Grow pumpkins for Halloween and harvest decor, and for pie filling come Thanksgiving. They are easy to grow, you just need to get started in late spring and early summer.
Most pumpkins need 100 days to mature, meaning direct sowing seeds in late May for the north to early July for southern locations. Check seed packets for days to maturity for the varieties you want to grow.
Pumpkins are a tender crop, so plant after all danger of frost has passed. Learn your average date of last frost in this key.
6 Simple Steps to Growing Pumpkins:
- Choose a location with plenty of sunlight, at least six to eight hours a day. Though you should follow recommendations on the seed packet, most varieties are planted in hills at least 2 feet apart.
- Sow seeds in hills 9 to 12 inches tall and a foot across. Keep the top of each hill flat, not mounded, so that water can reach the plants. Seeds will germinate within 10 days.
- When plants are an inch tall, thin to three plants per hill. When vines are 3 inches high, thin to the strongest plant in each hill.
- Protect plants with a few inches of organic mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Top dress with organic compost to keep plants healthy and growing.
- Water frequently. Like most vegetables, count on at least an inch of water a week, and focus the spray on the plant’s roots, or consider drip irrigation or a soaker hose on a timer to regulate watering.
- Pumpkins are ready to harvest when you scratch the rind with a fingernail and you can’t puncture the skin. Use a knife to cut the pumpkin from the vine, at least 3 inches from the fruit. Pumpkins need to be cured before using or storing.
STORAGE TIPS FOR PUMPKINS:
- Wash rind with cool, soapy water. Using a soft cloth, wipe each one with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water.
- Cure pumpkins for a week either indoors, near a warm, sunny window, in a heated bathroom or on a sun-drenched, south-facing spot on your deck or patio. Curing encourages rinds to harden, which helps them store longer when moved to a cooler place.
- Store long-term in an unheated basement or cool room where the temperature is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Check every two weeks and immediately cook fruit that is soft or discolored.