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Pumpkin (How to Plant, Grow & Harvest) – GIY Plants

Pumpkin growing on vine

Growing pumpkin plants can be a fun way to prepare for the fall season. That is because the large orange squash is a staple of the North American home during the crisp cool season. Although, the art of growing pumpkins has been around since 3500 B.C..

To learn about growing this winter squash along with general facts, keep reading!

Scientific name Cucurbita pepo
Common names Pumpkin, Connecticut field pumpkin, and winter squash.
Family Cucurbits
Genus Cucurbita
Species The common species is Cucurbita pepo.
Origin Mexico – 3500 B.C.
Growth habit A tender annual 20′ to 30′ long vine-growing plant that is sensitive to frost.
Leaves Light green to dark green large leaves that are lobed with hollow stems.
Flower Funnel-shaped edible yellow flowers. Males have small fruit attached. Females do not have fruit before pollination.
Height 1.5′ to 3′
Soil type/pH Sandy Soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8
Germination time 5 to 10 days
Hardiness 3-7 (USDA)

Pumpkin Plant Care

Pumpkin plant care

As stated before, growing pumpkin plants is a great way to prepare for fall decorating and baking. But to successfully grow the plant, you will need to know about proper care techniques.

Although if you want to grow pumpkins this spring, we have you covered! Simply follow the care instructions below.

Soil

The best kind of soil for growing pumpkin seeds is a sandy type with high amounts of organic matter and a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Although, if you are working with clay soil, add sand and other organic matter to create the right soil type.

Watering

A pumpkin plant should receive 1″ of water a week to maintain soil moisture. Additionally, when watering, try to avoid watering the fruit or vines directly. As a result, water should be sprayed only onto the soil.

Lighting

These winter squashes benefit from a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day. Therefore, you should plant in an open location with minimal shade.

Humidity & Temperature

To grow your pumpkins the soil should be 60°F or 15.56°C. That temperature should reach 4″ deep into the soil. The reason for that is because pumpkins are extremely sensitive to frost. They also need 50% to 70% humidity. That’s why they thrive in zones three through seven; they provide the ideal conditions.

Fertilizing

It’s wise to perform a soil test before planting to find out what your soil may be lacking. Pumpkins require nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to thrive. So, if you can’t perform a soil test before planting, add a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer to your garden.

You will need to fertilize your pumpkins again once they flower. To do so, sidedress them with calcium nitrate and water after application.

Propagation

Pumpkins are typically regrown from the seeds they produce. But other methods of cloning and propagating pumpkins work equally as well.

To propagate a pumpkin through its vine, simply bury the excess vine of the existing plant 1/2″ deep into the soil. After seven to ten days you can remove the new plant from the old one and care for it as usual. People may choose this propagation method to clone large and unique varieties. Did you know the world’s largest pumpkin was an Atlantic giant that weighed 2,702 lb? [1]

Diseases & Pests

Pumpkins like any other plant can suffer from diseases and pest infestations. Many of the plant diseases that can affect pumpkins are of the fungal category. Some of those diseases include Alternaria leaf blight, downy mildew, and bacterial leaf spot. Crop rotation, sanitation, and irrigation can help pumpkin plant diseases. [2]

Common pests found on pumpkins include aphids, squash bugs, thrips, and cucumber beetles. There are several cultural, environmental, and insecticide methods for managing these pests. But to keep squash bugs and cucumber beetles at bay try planting marigolds and nasturtiums nearby.

Days to maturity

How many days it takes for your pumpkin plant to mature will depend on a few factors. Above all else, the variety you plant and the growing conditions are most important. But most varieties can vary from 90 to 120 days.

Harvesting Pumpkins

Harvesting pumpkins from field

Pumpkins are ready for harvest once they reach maturity, have a firm skin, and reach their final color. But pumpkins should always be harvested before the first fall frost. That is because pumpkins and other squashes will not survive the frigid conditions.

How to Plant & Grow Pumpkin

  • When to Plant

It is best to plant pumpkins in the spring after the last frost and soil temperatures reach 60°F or 15.56°C at least 4″ deep. Especially because they are tender annuals and sensitive to frost. That is why you must ensure that all frosts have passed before planting. But to ensure your pumpkins are ready for the Halloween season, plant them in early May.

  • Where to Plant

You should plant your pumpkins in a sunny shade-free location with sandy soil. That’s due to their need for warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity. Consequently, hardiness zones three through seven provide the ideal conditions for pumpkins.

  • How to Plant

Now you know where and where to plant, let’s discuss how to plant pumpkins. First and foremost, a single plant can grow two to ten pumpkins depending on the variety. For that reason, it’s important to give them space to grow. Thus, when planting, space your pumpkin seeds 5′ to 6′ apart in rows that are 10′ to 15′ apart. Additionally, seeds should be 1″ deep into the soil.

Also, when the plants are young but established, choose the best two or three growing on a vine, and remove the others.

