Do you love pumpkin pie? How about pumpkin bread? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you’ll definitely want to learn how to grow pumpkins at home in your yard or garden!
Pumpkins are a delicious autumn treat, and they’re also really easy to grow. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about growing your own pumpkins. We’ll discuss the different types of pumpkins, the best time to plant them, and how to care for them. So what are you waiting for? Learn how to grow your own pumpkins today!
Why Grow Pumpkins at Home
There are plenty of reasons to grow pumpkins at home. For one, they’re delicious! Pumpkins can be used in all sorts of recipes, from pies and breads to soups and stews. They’re also a fun decoration for your front porch or yard during the fall season.
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Another reason to grow pumpkins at home is that they’re actually really easy to grow. With just a little bit of care, you can grow healthy and bountiful pumpkins. Plus, growing your own pumpkins is a great way to save money. Store-bought pumpkins can be expensive, but if you grow them yourself, you’ll get them for free and can have seeds for years to come!
Popular Varieties of Pumpkins to Grow at Home
Not sure what types of pumpkins are best for home gardeners? Here are some popular choices:
- Connecticut Field Pumpkin: If you’re looking to grow pumpkins to use as decoration or Jack-O-Lanterns, then this is your pick. Plan for a longer growing season, so they can reach full size before mid fall.
- Sugar Pie: Small, round and somewhat flattened, this sugar pumpkin variety is perfect for all of your pumpkin baking and cooking needs!
- White Queen: If you’d like to try something new this year, consider these white pumpkins to add to your fall decor.
- Montana Jack: For those with a shorter growing season (or who have gotten a late start) these smaller pumpkins are wonderful for decor and eating!
When to Start Pumpkin Seeds
Always check the back of the seed package to determine how long the pumpkin variety you’ve chosen will take to grow. Smaller sugar pumpkins have shorter growing times while larger Jack-O-Lantern style pumpkins will take longer.
The best time to start pumpkin seeds will be somewhere between late May or early June depending on your growing zone. This will give the plants plenty of time to grow and mature before the first frost in autumn. If you start the seeds too late, they may not have enough time to fully develop.
How to Start Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can have a tougher outer coat, there are two steps you want to take before planting your seeds in a container or directly sowing into your garden.
- Using a piece of sandpaper or a nail file, gently sand the edges of your pumpkin seed to break through the outer seed coat.
- Soak pumpkin seeds in warm water for 1-2 hours before planting.
If using a container, fill a pot or container with seed-starting mix. Make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom. Sow the pumpkin seeds about ½ inch deep and keep them moist but not wet.
For direct sowing, plant your seeds in your garden after they have soaked and keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet.
How to Care for Pumpkin Plants
Pumpkin plants are relatively easy to care for thankfully. Like most other cucurbit plants, they need full sun and well-drained soil.
Water pumpkin plants regularly, about an inch per week. Be sure to water at the base of the plant rather than overhead to avoid wetting the leaves which can lead to fungal diseases.
Fertilize your pumpkin plants about two weeks after planting and then every month or so throughout the growing season. Pumpkins are a heavy-feeding crop, so a high-quality organic fertilizer like Espoma’s Garden Tone will work well. (Think about how much the plant expends growing those big fruits!)
As the pumpkins start to grow, you may need to provide some support for them. Pumpkins are a vining plant and can sprawl quite a bit, so be sure to give them plenty of space. You can either let them sprawl on the ground or provide a trellis or other support for them to climb. I grew pumpkins in our raised bed last year, and I simply let it flow over the side and onto the mulch.
Pest and Disease Control for Pumpkin Plants
Pumpkins are relatively resistant to pests and diseases, but there are a few things you should be on the lookout for, including cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and powdery mildew.
Cucumber beetles are small, striped beetle pests that can cause damage to your pumpkin plants. They eat the leaves of the plant and can also transmit diseases. The best way to control cucumber beetles is to use good prevention methods. See my full post on How to Prevent Cucumber Beetles.
Squash bugs are another pest that can be troublesome for pumpkin plants. These black and gray bugs feed on the leaves of squash and pumpkins and can quickly kill a plant. The best way to control squash bugs is to handpick them off your plants and put them in soapy water. You can also use floating row covers to prevent them from getting to your plants, but this can be difficult especially as pumpkin plants begin sprawling out.
Finally, powdery mildew, which tends to affect other cucurbits as well, can be a real pain for pumpkin plants. This fungal disease appears as a white powdery substance on the leaves of plants and can quickly kill them. The best way to control powdery mildew is to plant resistant varieties, water at the base of the plant, and promote airflow. You can also other natural treatment methods which are in my full post of How to Prevent and Treat Powdery Mildew.
When to Harvest Pumpkins
You’ve put in all the work growing pumpkins, so how do you know when they’re ready to harvest? Pumpkins are typically ready to harvest in late September or October. The exact time will depend on the variety of pumpkin you’re growing as well as the weather conditions during the growing season.
To tell if a pumpkin is ripe, look for one that is brightly colored (depending on the color pumpkin you planted) and has a hard rind. Gently press your fingernail into the skin of the pumpkin. If it’s ripe, your nail will not leave a dent.
Cut the pumpkin off the vine using pruning shears or a sharp knife, making sure to leave about two to three inches of stem attached. This will help prevent disease and rot when storing your pumpkins.
Once you’ve harvested your pumpkins, it’s time to enjoy all the delicious recipes you can make with them or put them on the porch for lovely fall decor!
Here are some easy pumpkin recipes to use with those freshly picked pumpkins!