Have you ever thought about growing your own pumpkins? This is the perfect time to give pumpkin-growing a try! You’ll save money on pumpkins and get real satisfaction from seeing your pumpkin plants grow.
Overall, pumpkin plants are very easy to grow. They don’t live as long as some other plants (typically only one season) but that is not difficult for most people. Pumpkins like hot weather and will die in cold weather. Ideally pumpkin plants should be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed but before the heat of summer arrives.
Pumpkins plants are native to South America but pumpkin seeds have been known to survive for up to two years in soil if conditions are favorable. The pumpkin fruit grows on a vine with large leaves that vary in color from plant to plant. Plant leaves are typically green but can also be deep red or even orange/yellow depending on the species. Varieties of pumpkin plants include: Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta and Cucurbita moschata.
How do pumpkin plants grow?
Pumpkins are technically fruit, not vegetables. Pumpkin plants grow on vines and produce a flower that then becomes the pumpkin. The seeds are ready to be planted when they have dried out and are dark brown or black in color.
Harvest pumpkin plants when the pumpkins are ripe. The pumpkin will be ready to harvest when the vine stops growing, and changes color from green to bright orange or yellow. (When a pumpkin is mature, the outside of the pumpkin becomes hard.)
Let’s dive into how you can grow your own pumpkins
Find a place to grow your pumpkin in the garden
Pumpkin plants need a sunny location to grow fruit. You should wait until the last danger of frost has passed and the soil in your garden is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant pumpkin seeds.
Sow pumpkin seeds once the ground has warmed up. Plant pumpkin seeds about 1 inch deep, with the pointed end facing downward. Sow pumpkin seeds about 4″ apart in rows.
Pumpkin plants like a lot of space to grow pumpkin plant leaves, so try not to place them in an area that is overcrowded with other pumpkin plants or vegetables. Keep pumpkin plants watered by hand during dry weather. Because pumpkin vines are very large, heavy and easily damaged by foot traffic, most pumpkin plants should be grown on a trellis or other support system.
You might also like to plant pumpkin seeds in raised beds, which make pumpkin seed planting easier and protect pumpkin vines from being damaged by foot traffic.
Pumpkin plants are not very tall; they only reach about 6 feet tall. But pumpkin vines do spread out, so expect to plant pumpkin plants to take up a lot of space.
Pumpkin seeds can be started indoors, but this is not usually necessary because they’re ready to plant outside once the danger of frost has passed and before the heat of summer arrives. (If you live in a more northern climate where the growing season for pumpkins is short, it might be a good idea to start the pumpkin seeds indoors.)
→Growing pumpkins from seed takes time… but you’ll have saved money on your jack-o’-lanterns and your own homegrown pumpkin plants!
Plant seeds in a sunny spot with rich soil
Use a trowel, or a small piece of wood (like a popsicle stick) to make furrows for plant seeds. If you have covered your seed with soil by this point, don’t worry. The pumpkin seeds can germinate in compact soil that is lightly pressed into place around the seeds.
Pumpkin plants prefer rich, well-drained soil. They grow best with a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Water and feed the pumpkin plant regularly, but not too much
Pumpkin plants need about an inch of water per week. Test the soil with your finger to see if it is moist down to 1-2 inches.
Weeds are a big problem for pumpkin seedlings, because sometimes they can’t compete well enough on their own in the garden for nutrients and water. You will need to weed around pumpkin plants to keep the pumpkin plant area free of weeds.
Pumpkin plants are heavy feeders. Prepare your soil before planting, then add a peat moss or compost mulch around pumpkin seeds after you have planted them. You can use an organic fertilizer like chicken manure mixed into the soil at a rate of 1 cup per 4 square feet.
Pumpkin plants should be fertilized with 1/2 ounce of a slow-release fertilizer on the 4th or 5th week after planting. Repeat this once every month.
Try to water your pumpkin plant only when it needs it, and avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Do not let pumpkin plants sit in puddles after watering.
