Alicia DeVore

My best friend invited our family over at Halloween to pick and carve pumpkins many years ago when we still lived in Los Angeles. When she gave us the pumpkin party invite, I just thought she was going to buy a few pumpkins from the grocery store and have our families “pick” the pumpkin for the carving competition.

But little did I realize that she had been growing mini pumpkins out in their backyard. Each family went into their mini “pumpkin patch” and chose a huge pumpkin for the carving competition.

It was one of the most memorable times in my life. Picking something that was grown and planted outdoors creating family memories. She had started these beautiful pumpkin plants long before the family pumpkin party time was even a thought.

This memory has been my inspiration for growing giant pumpkins, in my own garden each year. I’m going to share with you about growing pumpkins for family gardening-how to get great results.

Pumpkin Growing Basics

Knowing the basics of growing pumpkins is important for several reasons. when you know the basics you can actually get pumpkins growing successfully.

Pumpkins are sensitive to their environment and require specific conditions to grow properly. By following the basic guidelines for pumpkin growing, you can help ensure that your plants thrive and produce healthy, delicious fruit.

Understanding the basics of pumpkin growing can help you troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the season. If you notice your plants aren’t growing as expected or if they develop diseases or pests, having a solid foundation in pumpkin growing will help you identify potential causes and take corrective action.

Learning about growing pumpkins is a fun and allows you to connect with nature and enjoy fresh produce from your own backyard.

Growing a pumpkin directly sown in the ground.

Pumpkin Growing Tips and Tricks

  1. Choose the right variety: There are many different types of pumpkins, each with its own unique flavor, size, and growing requirements. Make sure to choose a variety that is well-suited to your climate and growing conditions.

  2. Use companion planting: Planting certain plants alongside your pumpkin vines can help repel pests and improve soil health. Good companions for pumpkins include marigolds, nasturtiums, and beans.

  3. Provide plenty of space: Pumpkins need lots of room to grow, so make sure to give them plenty of space in your garden. Each plant should have at least 50-100 square feet of growing space.

  4. Mulch well: Mulching around your pumpkin plants can help retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds from taking over. Use a thick layer of organic mulch like straw or leaves.

  5. Fertilize regularly: Pumpkins are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization to thrive. Use a balanced fertilizer high in nitrogen early in the season, then switch to a phosphorus-rich fertilizer as the fruits begin to develop.

  6. Train your vines: As your pumpkin vines grow, gently train them along their supports or trellises to keep them from sprawling too much.

  7. Watch out for pests and diseases: Common pumpkin pests include squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for signs of infestation and take action promptly if needed.

Start your pumpkins from seed indoors or start directly in the ground.

Water and Care for your Pumpkin Plants

Watering and caring for your plants is crucial to ensuring a healthy and bountiful harvest of pumpkin flowers.

  1. Water deeply: Pumpkins need plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months. Make sure to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently. This encourages the roots to grow deep into the soil, which helps the plant withstand periods of drought.

  2. Avoid overhead watering: Try to avoid getting water on the leaves or vines of your plants, as this can encourage fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Instead, water at the base of the plant using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.

  3. Provide support: As your pumpkins grow larger, they may become too heavy for their vines to support them. Use slings made from old pantyhose or fabric to support the fruits as they grow.

  4. Prune selectively: Removing some of the excess foliage around your plants can help improve air circulation and reduce the risk of disease.

  5. Fertilize regularly: As I mentioned earlier, pumpkins are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization throughout the season.

Pumpkins growing with beautiful green leaves and vines.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity are important factors to consider when growing.

  1. Temperature: Pumpkins prefer warm soil temperatures between 70-90°F (21-32°C) for optimal growth. Cooler temperatures can slow down growth and increase the risk of disease. Make sure to plant your pumpkin seeds in soil that has warmed up sufficiently, usually around two weeks after the last spring frost.

  2. Humidity: Pumpkins thrive in moderate humidity levels between 50-70%. High humidity can encourage fungal diseases, while low humidity can cause the fruits to dry out prematurely.

  3. Protect from extreme temperatures: While pumpkins prefer warm temperatures, they can also be sensitive to extreme heat or cold.

    If temperatures drop below freezing, cover your plants with blankets or tarps to protect them from frost damage.

  4. Monitor soil moisture: As I mentioned earlier, pumpkins need plenty of water to thrive. It’s important not to overwater them, as this can lead to root rot and other problems.

    Use a moisture meter or simply stick your finger into the soil to check for moisture levels before watering.

Pumpkins growing from a vine.

