Growing Pumpkins

These autumn favorites are one of gardening’s most fun plants to grow—and they’re really a cinch. Set your sights on growing a bumper crop of pumpkins.
Pumpkin are Tender to Cold Weather Planting

Pumpkin are Tender to Cold Weather Planting

Pumpkin are warm season vegetable and are grown throughout much of United States. They are tender vegetable and will not germinate in cold soil. Pumpkins can be harvested whenever they are a deep, solid color and rind is hard.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Set a gardening goal to learn how to grow a pumpkin. This sign of the autumn season can be one of the most rewarding plants to grow for several reasons. It’s an easy crop to tend and versatile in the home. Use a pumpkin to decorate a porch or mantle, whip it into any number of tasty dishes, or store it for garden-fresh flavor in the depth of winter. Growing pumpkins is also fun, watching the small, golf-ball sized orbs ballooning through the growing season.

If you want to learn how to grow pumpkins, you really only need to understand basic gardening techniques: seed sowing, watering, and fertilizing encompass the main tasks of pumpkin growing. In the early days, you might have to tackle a weed or two, but once vines are steadily spreading, those big pumpkin leaves easily shadow weeds that might manage to sprout.

Pumpkin vines run and sprawl, and it’s worthwhile to map out a potential growing area mentally before planting pumpkin seeds or seedlings. If you have a small yard, consider planting bush or miniature pumpkins, which don’t need as much elbow room to bear fruit. If your heart is set on growing giant pumpkins, you’re going to need a large growing area—a couple hundred square feet. No matter what kind of pumpkins you grow, you need a spot with full, direct sun for at least six hours each day. Pumpkins love sun.

Pumpkin-palooza! 10 Pumpkin Varieties

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'Jack-Be-Little'

'Jack-Be-Little' pumpkins will have you jumping at just how adorable they are. These tiny pumpkins grow to 3-inches in around 85-90 days: plant a couple rows for a bountiful, bright harvest.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

The First Pumpkin

Old Timey Cornfield pumpkins are an heirloom variety, used early on as feed for cows. Nowadays they serve as delicious pie pumpkins.

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Jack-o'-Lanterns

These round, medium-sized pumpkins are perfect for carving. Growing your own is fun and rewarding (especially for kids), but requires careful planning: these season-sprawlers take 90-120 days to mature, so start planting in late spring to early summer.

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'Sugar Pie' Pumpkins

'Sugar Pie' pumpkins are a smaller, sweeter variety used for baking cookies, cakes and pies, of course. 'Sugar Pie' is also easy to handle, weighing in from 6-7 lbs.

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'Baby Boo'

These ghostly-white pumpkins get their "Baby" title from their size: they grow to a mere two-inches tall and 3-inches in diameter, and retain a bright, white color if picked before they mature.

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'Prizewinner'

Watch out county fair, this pumpkin's a big one! Cucurbita maxima 'Prizewinner' can produce pumpkins that weigh anywhere from 75-150 lbs, and with proper care and conditions can grow even larger.

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'New Moon'

'New Moon' is a large, white pumpkin with thick, white flesh. The vines grow vigorously and can produce fruits that are 35-75 lbs.

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'Goosebumps'

These medium-sized pumpkins have true Halloween spirit: 'Goosebumps' start off with smooth skin and develop ghoulish "warts" as they age.

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'Porcelain Doll'

'Porcelain Doll' features fruits with an unusual, beautiful pink hue. This medium-sized squash has a bright orange flesh that can be used for baking and cooking.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Lumina' Pumpkin

Like 'New Moon', 'Lumina' produces smooth, white pumpkins that are great for carving or decorating. 

Figuring out when to plant pumpkins might be confusing if you’ve never grown a long-season crop before. Pumpkins need, on average, 90 to 120 days to mature. Make sure your growing season has that many frost-free days from the time you plant pumpkins to the time they mature. Many gardeners pick a day they want their pumpkins ready, such as October 1, and count backwards to figure out the correct planting time.

Growing pumpkins in containers is an option if you’re short on in-ground planting space or if your soil is too hard, rocky, or otherwise impossible for planting. The most important thing about raising pumpkins in pots is that you need a large pot—20 gallons or larger. You also want to be sure to choose the right variety. Smaller bush pumpkins and miniature types are better suited to container gardening than traditional carving pumpkins.

The trickiest part is knowing when to harvest pumpkins. Ultimately, you want to pick all pumpkins before frost, which damages pumpkins if it settles on them. Otherwise, once a pumpkin begins to turn its mature color, you can harvest. Pumpkins that have started to turn their mature hue will finish coloring off the vine. But you’ll get the best pumpkins when you leave them on the vine as long as possible to ripen as fully as possible.

Research different varieties of pumpkins before choosing what you want to grow. There’s a host of colors, skin textures, and sizes. You can even select pumpkins based on what you intend to do with them—display, cook, or store. If neighbors garden, consider assigning different types of pumpkins to each neighbor and share the harvest so you’ll each have a variety of pumpkins for displaying and eating.

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