Pumpkins are essential symbols of fall, which is the last season of the year. They are one of the most widely cultivated and eaten fruits in the world. There are different types of pumpkins—some are better suited for carving, cooking, or making jack-o-lantern than others. Many pumpkins are popular for dishes like pies, soups, and bread throughout the warmer months of the year.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about growing pumpkins as well as how pumpkins differ from squash.
In This Article
Quick Facts About Pumpkins
- Common and botanical names: pumpkin; Cucurbita
- Type of plant: annual; fruit
- Native areas: North America
- Sun exposure: full sun
- Size upon maturity: 9-18 in. tall, 20-30 ft. long, 10-15 ft. wide
- Type of soil and pH level: moist and loamy; slightly acidic between 6.0 – 6.8 pH
- Hardiness zones: 3-9 (USDA)
- Best time to plant: late spring to early summer
- Best time to harvest: mid-fall
- Vulnerable to: pumpkin pests and diseases; powdery mildew
Pumpkins vs. Squash
I know what you are thinking—pumpkins and squash plants are the same things! Well, the truth is that some things are very different between the two. The stem of a pumpkin plant is thicker than that of a squash. The stem on the pumpkin also has more color and texture to it, making it different from the smooth, thin stems on squash. Another difference is that pumpkins are usually round in shape, while squash can be oval or even long and narrow. The flavor of pumpkins and squash is also different. When you eat a pumpkin, it has a sweeter flavor to it, while squash usually has more of a savory taste.
Pumpkin plants have separate male and female flowers that grow on the same plant. Only female flowers develop and form fruit. Since male flowers do not have an ovary, they will not bear fruit.
If you want to plant a few pumpkins in your own garden, there are a few things you need to know in order to get the best results.
Pumpkins need full sun, so you will need to plant them in an area where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. They grow best when planted outdoors. To keep their growth symmetrical, turn the pumpkin on its side every few days to prevent it from getting lopsided. You have to be careful not to hurt the growing vines, though.
The best soil to plant pumpkins in is loamy which is moist and slightly acidic. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.8. If you have alkaline soil, add organic matter such as compost to the soil before you sow seeds directly to it. Fertile soil will help during the growing season of pumpkin plants.
Pumpkins require a lot of water. When you sow seeds directly to the ground and once the seedlings are established, water daily to keep the soil moist but not saturated. The optimum amount of water for pumpkin plants is 1 inch per week. Water in the morning and on sunny afternoons when temperatures are at their highest.
Humidity and Temperature
The ideal temperature for a pumpkin plant is between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures drop below 50 degrees, your pumpkins will not grow as well and may turn yellow. If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, it is best to plant your pumpkin seeds in the late summer or early fall so they can mature before winter sets in.
Pumpkin plants are heavy feeders, and they need a lot of nutrients to grow properly, so it is important to use a fertilizer that contains phosphorus and potassium. You can also add compost or manure to the soil around your plants as a natural source of fertilizer.
It can be a fun and rewarding experience to plant pumpkins. Pumpkins are a warm-season crop that requires at least 90 days of frost-free weather to mature. The best time to plant pumpkins is in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Pumpkins grow when they have plenty of space. When growing vegetables like pumpkins, you have to make sure that they are planted in an area with room to spread out. Pumpkin plants can sprawl across the ground, so giving the sprawling vines enough space to roam is essential.
Propagating Pumpkins from Vines
To grow pumpkins from vines, you only need a few pumpkin vines and some basic gardening supplies. Growing pumpkins from vines is a great way to get started in pumpkin propagation, as it requires little more than vines, soil, water, and sunlight.
1. Start with a healthy pumpkin vine. Choose a vine that is at least 2-3 feet long and has several leaves. Avoid vines that are wilted, discolored, or have any signs of disease.
2. Cut a 6-8-inch section of the vine from the end. Make sure to cut at a 45-degree angle so that there is a large surface area for rooting.
3. Fill a small pot with potting mix and make a small hole in the center. Gently insert the cut end of the vine into the hole.
4. Water the soil until it is moist but not soggy. Place the pot in a warm, sunny location.
5. Keep the soil moist but not wet. After a few weeks, you should see new growth emerging from the vine.
6. Once the new growth is several inches long, you can transplant the pumpkin vines into larger pots or into your garden. Space the pumpkin plants 2-3 feet apart.
Growing Pumpkins from Seeds
You only need four or five seeds to begin your organic gardening. Here are some pumpkin-growing tips:
- To grow pumpkins from seeds, you’ll need to start them indoors about six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date.
- Sow pumpkin seeds directly about ¼ inch deep in the seed-starting mix and keep the soil moist.
- After the pumpkin seedlings emerge, thin them so that only the strongest plants remain.
