Jack-o-lanterns and gourds are well-known symbols for fall and Halloween. Humans are fascinated with the giant bodies and bright orange colors that we see in the pumpkin patch, but there are more uses for these Cucurbita plants than just decoration. Learning how to grow pumpkins from seed in your backyard is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit and cook with veggies that you aren’t used to working with.
One of the best rewards from growing pumpkins from seed is that you get to utilize the entire plant for eating, decorating, or giving yourself a hefty supply of pumpkin seeds for the following growing season. Not many gardeners know how to plant pumpkin seeds in a way that improves germination and gives you the highest yields possible.
Planting pumpkin seeds may take some dedication and patience, but the process is worth it in the end. Despite being slow growers, these plants are some of the best choices for utilizing your garden up to the last frost date of the growing season.
Planning a Pumpkin Patch
You won’t be successful in learning how to grow pumpkins from seeds unless you live in certain growing zones. Pumpkin plants are at their happiest in USDA hardiness zones three through nine.
Pumpkin plants prefer soil that is neutral or slightly acidic – keep the soil pH level between 6.0 to 7.0. If you’re not sure what the dirt is like around your property, perform a soil test to get a better idea.
It’s not always easy to guarantee a successful harvest if you don’t prep ahead of time. Start prepping your preferred area at the beginning of the growing season.
The healthier your soil is, the more likely your pumpkin vines are to survive. Choose a location that receives full sun. Pumpkins do tolerate some light shade if necessary.
Plant pumpkins with a spacing of four to eight feet between each mound. Growing pumpkins from seeds usually allow you to fit two or three plants into each heap, but this could change based on the cultivar you select. Smaller heirloom varieties that take up less space allow you to plant more seeds.
Growing pumpkins from seeds requires a lot of space. Make sure there is room for the pumpkin vines to grow wherever they’d like. Note that you can also grow pumpkins in a container if you choose a smaller cultivar. There are several options when growing gourds in pots, whether you plant pumpkins or a decorative gourd.
Some people enjoy growing them in front of their perennial beds for built-in fall décor. As long as pumpkins have fertile, healthy soil and good drainage, they shouldn’t have too many problems.
Practice companion planting for pumpkins to take advantage of different plants’ beneficial properties. Pumpkins grow well with cucumbers and many other plants.
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed
Planting pumpkins from seed is relatively simple once you’ve chosen your location and prepped the area properly. Pay attention to the following tips when you decide to plant seeds at home.
How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds
Knowing when to plant pumpkin seedlings is one of the biggest questions that gardeners have. Pumpkins enjoy cold weather, and it is usually safe to plant pumpkins from late May in all hardiness zones to early July in warm zones when the danger of frost is gone.
Start growing pumpkins from seed by digging a hole that is 12 inches deep and wide. Add a few thick inches of organic matter like manure or compost to the bottom of the hole to keep you from having to fertilize your plant more while the pumpkins grow.
Backfill the soil until you create a large mound. Mounding pumpkins is ideal for starting seeds because it increases soil drainage and provides an excellent base for your pumpkin plants to grow out of.
Tips for Growing Pumpkins from Seed
Grow your own pumpkin plants by collecting seeds from an old jack-o-lantern or a seed packet. Spread the seeds on a layer of paper towels and set them in a dry area.
The seeds should be dry after about a week. Place them in an envelope until you’re ready to sow seeds. Hybrid pumpkins do not grow true seeds. Only use heirloom or open-pollinated varieties if you want them to grow, similar to growing spaghetti squash from seed or other gourds.
Like when you start watermelon seeds indoors, sow your dry seeds inside or directly into the soil outdoors when the soil temperature outside is around 70°F. Practice the standard way to fertilize pumpkins to ensure they get the nutrients they need. Water your plants and look out for pests and signs of diseases while the vines become established.
Some issues to keep an eye on are cucumber beetles, powdery mildew, aphids, squash bugs, and squash vine borers. Many of these concerns can be taken care of with good drainage, a row cover, or insecticides.
Pumpkin plants do not enjoy dry conditions because of their shallow root system, so keep them well watered. Give them a minimum of one and a half inches of water per week. Avoid digging around the soil to minimize possible damage.
Pull weeds directly from the ground when you see them and use a few inches of mulch to prevent more from popping up and competing for resources. Try using plants with both male flowers and female flowers to boost pollination.
How fast do pumpkins grow? Not very quickly, unfortunately. It takes anywhere from 75 to 100 days to maturity before pumpkins are ready for harvesting. Some top choices are Atlantic Giant, Jack Be Little, and the Giant Pumpkin cultivars. Your choice might change depending on what you want to use them for.
These squash plants don’t all ripen at the same time. Keep an eye on each fruit to determine when they are ready. The rind should not be easy to pierce with a fingernail.
Pumpkins are ready for harvest when they feel heavy for their size; however, each size changes depending on the cultivar. The way to harvest pumpkins is to use clean pruning shears or a knife to cut the pumpkin from the vine. Keep several inches of the vine connected to the top of the pumpkin.
Garden Pumpkin Recipes
When you think of food involving pumpkin, one of the first is probably pumpkin pie. Don’t limit your creativity with this unusual ingredient.
Many tasty foods come from garden pumpkins, like soups and delicious side dishes. It pays to learn how to make a pumpkin puree, which can then be turned into cookies, bread, pies, and even baby food.
Heat your kitchen oven to 350°F. Wash the outside of your pumpkin before cutting it in half and removing the pith and seeds. Peel the rind and cut the insides into chunks.
Toss the pumpkin chunks with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and place them on a baking tray. Bake the chunks for 35 to 40 minutes or until tender all the way through. Allow the pumpkin pieces to cook before blending them until smooth.
Some people don’t even consider learning how to plant pumpkin seeds because they don’t know how to work with them. Pumpkins have various uses, and the prep work is worth the reward.
As long as you have the yard or garden space, you’ll have no trouble finding ways to incorporate these winter squashes into your life, whether for food or decoration.
If learning how to grow pumpkins from seed has made your home more aesthetically appealing for fall, share this guide on growing pumpkins from seed on Facebook and Pinterest.