During the first few months of pumpkin plant growth, water the pumpkin plant every 7 to 10 days if the weather is hot and dry. Watering will help your pumpkin seedlings establish before they are ready to make their own food through photosynthesis. If you have sandy soil or you’re caught in drought conditions, try to keep water in the pumpkin plant soil by lightly watering every 4 to 5 days.
Pumpkin plants can’t compete well with weeds for nutrients and water, so you have to weed around them several times a week. Pull or cut all of the little seedlings when you see them, before they get too big. You don’t want to damage your pumpkin plant.
Apply a heavy layer of mulch to keep the pumpkin plant moist during dry growing periods. You can add 1 or 2 inches of wood chips, leaves, straw or even grass clippings around your pumpkin plants to hold in moisture and maintain soil moisture. Pull back the mulch every couple weeks so you don’t smother the pumpkin plant with it.
Don’t add too much fertilizer or mulch to the pumpkin plant, because you don’t want to make the pumpkin plant environment very wet and mushy. Keep your pumpkin plants on a dry, healthy soil that is well-mixed around their roots.
How do you tell if a pumpkin is ripe?
Pumpkin time can vary because pumpkin vines may still be getting ready to ripen even though the pumpkin is mature and fully formed.
The pumpkin will have a solid feel when you pick it up from below (instead of hollow). The pumpkin skin should also not come off easily or contain any green pumpkin flesh underneath. A ripe pumpkin can be smelled by sticking your nose close to it.
When pumpkin vines are not growing, they can be cut as close to the pumpkin as possible and placed in a cooler with plenty of air circulation. Pumpkins will keep at room temperature until you’re ready to use them but pumpkin flesh may brown quickly when exposed to light (such as pumpkin sitting on your kitchen counter).
Pumpkin plants can be difficult to transplant because pumpkin plants are sensitive to disturbance. It’s best to buy pumpkin plants from a pumpkin farm or pumpkin patch, instead of taking cuttings from your home grown pumpkin plants.
Pumpkin seeds can be stored in a cool dry place with good air circulation for several months (such as in a small box deep in your refrigerator). If pumpkin seeds get wet (such as sitting in pumpkin liquid) they will not germinate.
Things to Do With Pumpkins
All pumpkin varieties are edible and nutritious, but some pumpkin varieties are better for cooking or carving than others. Some pumpkin recipes include pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie (cooked pumpkin mixed with sugar, pumpkin spice, pumpkin spices), pumpkin pie fudge, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cake, pumpkin fries and pumpkin chocolate.
Will pumpkin plants grow in the winter?
Pumpkin vines will die if they freeze or get covered with frost because pumpkin plants are vulnerable to cold damage. However pumpkin plants can survive mild winters and pumpkin seeds have been known to survive for up to two years in soil if conditions are favorable. The pumpkin fruit grows on a vine and pumpkin vines look like a pumpkin plant stem.
Pumpkin plants also depend on warm, sunny weather to grow pumpkins but pumpkin plants can survive cold temperatures (such as pumpkin seeds surviving in frozen soil for at least two years). Pumpkin plants are sometimes grown indoors as houseplants during the winter.
What is the difference between pumpkin stems and pumpkin vines?
The pumpkin fruit is attached to a vine, which is attached to a plant stem.
Stems supporting the pumpkin fruit have leaves, and vines that support pumpkins are designated “runners”. Vines can also be called pumpkin runners. New stems which grow from runner roots (called suckers or shoots) are called “water sprouts” or “suckers”. A pumpkin plant is a type of vine and can be called pumpkin vines, or a “vine plant”.
The best time to harvest pumpkins is at pumpkin ripeness stage
The stem will start dying after fruits have been harvested, so it is best to harvest pumpkin fruits before the stem dies. But pumpkin vines may still grow pumpkins even while the plant is dying. If a vine starts growing pumpkins again, this is considered a second generation pumpkin.
Some pumpkin plant vines can be over 20 feet long (others are shorter). Vines have fine hairs that feel like rabbit fur when touched. The pumpkin stem is the most common place to find gourds found growing on pumpkin vines.
A pumpkin vine will often break or die after pumpkin fruits have been harvested. However, the plants can grow pumpkins again if the fruit seeds are present.
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