Pumpkins will soon be in the grocery stores and pumpkin farms will soon be welcoming visitors to their pumpkin patches. From October through Thanksgiving, almost everyone will be coming into direct contact with pumpkins, be it in carving one or in eating pumpkin pie. If you are a lover of all things pumpkin, try having a pumpkin patch of your very own next fall!
You can start preparing for your pumpkin growing ambitions this fall by saving the seeds from your jack o lanterns. Just make sure that you air-dry the seeds, not oven dry them. No left over pumpkin seeds? No worries. You can find many different varieties of pumpkin seeds at the nursery or store for planting.
The next step in growing your pumpkins is to wait until it is warm. Late spring is usually when it will be warm enough for the seeds to be planted. Pumpkin seeds do not like cold soil, and will not germinate in cool weather. Depending on where you live, usually sometime between late May and early July will be planting time for your pumpkin seeds.
Pick a warm sunny location. The pumpkin seeds will appreciate about 6 hours of direct sunlight everyday. Seeds are usually planted in small mounds, several inches in diameter. You can plant about 4-5 seeds in the middle of each mound, taking care to keep them well separated. As they grow, the pumpkin leaves and vines will stretch far.
Make sure the soil is rich and drains well. Add mulch and manure to the soil to increase the nutrients in it for the coming pumpkin seeds. Add organic rich mulch to the soil once the plants are established. Water newly planted seeds with a watering can so as not to wash away soil from the seeds.
Water well during hot summer days. Leaves on the pumpkin are prone to a white fungus, so it is best to use a soaking hose that waters roots and not the leaves. Or, water in the daytime so the moisture on the pumpkin leaves can quickly evaporate. Pumpkins are 80%-90% water, so keep your pumpkin patch a happy place with adequate watering.
Squash bugs and cucumber beetles are menacing to the cute pumpkins growing in your garden. If you use pesticides to try and control these bugs, remember to use the pesticides when bees are not around. Bees are needed for pollinating squash and pumpkins, so you need to protect the bees from pesticides. Late afternoon is probably the safest time to use bug deterrents because most bees will be done for the day and won’t be around.
Try planting radishes in a circle around the pumpkin seed mounds, at the same time as planting the pumpkin seeds, or even a few days before you plant the pumpkin seeds. This may help deter the squash bugs and cucumber beetles.
To help your pumpkins look round and symmetrical, you might want to gently rotate them once in a while. You can place a board under very large pumpkins to help keep them from rotting.
When your pumpkins are looking bright orange and the stems are strong and rigid, you can harvest them. This will probably be sometime in late August. Try to leave the pumpkin on the vine as long as possible. Make sure the pumpkin has reached its’ full color and the skin is hard. Cut the stem away from the vine with a sharp knife.
Do not carry your prize pumpkin by the stem. Instead, carry your orange wonder gently with both hands. You can keep your pumpkin happy until Halloween comes around by washing it, letting it air dry, and then storing your pumpkin in a dark cool place. It is a good idea to place cardboard or a piece of wood under the pumpkin to help avoid rotting.
Congratulate yourself on becoming the proud cultivator of your very own pumpkin patch!