Do you like vegetables? Would you like to grow them? From cabbages, cauliflowers, beetroots and kales to pumpkins. Pumpkins are often connected with autumn because of their historical ties to Halloween, and many people disregard them for the rest of the year. Many gardeners wonder when they should start cultivating pumpkins.
These lovely squash can be used to produce a variety of yummy recipes in addition to being a fun autumn decoration. Growing pumpkins isn’t difficult, and it’s a popular garden pastime for kids. Let’s dive in and see when you can start growing your own pumpkins.
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Pumpkin is the fruit of some squash species in the Cucurbitaceae family, such as Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moschata, and Cucurbita maxima. It has a hard orange rind with unique grooves. Pumpkins are widely planted for human use as well as animal feed.
It is primarily eaten as a vegetable in Europe and South America, where it is interchangeably used with other winter squashes. In certain locations, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns, which are Halloween decorations in which the inside of the pumpkin is cleaned out and a light is placed to shine through a face cut into the fruit’s wall.
Pumpkins, which generate long annual vines, are planted singly or in groups of two or three on small hills spaced 2.5 to 3 meters apart. Although some types are quite little, the fruits are normally enormous, weighing 4 to 8 kg or more. C. maxima cultivars produce giant pumpkins, which can weigh up to 34 kg. How cool is that?
The heaviest pumpkins that are ever grown weighed in at 907 kilograms. They are yellowish to orange in colour and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from oblate to globular to rectangular.
Some pumpkin varieties have a white rind. It is smooth with a few minor furrows or ribs. The ridged or angled fruit stem is stiff and woody. The fruits develop in early autumn and can be stored in a dry place above freezing temperatures for a few months.
When is the right time to plant pumpkin seeds?
The best time to grow pumpkins would all depend on what you actually want to do with them. If you want to make jack-o-lanterns out of your pumpkins, wait until the danger of frost has passed (around early June) and the soil temperature has reached 18 degrees Celsius before planting pumpkins outside.
Pumpkin plants develop more quickly in warmer climates than in cold ones. So, in the cooler parts of the country, late May is the optimum time to sow pumpkin seeds, while in the warmer parts of the country, early summer is the greatest time to plant pumpkins for Halloween. If you want to raise pumpkins as a food crop, start seeds inside about two to three weeks before your area’s last frost date.
How to plant pumpkin seeds step-by-step
Now, let’s dive into the steps that you need to follow to see your brilliant pumpkins grow:
1. Prepare the pumpkin bed first
Choose a location that will fill up quickly, as pumpkins will not grow unless they have enough water. Pumpkins are grown on long vines that require 6 or 9 meters of open space to spread out. Choose a location with good drainage so that the roots of the pumpkins do not sit in water all day.
They grow well in soil with an average pH of 6.0 to 6.8. If you haven’t tested your soil in a while, get a soil testing kit and see if it falls within this range or is a touch high or low. You can adjust it as needed by adding lime, bone meal, or compost.
Dig a hole and fill it with water to see if the soil has good drainage. Allow it to drain overnight before doing the test by re-filling the opening. Then, check the water level with a measuring tape every hour to see how much it has dropped.
Amend the soil by tilling it to a depth of 10 cm and putting in organic compost to give pumpkins a boost.
2. Plant the seeds
Select a location towards the middle of the area where you wish the vines to grow. To help warm up the soil, you should eliminate pests and make a tiny mound. Plant 2 or 3 seeds about 7.5 cm deep in the centre of the mound.
After sowing the seeds, cover them with soil and water them thoroughly. If you want to cultivate more than one pumpkin plant, leave at least 1.2 to 2.4 m between them. Miniature pumpkins can be separated by 0.9 m.
If you reside in an area with severe winds, sow the seeds in a 7.5-cm-deep trench. This will shield the seed from the wind as it grows. When transplanting pumpkin seedlings, make sure the holes are 1.5 metres apart.
3. Regularly water the plant
Never let the soil become fully dry. Pumpkin plants require a lot of water to thrive. Water the pumpkin bed thoroughly using the spray attachment on your garden hose when the soil appears dry and dusty.
