Harvest 101: How To Grow Pumpkins

Leave Pumpkins on Vine for Maximum Size and Color

Leave Pumpkins on Vine for Maximum Size and Color

Pumpkins and squashes can be left on the vine during the fall to reach their maximum size and develop brightly colored skins. Once cured in the sun for 10 days, they can be stored in a dry, well ventilated, frost free place.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

With September just around the corner and the Halloween season not long after, your thoughts might be turning to the most traditional sort of hard squash: the pumpkin. Whether you’re shooting for huge carving pumpkins or smaller varieties for pie, it’s probably too late to start growing a crop for this fall: they won’t be ready by Halloween, and if they mature later than that, may be damaged by frosts. But if you’ve already started your seeds and just aren’t sure what to do now, this primer might help. (If you’re too late, print it out and save the instructions for next year!)

When to plant:

Pumpkins are rather delicate, and need a long time to mature. Most varieties will mature in 80 – 130 days, so planting in late May or early- to mid-June is common. But the seeds won’t germinate in cold soil, and seedlings often don’t survive a frost, so making sure not to plant too early is key. If you live in a warmer climate and choose a faster-maturing variety, a July or even August planting can work (but keep in mind that if you wait too long, you may not have pumpkins by Halloween!)

How to plant:

Vine pumpkins require 50-100 square feet per hill to thrive. Plant seeds four or five to a hill, one inch deep, allowing 5-6 feet between hills spaced in rows 10 -15 feet apart. Thin each hill to the best two or three plants once seedlings are established.

Caring for your pumpkin plant:

Hoe regularly to keep weeds from choking out your pumpkin plants. Pumpkins can withstand short periods of hot or dry weather, but make sure to water if your plants go too long without rain.

Harvesting your pumpkins:

Most pumpkins will turn a deep orange and display a thick, hard rind when ready for harvesting. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to remove your fruit from the vine, leaving 3-4 inches of stem. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Did you know? Before your pumpkin plants start showing fruit, you can harvest some of the flowers for a yummy dinner. Check out this article at the Frugal Mama blog for a pumpkin-blossom risotto recipe.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Grow Pumpkins

Grow your own pumpkins to the peak of perfection, then harvest and store them for use in autumn and winter.

How to Sow and Plant Fruiting Vegetables

Large leaves, golden flowers and heavy yields make squashes, zucchini and cucumbers ideal plants for productive pots.

How to Sow and Plant Mediterranean-Style Vegetables

The jewel-like fruits of these decorative plants make beautiful displays in pots in a greenhouse, on a windowsill or in a sunny spot outside.

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

Tips from giant-pumpkin experts Christy Harp and Jamie Johnson on growing a major gourd.

How to Grow Shallots

Many people prefer the sweet, milder flavor of shallots as an alternative to onions. They can be harvested earlier and stored longer than onions.

How to Grow Parsnips

For the best winter parsnips, sow as soon as the soil has warmed up in spring. They will grow all summer, forming sweet and starchy winter roots.

How to Grow and Harvest Cabbage

Learn how to grow this popular vegetable with this simple step-by-step guide.

How to Grow Watercress From Seedlings

One way to grow watercress is by starting with seeds, but you can also grow fresh plants by using watercress seedlings as a base.

A Guide to Growing Pumpkins

Make this Halloween and pie favorite a part of your vegetable garden with this simple planting guide.

Grow Asian Greens

These are some of the most useful fall vegetables, providing a variety of colors, textures and flavors, just as the weather is cooling.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.