How to Grow Large Pumpkins

Learn how to grow big pumpkins to carve a homegrown jack-o’lantern or stage your own autumn harvest display.
Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Once fall is here that can mean only one thing: pumpkins, pumpkins and more pumpkins.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Master how to grow big pumpkins, and you can trim some fall expenses from the family budget. Pumpkin vines are productive, and you’ll have ample fruit for carving and creating seasonal decorative displays that can last all the way through Thanksgiving—and fill a pie or two along the way. Discover how to grow large pumpkins with these simple steps.

First, decide what you want: a large pumpkin for carving or decorating or a ribbon-earning giant. Large pumpkins may not earn you fame at the local pumpkin festival, but they’ll score big points with your family—and likely make your house the envy of the neighborhood for its homegrown harvest.

To grow a big pumpkin, purchase seed that promises the harvest size you want. For modestly large pumpkins in the 25- to 35-pound range, search out seeds of the varieties Ol’ Zebs, Cinderella, or Gold Rush. If your sights are set on a 40- to 50-pound pumpkin, get seeds for Mammoth Gold, Burpee Prize Winner, or Big Moon.

Follow planting instructions on the seed packet. As soon as vines start running or spreading, along the ground, make sure your plants have enough water. Pumpkins are thirsty, and when you’re growing bigger fruits, you need to provide water if it doesn’t rain. Avoid using an overhead sprinkler, because that can spread diseases. Instead, use a soaker hose. As vines fill in, you won’t be able to see the hose, so don’t worry if it’s not the prettiest sight early in the growing season.

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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Goosebumps'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'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. 

Check plants regularly for any signs of diseases or pests. Each leaf is very important and vital to producing large pumpkins. If you spot a problem on one leaf, it most likely will spread to another. Diagnose and treat problems as soon as you see them.

At each point along the stem where a leaf appears, a pumpkin vine can also produce secondary roots. Encourage these roots by heaping soil over stems beside leaves and watering for a week or two. Do this in a few places away from the main stem. Secondary roots help your vine support multiple large pumpkins simultaneously.

Pumpkin vines grow with one main vine and several branches. Keep an eye on the branches, and prune the tips of these vines when they’re 10 to 12 feet long. Bury the cut tips. Pruning the vines tricks the plant into sending more water and nutrients to the developing fruits.

To grow only a few large pumpkins, thin ripening fruit. An easy way to do this is to allow only one or two pumpkins to remain on each main branch of the vine. Use hand pruners to snip away stems of smaller pumpkins. Bury these in your compost pile or vegetable garden to feed worms and enrich soil.

Consider slipping a wafer of straw or an inverted terra-cotta saucer beneath young pumpkins to protect the ripening side from attack by soil insects. Harvest pumpkins when rinds show good color all over or just before frost, whichever occurs first.

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