Because pumpkin roots extend deep into the soil and need to be able to access the water, give the area a good soak. If the soil is already damp, don’t saturate it because this can cause rot.
Water the plant early in the morning so that any water that gets on the pumpkin leaves can dry.
Powdery mildew can occur on moist plants if you water in the evening. You can stop watering the pumpkins as soon as they start to grow and turn orange. Stop watering completely about a week before they’re ready to harvest.
4. Give the plant a good fertiliser
Apply organic fertiliser to the planting soil. To stimulate good development and prevent weeds from taking over, do this just after the seedlings sprout.
You may need to hand-fertilise if your blossoms are falling off with no pumpkin growing whatsoever. To transfer pollen from male flowers to female flowers, use a little paintbrush or a Q-tip.
5. Now thin the plant
If more than two seeds were sown in one mound, choose the two strongest plants and let them grow. All of the weaker plants should be removed. This will allow the stronger plants to thrive with more nutrients.
Clip the vines’ tips when they reach a height of 1.5 meters. This will foster the growth of more side shoots, resulting in increased pumpkin output.
6. Keep an eye out for pests
The foliage and vines of pumpkin plants are vulnerable to a variety of pests. Cucumber beetles with spots and stripes, four-line beetles, aphids, and squash bugs are all common pests that can be found crawling over your plants.
Fortunately, most insect populations may be controlled by manually pulling them off the young plants or spraying them with water. If water isn’t removing them, try wiping the leaves off with soapy water or a water-ammonia mix. You can use pesticides on the plants if necessary.
These, on the other hand, will destroy helpful pollinators that pollinate pumpkin blossoms and keep the plant healthy. Treat the pumpkin plants at night, when the bees are away from their hive, to minimise the damage.
How to care for your pumpkins
- Early in the season, use row covers to protect plants and prevent insect infestations. Remember to remove the covers before blossoming to allow insects to pollinate!
- Pumpkins are thirsty plants that require a lot of water. Deep watering is especially important during the growing season. Unless it’s a sunny day, try to keep foliage and fruit dry when watering. Rot and other illnesses are more common when there is a lot of moisture—mulch around your pumpkins to maintain good moisture and keep weeds and pests at bay.
- Remember that pumpkins are delicate from the time they are planted to the time they are harvested. If you overcultivate them, you risk damaging their relatively shallow roots. A trellis can be used to train most of the tiny vines.
- Larger types can also be trained upward on a trellis, though supporting the fruit using netting or old stockings is difficult. It’s normal if your initial flowers don’t produce fruit. Both male and female flowers must open in order to produce fruit, so be patient.
- When using insecticides to kill pests, keep in mind that bees are necessary for pollination. If you must use it, do so only in the late afternoon or early evening, when the flowers have finished their day’s work. Try putting a bee home in your garden to attract more bees.
- Pumpkin vines, despite their tenacity, are sensitive. Make sure not to injure the vines, as this will lower the fruit quality.
How to properly harvest and store your pumpkins?
Remove any leaves that are shading your pumpkins at the end of the season. You should harvest pumpkins before the first frost. The fruit will be ripe when it is fully coloured, the skin is hard, and the stem begins to shrivel.
Harvesting can be prickly, so wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid itching. Cut stems with a sharp knife, leaving at least a 2 cm stem on fruits before harvesting. You can easily lift the plant by putting your hand beneath the bottom of the pumpkin.
Lifting a pumpkin by its stem is never a good idea. It will not preserve well if the stem splits. Keep pumpkins in the full sun for 10 to 14 days before storage to firm the skin, seal the stem, and improve flavour.
Pumpkins can be protected from frigid nights by wrapping them in old blankets or storing them in a shed or garage. Store them in a cool area and maintain proper spacing.
The ideal storage place should have a humidity level of about 60%. Since most homes lack a root cellar, just make sure to use any other frost-free storage. Your pumpkins should last 2 to 3 months under optimal conditions.
This is all you need to know to grow your own pumpkin patch. You’ll have enough orange pumpkins to eat, carve, and share with friends by the time autumn arrives! Next stop? Learn when to plant poppy seeds and see your beautiful garden become full of colour!