim the tips. These tertiary pumpkin vines divert the plant’s energy and nutrients from the other squashes, so it’s best to remove them early.
Pumpkins are ready for harvest when their skins have hardened and the foliage has started to wilt. They should also be a uniform color of orange, red, yellow, or white, and be firm and well-formed.
Depending on the variety you are growing, pumpkins may take between 75 and 100 days to mature. Start seeds indoors in peat pots, and plant out in warm, aged manure or compost-enriched soil. Keep pumpkins well watered to ensure healthy growth and fruit set.
Inspect your plants regularly for pests, and use neem oil to control aphids and squash bugs. Other insect problems are usually controlled naturally by birds or other beneficial critters in your garden.
If you plan to harvest a lot of pumpkins, wait until the vines are more than 10 feet long before pruning. The first few flowers on a vine will be male blooms, which attract bees to the flower and pollinate it for multiple visits to transfer pollen for fruit set.