How to Feed the Soil

Feeding the soil is essential for both vine growth and growing healthy pumpkins.

  1. Test your soil: Before adding any fertilizers or amendments, it’s important to test your soil to determine its nutrient content and pH level. You can purchase a soil testing kit online or from a garden center.

  2. Add organic matter: Organic matter, such as compost that can help improve soil structure and fertility. Spread a layer of 2-3 inches of organic compost over the surface.

  3. Use slow-release fertilizers: Slow-release fertilizers, such as bone meal, blood meal or fish emulsion, provide a steady supply of nutrients to your plants over time.

  4. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers: While nitrogen is an important nutrient for plant growth, too much nitrogen can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of fruit production.

  5. Rotate crops: Rotating crops each year can help prevent nutrient depletion and reduce the risk of disease buildup in the soil.

  6. Mulch around plants: Mulching around your plants can help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. Use a layer of straw, leaves or grass clippings around each plant.

Seeds that sprouted in the ground.

How to Grow Pumpkins in Pots

Growing pumpkins in pots is a great option for limited garden space like on a balcony or patio. Check out this blog post to know what to grow in pots in cooler weather.

  1. Choose the right pot: Select a large pot with a capacity of at least 10 gallons and drainage holes at the bottom. Pumpkins require plenty of space for their roots to grow, so choose a pot that is deep and wide enough to accommodate them. Choose a space with full sun. Picking smaller varieties like sugar pumpkins will make it easier to grow.

  2. Use well-draining soil: Fill the pot with well-draining soil that has been enriched with compost or slow-release fertilizer. Make sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged before planting your pumpkin seeds.

  3. Plant pumpkin seeds: With four or five seeds sow seeds directly per pot, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, and cover with soil. Water the soil gently, being careful not to wash away the seeds.

  4. Provide support: As your plants grow, they will need support to keep them from sprawling on the ground and taking up too much space. Insert a trellis or stake into the pot when your plants are about 6 inches tall and tie them loosely using plant ties.

  5. Water regularly: Plants require consistent moisture to thrive, so make sure to water them regularly as needed, usually once or twice a week depending on weather conditions.

  6. Fertilize as needed: Apply organic liquid fertilizer according to package instructions every few weeks throughout the season.

  7. Harvest pumpkins: Depending on the variety you’ve chosen; you can expect your pumpkins to mature in approximately 75-120 days after planting. Once they reach maturity, cut them using a sharp knife from the vine leaving about 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) of stem attached.

Growing pumpkin with flowers.

Pumpkin Pests and Diseases

Pumpkins are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, which can affect their growth and yield.

Here are some common pumpkin pests and diseases to watch out for in pumpkin varieties, along with tips on how to prevent and treat them:

  1. Squash vine borers: These insects feed on the leaves and stems of pumpkin plants, causing wilting and yellowing. To prevent squash bugs, use row covers early in the season before they appear. Remove any eggs or nymphs you find by hand or use an insecticidal soap.

  2. Cucumber beetles: These pests can transmit bacterial wilt disease to your pumpkin plants, causing them to wilt and die. Use floating row covers early in the season to protect your young plants from cucumber beetles.

  3. Powdery mildew: This fungal disease causes a white powdery coating on the leaves of pumpkin, reducing their ability to photosynthesize. To prevent powdery mildew, make sure your plants have good air circulation and avoid overhead watering.

  4. Downy mildew: This fungal disease causes yellowing and wilting of pumpkin leaves, often starting on the underside of the leaf. To prevent downy mildew, choose resistant varieties if available and provide good air circulation.

  5. Anthracnose: This fungal disease causes brown spots on pumpkin leaves and fruits, leading to fruit rot. To prevent anthracnose, practice crop rotation each year and avoid overhead watering.

  6. Vine borers: These larvae bore into the stems of pumpkins, causing wilting and death of the plant. To prevent vine borers, wrap the base of young seedlings with aluminum foil or use row covers until they are established.

  7. Cutworms: These caterpillars cut through young pumpkin stems at soil level causing severe damage or death within hours after being planted in the garden. Prevent cutworms by placing collars made from cardboard paper around seedlings when planting.

By being vigilant about these common pests and diseases when growing pumpkins, you can take steps to prevent them from damaging your crops.

If you do spot any issues with your pumpkins, act quickly using organic methods like handpicking, neem oil sprays or insecticidal soaps before resorting to chemical treatments.

How do I know when pumpkins are ripe and ready to harvest?

