Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

Growing Pumpkins

pumpkin-magicThe wave of a magic wand transformed a pumpkin into Cinderella's carriage, but outside of fairy tale land, in order to get a pumpkin either you have to buy one or you have to know how to grow pumpkins.

Although you probably have little interest in knowing how to grow pumpkins to ride in one, pumpkins are a versatile fruit grown for many reasons. Aside from the Halloween jack-o-lantern and for baking as the traditional American Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, gardeners grow pumpkins for their edible seeds and flowers and also for bright autumn decorations.

Picking Out Pumpkins

The first part of learning how to grow pumpkins is deciding on how you will use the harvest. Some pumpkins grow as large as 150 pounds (the largest pumpkin was 1140 pounds) while other varieties are ready to harvest at a size of just two inches in diameter.

Large pumpkin cultivars are hollower and often contain more seeds than pie pumpkins. Pumpkin cultivars for baking are smaller, fleshier, and sweeter. Choose your pumpkin seeds based on the results you want to achieve.

Pumpkins, which are actually a type of squash, grow just about anywhere you plant them. In fact, the only place on earth they won't grow is Antarctica. Once established, pumpkins are a vigorous plant, but pumpkin seeds are tender. Wait to sow pumpkin seeds until mid-May or early June when the ground is warm.

Planting Pumpkins

Sow pumpkin seeds directly into any well-drained soil. Plant four to six seeds placed around the circumference of a small hill. Germination occurs in as little as seven to ten days. After your pumpkin seeds germinate, the first thing you'll see will be the "seed leaves". The pumpkin's true leaves follow these and quickly after they sprout, you'll notice the beginning of pumpkin vines.

When your pumpkins begin to vine, you need to thin them down to two to three plants per hill. Pumpkin vines are ramblers and need plenty of elbowroom. Related to the cucumber, pests like the cucumber beetle find them an irresistible treat and over crowding encourages these and other pumpkin pests and diseases. Although culling the tiny pumpkin vines may tear at your heartstrings, you'll soon forget the pain of pruning as your remaining vines burst into bloom with beautiful yellow-gold flowers.

Your Pumpkin Harvest

pumpkinsGo ahead and add a couple of pumpkin flowers to your favorite salad! Pumpkin vines flower profusely all season long, producing both male and female flowers for natural pollination. You'll know the female flowers by the tiny pumpkins they carry at their base.

Once pollinated by wind or bees, the female blossoms develop into a full-sized pumpkin. Although you may be concerned over the plethora of pumpkins on your vines, the unpollinated pumpkin blossoms naturally shrivel and die. In 90 to 120 days, depending on the pumpkin variety you planted, your pumpkins will turn bright orange and be ready to harvest.

Two to three pumpkins per vine means you have successfully learned how to wave your magic wand to grow pumpkins!