Pumpkin Growing Tips

Follow our easy-grows-it tips to take the guesswork out of growing everyone’s fall favorite: pumpkins.
Water Reservoir for Pumpkin Plants

Water Reservoir for Pumpkin Plants

Create a depression inside a tall wall of soil to make a water reservoir for water loving pumpkin plants.

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pumpkins aren’t just an autumn icon; they’re also one of the garden’s most fun and easy crops to grow. Farmers who grow giant pumpkins elevate raising these fruits to an art, but it’s really not that difficult. Try these tried-and-true pumpkin growing tips, and you’ll be set for success as you tend your own pumpkin patch.

Start with a known pumpkin variety. You’ll often see pumpkin seedlings for sale that are labeled simply as “pumpkin.” When growing pumpkins, choose one that will deliver what you and your family want. You can find pumpkins suitable for carving, baking, painting, and creating colorful autumn displays. You can even grow miniatures suited for small hands to hold. Do your homework and get seeds—or seedlings—for the type of pumpkin you’ll enjoy most.

Pumpkin-palooza! 10 Pumpkin Varieties

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'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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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


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


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. 

Plant pumpkins in a different spot each year. Like all vegetables, you need to rotate or move pumpkin crops from year to year. Ideally, keep pumpkins on a three-year rotation cycle, meaning you don’t plant them in the same spot for three years in a row. This allows soil to replenish nutrients vines remove, and it also helps foil diseases that may survive in soil over winter.

Pumpkins have male and female flowers. Male flowers appear first for about a week before any female flowers appear. Male flowers stand tall on upright stems; female flowers have what looks like a miniature pumpkin at their base. If a female flower is pollinated, that miniature pumpkin starts growing. If no pollination occurs, the female flower—with its mini pumpkin base—falls off the vine.

Mature pumpkins are 80 to 90 percent water, so you can bet that pumpkins need a lot of water as they grow. Irrigate plants when soil is dry. It’s typical for pumpkin leaves to wilt at high noon, but if plants are wilted in the early morning, that’s a sign you need to water. Aim for deep, infrequent watering to encourage deep root growth. Copy the giant pumpkin farmers and use a soaker hose or drip irrigation.

Start decreasing the amount of water you’re providing pumpkin plants when fruits turn their mature color. If you intend to store pumpkins for winter use, they’ll store longer if you stop watering completely a week to 10 days prior to harvest. 

Save seeds from this year’s pumpkin to plant next year. You can only save seeds from pumpkins that aren’t hybrids. Research online to make sure you’re not growing a hybrid. To save seeds, place seeds and pulp in a colander. As you run warm water over them, start picking out individual seeds. Use a gentle detergent to help remove pulp. For most home gardens, you only need to save two dozen seeds at most. Drain the seeds on a strainer, then place on a screen suspended over a box lid. Place the seeds in a warm, dry place. Stir seeds frequently the first few days to promote drying. Dry seeds at least two weeks—longer is even better. They must be completely dry before storing, or they’ll mold. Store seeds in an envelope, paper bag, or non-airtight jar in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label your container.

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