How To: Six Protips to Grow your Own Pumpkins
Notably known throughout for reasons of lattes and desserts, it’s safe to say a majority of the nation is pumped for pumpkin season. Nothing says autumn like a beautifully carved Jack-o-Lantern, a tasty pumpkin pie, or a crisp traipse through a pumpkin patch. While there’s nothing wrong with bringing the family to the local pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin, growing your own is a rewarding experience that should be on every homeowner’s autumn bucket list.
To grow a successful pumpkin patch you have to start in the spring. This family-friend endeavor is made much easier by following a few simple tips.
1. Pick the best possible location
Pumpkins grow best in fertile, easy-to-work soil. If you know you want to plant pumpkins next spring, work in leaves, grass clippings, and raw manure now for a boost of nitrogen, all of which can be purchased at your local Home Depot. If you wait until the spring, you can still fertilize but will need to use aged compost or kitchen waste that will break down more quickly.
No matter what, make sure you pick a spot with soil that you can quickly turn when needed. It should receive lots of sunlight but also shelter from the worst of the elements, like wind, heavy rain, and frost. You will need to provide your pumpkins with plenty of water, but you don’t want to plant in soil that remains waterlogged throughout most of the season, as this can lead to rot.
Pumpkins thrive in the heat, so a week or two before planting, you should consider laying down a piece of thick black plastic. You can then plant your pumpkins directly into the holes in the plastic.
2. Provide plenty of space
Pumpkins will rapidly expand once they get going. Give your pumpkins at least three square feet of growing room between plants or other pumpkin seedlings. This rule applies even to miniature pumpkins because the plants will become massive regardless of the size of the fruit.
3. Figure out how many pumpkins you want to grow
Think about your goals when you are preparing to plant in the spring. Planning will help determine how densely you plant your pumpkin seeds, as well as how you need to maintain the plants throughout the growing season.
For example, if you are okay with smaller pumpkins, but want many of them, you will need to remove the female flowers during the first weeks of growth. Your vine will become sturdier, but your fruits will be smaller. Female flowers have swellings at the base and should be removed early on.
If, however, you want the giant, award-winning pumpkins, then you need to pick all flowers all of the vines once you have two or three pumpkins already growing. The fewer pumpkins you have that need to be supported by the plant, the larger they will be as a result.
You will also need to consider the variety of pumpkin depending on your needs. Atlantic Giant is the most popular kind of pumpkin for growers seeking outrageously large gourds, but if you’re finding pie pumpkins or ornamental versions, you may need to test out a few different other kinds of seeds like Sugar Treat or Fairy Tale heirlooms.
4. Perform regular maintenance
Pumpkin plants won’t need pruning often, but your rows should receive care occasionally to help keep the competition down. Mulch is a great option to control weeds and moderate moisture early on. Avoid insecticide, as this can affect the pollinators that your pumpkins so desperately need.
If you are growing giant pumpkins, you also need to keep an eye on the health of the plant. These pumpkins balloon away from the vine, and they can easily tear apart and cause stem death. Tear out the roots of the vine where it’s close to the pumpkin to give it room to grow without danger of damage.
5. Keep an eye out for pests
While pumpkins are easy to grow, pests or disease can inhibit their growth. Powdery mildew is one of the most common conditions that happens when too much water left on the leaves of the plant. Excess water is not usually fatal but can stunt plant growth. Squash vine borers are also common, but generally not detectable until it’s too late. You’ll need to remove these pests; they gnaw through vines, causing them to collapse.
6. Harvest with care
The work is not over once your pumpkin begins to form. Place some cardboard or even light paper underneath the pumpkin to protect it from the rotting effect of damp soil. Your pumpkin is ready to be picked when it is fully colored, and the stem begins to shrivel and dry. Be careful harvesting – cut the stem with a sharp knife and don’t carry the fruit by its stem. The stem helps with storing, so you want to keep that on the pumpkin as long as possible. Most pumpkins, if harvested properly, can be stored for up to three months!
The last tip? It’s easy. Regardless of whether you are carving your pumpkin, entering it a contest, or serving it up in a fresh pumpkin pie, make sure you always take time to enjoy this perfect representation of autumn in your backyard.