Pumpkin Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • Pumpkins require a long growing season - from 75 to 100 frost-free days.
  • Plan to sow seeds directly in the garden after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. In the far north start seeds indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost.

Preparation

  • Work organic material (composted manure is ideal) and a handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil for each hill.

Planting

  • Plant pumpkins in hills (circles 6 inches across, not raised mounds) 2 to 3 feet apart in rows 6 to 8 feet apart.
  • Plant six seeds 1 inch deep in each hill. Cover the seeds with soil, leaving a slight depression in each hill (about 1 inch below the surrounding soil surface) to encourage water to soak into the roots.
  • Set out two to three transplants per hill after all danger of frost has passed and the plants have about six leaves.

Care

  • When several true leaves have appeared, thin each direct-seeded hill to the healthiest two or three plants.
  • Mulch to keep weeds down; do not over cultivate or the shallow roots may be damaged.
  • Pinch off the fuzzy ends of each vine after a few pumpkins have formed.
  • To grow extra-large pumpkins, side-dress the hill or the side roots that develop along each vine after several small pumpkins form on the plant.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common pumpkin pests such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs.

Harvesting

  • Unless frost threatens, don't harvest until the vine dies.
  • Don't hold pumpkins by the stem. If a stem breaks, use that pumpkin as soon as possible because it will soon rot.
  • Before storing pumpkins whole, cure them in a warm (75&deg F to 80&deg F), well-ventilated room for a week or two.


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