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Grow Your Own Pumpkin Patch- Top Ten Pumpkin Planting Tips

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

I'm not an expert gardener by any means, but my husband has taught me a lot over the last few years. One thing that has become a tradition in our little family is planting pumpkins for fall, like my husband's family did when he was a child. The kids have a great time watching the small seeds become a big orange pumpkin over time. We also have fun decorating their little patch with fall and Halloween décor. Of course, picking their own pumpkins and painting and/or carving them are a source of pride and joy as well. Check out pumpkins we have decorated here!

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Ten tips we have learned through trial and error the past few years.

1. Don't plant your pumpkins too late (or too early.) Usually you don't have a certain date that you need to harvest your fruit or vegetables by, but if you want a pumpkin for October 31st, the time you plant matters. But don't worry it isn't too complicated figuring out when to plant. The best time will usually be in May or June, possibly July for smaller pumpkins. Timing is dependent on 2 factors - the weather where you live and the variety of pumpkin you plant. As far as weather, it's best to plant when the danger of frost is gone, and temperatures are raising over 60 degrees. Then, consider how many days it takes your seeds to mature. Usually this information is on the back of the seed packet. Ideally, we aim to pick our pumpkins 2-3 weeks before Halloween.

2. Find a spot with full sunlight. Pumpkins need at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you do not have one place which receives that much continuous sun, you can get grow bags. (We used grow bags this year, see pic below.) These are great because you can move them with the sun! Moreover, we have lost pumpkins to absolutely scorching heat, in these instances grow bag are also useful for moving the pumpkins. If your pumpkins are in the ground you can use shade tents in severe warmth.

(I love these because I was able to personalize the kids bags with my Cricut!)

3. You need bees for pollination! Plant your pumpkins near plants that bees frequent. If this is not possible, plant some along side the pumpkins or use a grow bag. With a bag, you can move your plant to a bee-friendly area when it's pollination time. If needed you can try to pollinate your own pumpkins carefully with something like a paintbrush. Watch the video below to learn how.

4. If you do not have optimum soil in your yard you can always mix it with potting soil. If you use a grow bag, you will also use potting soil. In general, sandy soil, rather than dense because it heats up quickly and drains well. If you check the soils PH. Slightly acid to nearly neutral is best. It also needs organic matter, which may not be there if you haven't gardened in this area before. In that case, my husband recommends Miracle Grow Potting Mix. (We do not grow pumpkins for eating, so we do not have concerns about the soil being organic. If you are planning to eat the pumpkins that might be something you want to consider.

5. Spacing. Refer to your package of seeds for spacing, if planting directly in the ground. Typically, you will want to space seeds ten inches apart to avoid crowding. If you do not have a large area for vines or "runners," I recently read an article explaining how to grow pumpkins vertically. Check it out pumpkin towers at Missouri Girl Home When using grow bags, I will plant many seeds and will later remove the "runt" seeds and allow the healthy seeds to have plenty of space in the bag. The grow bags we are using will allow probably three seeds with no concerns for crowding.

6. Consider Fencing. We have a 120 pound dog. If she tramples the vines, the plant

usually dies. If you have a similar situation, fencing may be needed. At our previous home we had a large area for planting, you can see the fence we chose for that area below.

7. Water, Water, Water...but NOT everywhere. Pumpkins need a lot of water. But, in the ground only. Wetting the leaves can create an issue with mildew. We live in Southern California where the weather is in triple digits in the summer, so we water our pumpkins everyday. On average, pumpkins need 1 inch of water per week. Where you once or twice a week may be sufficient. If your plants are wilting in the morning or the soil feels dry you need more water. If the ground is muddy or water is pooling...tone it down. We don't want to flood the soil, just keep it consistently moist. If the soil is moist 2 inches down, you can skip watering that day. If the temperature cools down where you live in September you can water less frequently.

8. Only one pumpkin per vine, allows for bigger pumpkins. Usually, 1-5 pumpkins may grown on a single vine. If you have soil that is not perfect and issues with watering (i.e. high temps or drought in your area,) only grow one pumpkin per runner. To do this, simply cut the runner after the growth of the pumpkin. This will allow the single pumpkin to absorb all the water and nutrients without having to sacrifice for additional pumpkins. We have made the mistake in the past and allowed several pumpkins on the a single runner and ended up losing all the pumpkins or ending up smaller pumpkins with little color.

9. Don't be too alarmed by afternoon wilting. They first couple times we grew pumpkins I would look out the window on a hot afternoon and think the pumpkins died. In the morning, they would be perked back up. Be more concerned about morning wilting, leaves falling off, lack of growth etc.

10. Keep the stem when Harvesting. Pumpkins will last longer, possibly up to 12 weeks in the right conditions. Keeping about 3 inches of the stem helps!

Pumpkins the three boys harvested one day in 2020.

Happy Planting

Dragon Mama

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