How do you grow pumpkins?

Large flat dark orange pumpkins  - courtesy IrisDragon - CC-BY

Large flat dark orange pumpkins - courtesy IrisDragon - CC-BY

Now growing pumpkins may seem like a no-brainer.  Stick a seed in the ground then stand back, unfold your favorite pie recipe, and wait, right?

Well, not quite.

It does take some work and it may take a few tries unless you are a commercial grower.  But go ahead, take a chance.

Direct seeding should not be attempted until the soil has warmed up and is in good condition for germination.  Otherwise they may just rot.

Rows should be planted about 4 feet apart and the hills containing two or three seeds. Each hill should be about 3 feet apart.  Pumpkins are gross feeders. They prefer a very rich soil, with lots of compost and rotted manure (if you can get it). Fertilize on a regular basis. You need to use a high nitrogen formula in early plant growth and switch over to a fertilizer high in Phosphorous (the middle number) just before the blooming period.

You can buy seeds of many varieties at any garden outlet or even the supermarket. But start out with only one or two kinds until you get the hang of it.  And if you are a backyard grower, avoid the temptation to grow any of the giant varieties.  It can be quite expensive to move a half ton vegetable and many can get larger than that.  These giant pumpkins can grow 30-40 pounds in a single day.

Stick with smaller varieties.  The large pumpkins are really too stringy to do much of anything with pie wise, though you can make some spectacular jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin plants produce a profusion of flowers throughout the life of the plant but a good gardener expects only about two pumpkins per vine, if they are lucky.

Many first time growers simply watch their pumpkins rot and die soon after blooming.  Pumpkins are subject to a number of diseases and insects.  There is powdery mildew and bacterial wilt along with cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs.  Lots of animals like pumpkins, too, such as bunnies, ground hogs, squirrels, and deer.

Also, when handling pumpkin vines, make sure to wear some heavy duty gloves (the stems have many sharp hairs that stick just like thorns).

Now after all of this, pumpkins are a very rewarding vegetable to grow at home. Whether you carve the pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, make a pie, pumpkin soup, or roast the seeds for a Thanksgiving Day treat.

I do have an easier way.  I buy some then tell everyone I grew them.

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