  1. Check the skin: The skin of a ripe pumpkin should be hard and tough, with no give when pressed with your fingernail. If the skin feels soft or punctures easily, it’s not yet ready to harvest.

  2. Look at the color: Depending on the variety, ripe pumpkins can range in color from deep orange to yellow or green. Look for a consistent color across the entire pumpkin, without any green spots or streaks.

  3. Check the stem: A fully mature pumpkin will have a dry, brown stem that is starting to crack where it meets the fruit. If the stem is still green and pliable, it’s not yet ready to harvest.

  4. Tap test: Give your pumpkin a tap with your knuckle or a small object like a spoon or pencil. A ripe pumpkin will sound hollow and resonate like a drum.

  5. Time elapsed: Depending on the variety you’ve chosen; you can expect your pumpkins to mature in approximately 75-120 days after planting. Keep track of when you planted them so you know roughly when they should be ready.

Once you’ve determined that your pumpkins are ripe, cut them off long vines carefully using pruning shears leaving about 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) of stem attached. Avoid twisting or pulling them off as this could damage the vine.

Pumpkins ready to harvest.

In Conclusion:

Growing pumpkins is more than a fun family activity, it’s an opportunity to get the whole family involved in creating memorable experiences.

A successful pumpkin growing venture takes planning, patience, and plenty of work at different stages of the process. But with knowledge about how to properly care and protect them from bad bugs, you can reap some major rewards come harvest time.

Even better, you can use those pumpkins as part of a giant carving party that will delight your friends and family while creating lasting memories of togetherness and joy. So what are you waiting for?

Sign up for the Pumpkin Growing Kids Challenge today and start making autumn memories tomorrow!

Take the Pumpkin Growing Challenge

Pumpkin Growing Challenge for Kids Coming in May of 2023. Be on the lookout and sign up to get notified about it here.

And check out this blog post to add a butterfly garden to your home for you and your family to enjoy.


Can I plant the seeds from a store-bought pumpkin?

Yes, you can plant the seeds from a store-bought pumpkin, but keep in mind that they may not grow true to the parent or pumpkin plant and may produce smaller or less flavorful pumpkins.

What are 5 facts about pumpkins?

  1. Pumpkins are a fruit, not a vegetable.

  2. The world’s heaviest pumpkin weighed over 2,600 pounds!

  3. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and other nutrients.

  4. The tradition of carving pumpkins at Halloween originated in Ireland.

  5. Pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which can help improve eyesight and boost the immune system.

Where do pumpkins grow best?

Pumpkins grow best in warm weather and sunny locations with well-draining soil.

How long does it take pumpkins to grow?

On average, pumpkins take about 3-4 months to grow from seed to maturity.

Pumpkin hiding.

What is the secret to growing pumpkins?

The secret to growing pumpkins lies in the preparation of the soil. Pumpkins require well-draining, nutrient-rich soil that is slightly acidic with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8 for optimal growth. Plant pumpkin seeds after spring frost when it is early summer for best results.

The addition of organic matter such as compost can help improve soil quality and fertility. It’s also important to provide ample space for pumpkin vines to spread out, as they can grow up to 20 feet long.

Water and sunlight are also essential for healthy pumpkin growth, with at least six hours of direct sunlight per day being ideal.

Pumpkin plants, like all types of winter squashes produce male flowers and female flowers. There needs to be both female flowers and male flowers for pollination to happen and for pumpkins babies to start growing.

Regular fertilization throughout the season can help ensure strong and healthy plants that produce plenty of pumpkins winter squash.

Can I plant a pumpkin seed directly in the ground?

Planting a pumpkin seed directly in the ground is a straightforward process that involves selecting fertile soil in a sunny and well-draining location, preparing the soil with organic matter, and planting the pumpkin seedlings in about an inch deep. You might need to use a soil test to see that the soil is ready to grow in.

Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged during the germination period, which can take up to two weeks.

Once the seedlings have emerged, it’s essential to provide space for their sprawling vines to grow and spread out.

Regular watering and fertilization throughout the season can help ensure healthy plants that produce plenty of pumpkins.

Pumpkin seedling read to get planted out in the garden.

Is it too late to plant pumpkins?

Whether or not it’s too late to plant pumpkins depends on the climate and growing season in your area.

Pumpkins require a long growing season of around 100 days, which means they should be planted between late May and early July for a fall.

If you’ve missed this window, it may still be possible to plant pumpkins if you live in a warm climate with a longer growing season.

However, if you live in a cooler climate or have a shorter growing season, it may be too late to plant pumpkins and expect a harvest before the first frost.

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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