Other smaller and bush varieties require anywhere from 2′ to 4′ between plants and 4′ to 8′ between rows.

Pumpkin Plant Stages

Pumpkin plant growing stages

There are seven stages in a pumpkin plant’s life cycle. These stages include planting, germination, vine growth, flowering, pollination, fruiting, and harvest.

Planting

Firstly we have the planting stage. In the planting stage, pumpkin seeds are put into sandy soil in the late spring season. Some home growers may opt to start the seeds indoors to get a head start on the next stage, germination.

Germination

Secondly, we have germination. During germination pumpkin seeds will sprout five to ten days after planting. In a week or more, the plant’s first set of true leaves will grow.

Vine Growth

Thirdly is vine growth. In two weeks you will begin to see vines growing off of the pumpkin plant’s stem. Depending on the variety of pumpkin you grow, the vine can reach 10′ to 20′ in length.

Flowering

Fourth is the flowering stage. During this stage, a yellow flower will grow between the plant’s stem and runner vines. That happens eight to ten weeks after planting. Fertilizer is required during this stage of the plant’s growing cycle.

Pollination

The fifth stage is pollination. Once the female flowers form, pollination occurs. In this stage, pollinators will move pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. Once pollinated, the females will close themselves and begin forming the fruit. After the male flowers have completed their process, they may fall from the plants.

Fruiting

Sixth is the fruiting stage. That is when the pollinated female flowers begin to grow their fruit. And in this stage, the fruit will become bigger and round. Additionally, the skin/rind of the pumpkin will thicken and turn hard. Towards the end of this stage, once the young pumpkin plant matures, the vines will wither. The pumpkin will also change to its final color.

Harvesting

Harvesting is the final stage and can occur once the plant reaches maturity and has a thick skin. Also, you should plan to harvest before the first fall frost to avoid losing your produce. But For most varieties, you can expect your pumpkin plants to reach maturity in 90 to 120 days.

Pumpkin Companion Plants

Companion planting pumpkins can help optimize garden space and protect your valuable produce. So, here are our top plants for companion planting pumpkins.

Peas

Peas are perfect for growing with pumpkins because they pull nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen is a valuable nutrient for pumpkins.

Cucumbers and Zucchini

Planting cucumbers and zucchini near your pumpkin patch can help bring squash bees. These bees help pollinate the squashes, providing a more bountiful and healthy crop.

Sunflowers and Corn

For smaller pumpkin varieties, sunflowers and corn can act as trellises for the plant. Also, the pumpkin leaves will help keep weeds at bay for the corn and sunflowers.

Lettuce

To optimize space, try planting lettuce with your pumpkins. Unlike pumpkins, lettuce is compact with small roots. Additionally, it will not compete with pumpkins for nutrients and grows quickly.

Nasturtiums and Marigolds

To keep some of pumpkins’ top pests at bay, plant nasturtiums and marigolds. With those flowers you can repel squash bugs and cucumber beetles from your pumpkin plants.

Pumpkin Varieties

Pumpkin varieties

Did you know that there are over 150 varieties of pumpkins? That is to say the classic fall vegetable comes in a wide array of colors, sizes, and shapes. And these different types of pumpkins all have special uses. Some varieties are for decoration and others are perfect for cooking and baking. So, let’s go over some of the most popular and interesting varieties of pumpkins!

Edible

Hybrid Pam

A small edible variety that weighs four to five pounds has orange coloring and takes 100 days to mature.

Long Island Cheese

An edible variety perfect for pies that has a creamy peach color. It takes 90 days to mature and is 6 to 8 pounds.

Baby Bear

A one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half pound edible orange variety for baking, cooking, and decor. It takes 105 days to mature.

Carving/Decor

Batwing

A small half-pound to one-pound decorative that varies in color from dark green to orange. It takes 80 days to mature and some are multi-colored with dark green and orange.

Crystal Star

A pure white carvable decor variety that takes 100 days to mature. It can weigh between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds.

Gold Rush

A carvable decorative variety that comes in the classic orange color. It takes 120 days to reach maturity and weighs between twenty and thirty-five pounds.

All Purpose

Connecticut Field

A classic variety that is orange, takes 110 days to mature and can be used for any purpose. It weighs between fifteen and twenty pounds.

Autumn Gold

An all-purpose pumpkin that is orange and weighs seven to ten pounds. It takes 90 days to mature.

Valenciano

A white pumpkin that can be used for decor, carving, cooking, and baking. It weighs twelve to eighteen pounds and takes 110 days to mature.

Pumpkin vs Squash

The main difference between pumpkin and squash is simply common labels. Therefore pumpkins are squashes like butternut squash and spaghetti squash. They all belong to the Cucurbita genus.

References:

[1] Heaviest pumpkin. Guinness World Records. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/heaviest-pumpkin

[2] Damicone, J., & Brandenberger, L. (2019, October). Pumpkin and Squash Diseases. OSU Extension. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/pumpkin-and-squash-diseases.html

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