Growing the Best Pumpkins
A Guide for Growing Your Best Pumpkins Ever!
The coming of Fall is marked by cascading leaves in a kaleidoscope of deep reds, oranges, yellows, and browns, a crisp and cool feeling in the air, and of course a multitude of plump pumpkins that are finally ready for harvest.
These beloved squashes and gourds (depending on which variety of pumpkin you are interested in) make the holidays just a little more spectacular and are so easy to grow that even beginners will be impressed with their newfound green thumb. Here is a guide to help you grow your best pumpkins ever:
Find Some Great Seeds
With hundreds of sizes, shapes, and colors to choose from, you will not be hard-pressed to find unique pumpkins seeds for all of your eating and decorating needs. Visit your local nursery, skim through a seed catalog, scroll through all of the varieties sold online, or swap seeds with friends and family.
Need some inspiration?
Consider planting some of these fun and interesting pumpkin varieties in your next pumpkin patch:
- Porcelain Doll – A pastel orange pumpkin that looks like it came out of a fairytale, this variety is perfect for ornamental displays and for fall baking.
- Casperita – ideal for fall decorating with its ghost white appearance, Casperita is a mini-pumpkin that grows to approximately one pound. If you are looking for something a bit larger, it’s huskier cousin, Polar Bear, grows up to 65 lbs.
- Knucklehead – Warty and mysterious, this variety is a relatively new hybrid that is popular among fall decorating enthusiasts. Knucklehead grows to approximately 15 lbs.
- Howden – A favorite among kids and adults alike who enjoy a large, cylindrical, and hollow pumpkin for carving out the perfect jack-o-lantern.
- Jarrahdale – Ideal for graveyard inspired Halloween displays or to curb your appetite for earthy baked goods this fall, Jarrahdale pumpkins feature a gray-green skin that is sure to make heads turn with its unique color.
- Sugar – Regarded as perhaps the very best pumpkin for making pies and other pumpkin infused treats, the good old-fashioned sugar pumpkin is easy to roast and puree and boasts amazingly delicious flavor.
Pick Your Growing Space Wisely
Whether you aspire to harvest a few pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns, to bake grandma’s famous pumpkin pie recipe, or to lock in your first-place prize ribbon for the largest pumpkin at the county fair, they need growing space, and a lot of it!
In truth, pumpkins only need roughly five gallons of soil to grow in; their vines, however, can stretch out a distance of 10 feet or more. As long as the root system of the plant gets enough soil for nutrient intake, the vines can grow across your yard, field, patio, or anywhere else where you have a patch of open space you can devote to growing your pumpkins. Pumpkins can take up to 180 days to fully mature, so you will want to keep this in mind when deciding wherever you want to grow them.
Rich Soil and LOTS of Water
Pumpkins like to live a high-class life and only soil that is rich with nutrients will do. They eat a lot and crave nitrogen, so it is important that you fertilize them well several times throughout the entire growing process. Use Hendrikus Organics Nitrogen Plus™ fertilizer to meet your pumpkins’ nutrient intake demands early on in the growth cycle. Once pumpkins start to form on the vines, they will need more phosphorus added to their diet, so you can continue fertilizing using Hendrikus Organics Soil Enhancer™. Add some HuMagic® all-natural humus to the mix to build your soil structure and improve its water-holding capacity.
If you have ever cut open a pumpkin vine, you may have noticed that they are very wet and hollow inside. The pumpkins themselves are also made up of approximately 80% water. In order to grow the healthiest pumpkins possible, they need daily irrigation.
Seeds Vs Starts
Save yourself time and supplies by direct seeding pumpkins into your garden – they love establishing a permanent home and prefer to live a life without stress! Use the guidelines listed on the seed package to know exactly when to start planting pumpkins in your region. Space the pumpkin hills at least four feet apart to give the vines plenty of garden real estate to grow out.
If you plan to container-plant your pumpkins, they can be directly sowed into a big container.
Other TLC Recommendations for Growing Your Best Pumpkins Ever
Here are some other recommendations to follow during the growing process to ensure your pumpkins live up to what you aspire them to be:
- Rotate ‘Em – Carefully rotate the pumpkins as they begin to plump up to encourage round uniform growth.
- Pamper ‘Em – Nip and tuck extra vines and remove pumpkins that are substandard performers. This will encourage growing energy to be focused on the pumpkins you really want to keep.
- Attract Some Bees – Pumpkin vines produce both male and female flowers and bees are critical for transporting pollen to the female flowers, which in turn produce pumpkins. Plant some bee attracting flowers near your pumpkin patch or invest in a small beehive to add to your garden.
- Sun-Soak ‘Em – Pumpkins love to sunbathe out in the warm summer sunshine and should ideally get at least eight hours of direct sunlight to grow to their full potential.
To grow your best pumpkins ever, make sure you have nutrient rich soil, plenty of space, an abundance of summer sunshine, lots of water, and great seeds to start out with. Use this simple guide and you will be rewarded with the aromatic scents of baked pumpkin pie, cookies, scones, cakes, pasta dishes, and last but not least…the spookiest jack-o-lantern in the neighborhood!