The middle of the summer is the best time to start thinking about growing pumpkins.
Whether you’re growing them for your own dinner table (think pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving) or to sell at a market, there are a few tips and tricks to growing the biggest, brightest pumpkins ever.
Pumpkins take up a LOT of space and have a very long growing season, but if you have the land for them, and the patience, they are a very rewarding crop.
They grow enormously and the crop you get at the end, depending on the variety, is usually pretty big.
For some reason, the bigger the vegetable, the more satisfied I am. Maybe that’s how the biggest vegetable entries in State Fairs got started.
Then, when you harvest them, you can eat the flesh, roast the seeds for eating and carve them up for jack-o-lanterns.
That’s three uses for them! Can’t beat that!
Once you’ve harvested your pumpkins, check out my post on how to preserve them and some delicious recipes to use it up!
Nutritional Value of Pumpkins
If you’re a nutritional nerd like I am, you’ll be amazed at the humble pumpkin.
One cup of boiled pumpkin, drained, without salt contains 245% (!!) of your daily recommended Vitamin A, 19% of your Vitamin C and 16% of your daily Potassium.
In addition to the flesh itself, pumpkin seeds are also packed with healthy goodness.
They’re a delicious, easy snack you can munch on all day. 1 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds, without salt, contains 24% of your daily recommend protein.
This is HUGE if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
They also contain 44% of your daily zinc, 42% of your daily Magnesium, and 22% of your copper. It’s noteworthy because these minerals seem difficult to find in any significant amount in other foods.
Check out my post on how to roast pumpkin seeds for a full nutritional breakdown.
Tips and Tricks For Growing Pumpkins
Pumpkins need a LOT of sun and room, so pick the biggest field/area you have that gets the most sunlight.
It’s recommended to grow them on a mound to encourage water run off, and give you an extra square foot or two of room.
Some varieties of pumpkin will need between 50 and 100 sq feet.
Some websites recommend planting them 6 ft apart, some 25 feet apart.
Look at the back of your seed packet for the recommended distance for that varietal.
Plant your seeds directly into the soil after the soil temperature reaches 70ºF or more. Plant 4 or 5 seeds per hill
Pumpkins require a lot of water, but do not like to have wet feet. You want to amend your soil so that it drains well, but be prepared to water them during the hot, dry days of summer.
They are also very hungry. Plan to add a ton of manure to the soil when you go to plant, and then add more compost or manure to them up to four times during the growing season.
Pumpkins, like most squash, have both male and female flowers. The male flowers appear first, followed by the female flowers.
Some gardeners pinch off the first female flower on each vine to encourage more vine growth. The female flowers will have baby pumpkins at the base.
While growing pumpkins is a large undertaking but the quick guide and additional tips and tricks provided above will give you the best chance to a huge pumpkin harvest!
Quick Guide to Growing Pumpkins
Sometimes you just want the quick and dirty facts.
This 30-second guide to Pumpkins should help you answer all those questions quickly, without having to sort through article after article. I’ve always wanted a quick cheat sheet like this, so hopefully you’ll find it useful too!
2-4 inches per week
Direct sow when soil is 70ºF or more
Marjoram, Tropaeolum, Oregano, Dill, Corn, Beans, Melon
Avoid Planting With
Mulch, fertilize, slip a thin board under fruit to protect it.
Harvest when solid orange and the rind is hard (usually 75-100 days)
Saving The Seeds
Rinse the seeds in a colander, choose the biggest seeds and dry on a paper towel for a week before storing.
For more info on how to grow pumpkins, I highly recommend these books:
- The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil
- Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th-Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners
- All New Square Foot Gardening, 3rd Edition, Fully Updated: MORE Projects – NEW Solutions – GROW Vegetables Anywhere