The keys to growing pumpkins are garden space, sunlight, rich soil, plenty of fertilizer, and continuous water. While pumpkin plants will grow and survive with some of these keys missing, they won’t be as healthy, grow as fast, or produce quality pumpkins in poor conditions. Pumpkins are tender vegetables that need warm soil to germinate, lots of fertilizer and water to grow fast, and regular attention to manage any pest or diseases that may threaten the crop.
Things You'll Need
- 16 by 20 feet of garden space in full sun
- 10 cubic feet of rich compost
- Seeds of fast-growing pumpkin variety that matures in 100 to 110 days (not giant varieties)
- 16 by 20 feet black plastic garden mulch sheeting
- 10 to 15 large garden rocks or bricks
- Close, easily accessible water source
- Continuous supply of manure or compost tea
- Daily and weekly scheduled time to attend to pumpkin patch
Prepare your garden space by tilling the soil in the spring after the last hard frost. Remove weeds and sod, break up large clumps, rake out the soil, and mix in lots of compost and other organic matter such as aged manure. Make large hills or mounds from the prepared soil about a foot high and wide, spaced 10 feet apart. Top-dress each hill generously with aged manure and compost.
Cover the entire pumpkin patch soil area with black plastic garden mulch sheeting. With a garden spade or shovel, push the edges of the sheeting into the soil all around the garden. Then anchor the sheeting with heavy rocks or bricks to hold it in place. If you want completely enclose the pumpkin patch, use a border of large cement blocks instead.
Cut a 3-inch diameter circle at the top of each mound into the sheeting to plant seeds and water the pumpkin vines. In each mound, water the soil well with warm water if possible, and plant three pumpkin seeds about 2 inches apart. Water the tops of the seeded mounds each day in the morning with at least a gallon of water, warm if possible.
Begin watering pumpkin seedlings ever other day in the morning with half a gallon of water, half a gallon of manure or compost tea, and another half gallon of water. This gives them plenty of water, the nutrients from the fertilizer tea, and another drink to prevent burning tender seedlings and new roots. Watering after applying the tea is important to help the seedlings take up the nutrients well. Take care not to water the foliage. Only apply water and fertilizer tea to the soil around the plants to avoid mildew and fungus on leaves and vines.
Check pumpkin seedlings and vines frequently for insects and mildew conditions. Pick off any large caterpillars, beetles, and moths you find resting on pumpkin foliage. Either drown them in a bucket of water or remove them far from the garden and release them. Remove plants affected with powdery mildew or bacterial wilt immediately to try to eliminate its spread throughout the patch. Mildew on leaves or wilted brown leaves are signs of these diseases.
- “How to Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins III”; Don Langevin; 2003
- “The Perfect Pumpkin: Growing/Cooking/Carving”; Gail Damerow; 1997
- University of Illinois Extension: Pumpkins and More; Ron Wolford and Drusilla Banks; 2011
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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