- When all danger of frost has passed, transplant the pumpkins to a sunny spot in the garden with rich, well-drained soil.
- Water the plants deeply and regularly, especially during dry spells. For an extra boost, apply a ½-inch layer of compost around each plant every few weeks.
Picking your pumpkin is the most exciting part, but it is also important to know how to tell if your pumpkin is ready for harvest. Pumpkins are usually ready when they have a deep orange color and a hard shell that feels firm. The rind should have no soft spots, and the stem should be hard and dry. If you want to harvest pumpkins from a pumpkin patch, make sure to harvest them early in the morning so that they can be stored at room temperature for several days before being eaten.
Common Problems and Pests that Affect Growth
Pumpkins are susceptible to several pests and diseases. In order to get rid of them, you should make sure to keep your pumpkin patch free of weeds, grass, and other plants that attract pests. You can also use pesticides, a mixture of insecticidal soap and water, neem oil, and row covers or floating row covers over the plants until they have grown large enough to protect themselves from damage.
Squash bugs are black or brown insects that feed on the leaves and stems of pumpkin and squash plants. You can control them by using insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Cucumber beetles are small, yellow, or green beetles that feed on pumpkin leaves and stems. They can be controlled by using insecticides or by planting a trap crop like marigolds, which will attract and kill them.
Squash-vine borers are small, pale green caterpillars that feed on the stems of pumpkins and squash plants. They can be controlled by sprinkling the leaves with diatomaceous earth, which will kill the borers. You can also sprinkle the leaves with insecticidal soap or neem oil, which will kill the borers while being gentle on beneficial insects.
Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that suck the sap from plant leaves. You can control them by spraying neem oil on your plants, spraying them with water mixed with insecticidal soap, or pruning back-infested foliage.
Cutworms are brown or gray caterpillars that feed on the stems of young plants. You can control them by using a row cover to protect your plants from cutworm damage or placing cardboard collars around individual seedlings.
Leafminers are small black insects that lay their eggs inside plant leaves. The larvae tunnel through the tissue of the pumpkin leaves and create tiny, winding tunnels that resemble mine shafts. Spraying your plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil will help you get rid of them.
Thrips are small, yellow, or black insects with fringed wings. They feed on plant leaves and can cause discolored spots on the leaves of your plants. You can control them by hand-picking them off your plants, or by spraying insecticidal soap or neem oil on your plants.
Powdery mildew is a white, powdery coating on the leaves of your plants. It can cause leaf curling and yellowing. You can control it by wiping the leaves and spraying your plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Different Types of Pumpkin
There are two main types of pumpkins: pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are smaller, with a more rounded shape than carving pumpkins. They’re also sweeter-tasting and have thinner skin. Carving pumpkins are large, rounder, and less sweet than pie pumpkins; they have thicker skins that can be carved into faces or other shapes. Here are some of the most common pumpkin varieties:
- Cinderella pumpkins are a great option for pumpkin soup because of their mild sweetness and soft texture, which blend well with other ingredients. They can be used in pies, roasted, or steamed, but they’re also attractive decorations when left intact with their bright orange or white flesh showing.
- Lumina pumpkins are another excellent option for baking. They’re very sweet, with a mild flavor that makes them easy to blend with other ingredients. They are usually used in sweet dishes. Luminas are small pumpkins. This pumpkin variety is squatty and their skins are cream-colored or white.
- Sugar pie pumpkins are quite large and have a dense, sweet flesh that makes them ideal for baking. Their flavor is mild, and they’re easy to cook with. They can be used in pies or roasted, as well as in soups or purees.
- Connecticut field pumpkins are the traditional choice for carving. Their orange flesh is firm and dense, making them easy to carve and paint.
- Howden pumpkins are a variety of carving pumpkins that has dense flesh, perfect for carving and DIY projects. They are slightly elongated and have a deep orange color.
- Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are a variety of field pumpkin that is commonly used for carving. Their flesh is orange and firm, making them ideal for use in jack-o-lanterns.
How long does it take to grow a pumpkin?
Pumpkins take between 90 and 120 days to grow from seed. People usually harvest pumpkins during this time.
Do pumpkins like shade or sun?
Pumpkins are a warm-weather plant and will do best in full sun. They will tolerate partial shade, but may not produce as much fruit.
How much water does a pumpkin need?
Generally, you should give your pumpkin about one inch of water per week.
What is the secret to growing pumpkins?
The secret to growing healthy pumpkins is the same as any other plant: water, sun, and soil. Pumpkins need plenty of each to grow big, bright orange fruits.
Pumpkins are a fun and easy vegetable to grow. They require a lot of space in the garden, but they’re relatively low-maintenance once you get them started. The best thing about growing pumpkins is the payoff: fresh, homemade pumpkin puree for pies!