How To Plant pumpkins: Step-by-Step Guide

How To Plant pumpkins: Step-by-Step Guide

The pumpkin is a beautiful decoration in autumn and Halloween and a delicious vegetable from the garden, which is considered a medicinal plant because of its ingredients. Our guide will show you how to plant pumpkins, caring, and harvest a pumpkin in the garden.

Where is pumpkin originate from?

The pumpkin originally comes from Central and South America. The plant is a berry – a tank berry, to be precise. Their outer skin becomes slightly woody at harvest time.

There are now numerous varieties of pumpkins for the garden, all of which can be traced back to three wild forms: the giant pumpkin, the butternut squash, and the garden pumpkin. This country’s most well-known type of pumpkin is the aromatic ” Hokkaido. ” It comes from the island of the same name in Japan. The special thing about it is: Its shell is edible.

The best-known varieties of the giant pumpkin are “Yellow Centner” and “Atlantic Giant.” The latter originates in the USA and is a regular protagonist in the famous competitions that award the biggest pumpkin.

Warmth-loving musk pumpkins include, for example, the ” Butternut ” or the ” Muscade de Provençe. ” These varieties stand out in terms of taste due to their aroma and can be harvested in the garden.

Other types are oil and ornamental pumpkins, beautifying the house and garden in autumn. You can also find pumpkins that can be planted in pots on the balcony or terrace more frequently. They usually produce smaller fruits.

pumpkin plant

Choosing the perfect location for the pumpkin

For a successful harvest, you should first choose a sunny but, at the same time, sheltered location; This can also be moist and rich in humus since the pumpkin plants have a high water requirement and, as heavy feeders, also have a high nutrient requirement. The pumpkin thrives optimally on or near a compost heap.

Pumpkin seeds planting

Depending on the weather, you can sow the pumpkin directly into the prepared soil around the end of April to the beginning of May. Growing them indoors makes sense; This is especially good regarding heat-loving varieties. You can plan the preculture in normal potting soil for three to four weeks. The right time for planting out in the bed is around the end of March.

You can tell whether the small plants are ready for the field by the number of their leaves: if they have more than three real leaves, they are ready for the bed. The cotyledons are not counted. However, it would be best if you didn’t take the plants outside of the living room right away but gave them a week to acclimate. During this time, put them outside for a while each day to get used to the temperature and exposure to the sun and harden them.

Bushy varieties need about one square meter of space in the bed, and you can plan six square meters for heavily climbing pumpkin plants. If you place them too close together, the plants can become susceptible to diseases; This applies to direct sowing and spreading the young plants.

Grow pumpkin

Grow pumpkins

If you are planning to propagate your pumpkins from your seeds, it is recommended that you focus on one variety. Otherwise, the different pumpkin varieties could be bad.

The offspring often form bitter substances (cucurbitacins). These are poisonous and cause nausea and diarrhea, even in small amounts. In high doses, they can even lead to death; This can happen, for example, when ornamental squashes pollinate squash flowers.

Pumpkin care

In colder regions, protecting the squash with fleece for the first three to four weeks is advisable. As soon as the first yellow flowers open, you can remove them so insects can pollinate the plant.

Even with good bed preparation, it is advisable to fertilize the pumpkin in between. Nettle manure, for example, is suitable for this. So that the soil around the moisture-loving pumpkin does not dry out, you should mulch the root area of ​​the plants – for example, with lawn clippings or straw. However, beware of too much moisture because the pumpkin does not tolerate waterlogging very well.

To protect the pumpkins from moisture damage or snails, store them in the bed on a wooden board or thick bed of straw and protect them with a plastic collar. The stem should stand straight up. This way, the fruit will grow more evenly.

Pumpkin care

Harvest pumpkins

The right time for harvesting is usually autumn. However, this mainly depends on the type of pumpkin: If it is a so-called summer pumpkin, you should harvest it young. Then it unfolds the full aroma.

However, such a pumpkin can be stored in the refrigerator for one week. The alternative to cooking fresh, especially when many squashes are ripening at once during harvest time, is to preserve them.

In return, you let a storage pumpkin ripen longer before harvesting. Because the fruit can only be s optimally stored when it is fully ripe. You can tell that the pumpkin is ready for harvest because the stalk has become hard and dry, and the skin around the base shows a fine, net-like structure.

Knocking is also a tried and tested method for large pumpkins: if the pumpkin sounds hollow, it’s harvest time.

The expert tip for the right harvest: You cut off the pumpkin and a piece several centimeters from the stalk and free it from the earth. Before you store it, let it dry well. Pumpkins are best stored at a cool 12 °C to 17 °C and relatively high humidity of around 70%. You should also store the fruits individually and not stack them on each other; This could lead to stains and subsequent rotting.

Harvest pumpkin

Treat Pumpkin Diseases

Depending on the variety, the large leaves of the pumpkins are susceptible to powdery mildew and powdery mildew. To avoid this, choose an airy location and do not plant the pumpkins too close together.

You can prevent this with a decoction made from field horsetail; This makes the plants more resistant to diseases. You can also buy it ready-made: dilute it according to the instructions and sprinkle it on the plant.

On the other hand, the pumpkin is not overly susceptible to pests. Its greatest adversaries are slugs. Pumpkins and squash plants are at the top of her list of favorites. Therefore, protecting the plants with a snail collar makes sense, especially at the beginning of the growth phase.

Pumpkin storage

How long can you store pumpkins?

Pumpkins come in many different varieties. A rough distinction is made between summer squash and winter squash. The winter pumpkins are particularly suitable for storage. Winter squash can last several months, stored properly in a cool, dark place.

The so-called summer squash is finer and more tender. Summer squash should be processed as fresh as possible. It can be kept in the refrigerator’s vegetable compartment for about a week or two. It is better not to store summer squash for longer. If you still want to keep summer squash, you can freeze it.

How to prepare pumpkins for storage?

To store winter squash from your harvest, you should store them first. For this purpose, the garden pumpkins should ripen and harden in a relatively warm, airy, and dry place for about two weeks immediately after harvesting. An ideal place for pre-storing and ripening squash is, for example, the greenhouse, which offers optimal fruit conditions. Immature pumpkins should not be stored as they rot easily.

To store pumpkin, first, check that the skin is firm and undamaged. It shouldn’t have any pressure points. Also, you shouldn’t wash the skin after harvesting. Do not remove the stem completely; shorten it to about 1 cm with a sharp knife. Move your pumpkins to winter quarters when the skin is very hard, and the stem is woody. To be safe, do a tapping test: the pumpkin should sound hollow, then you know that it is ripe and can be stored.

Tip: By the way, edible pumpkins from the supermarket usually do not have to ripen afterward and can go directly to winter storage, as they are already ripe.

Best place to store pumpkin

Choose a cool, dark, dry, and well-ventilated place for winter squash storage. The ideal storage temperature for pumpkins is around 10°C to 14°C. The humidity should not exceed 60% to prevent condensation from forming on the bowl.

Do not store squash in a closed cupboard. A wooden shelf is better. Alternatively, you can hang pumpkins in a net or store them in an open wooden box; This ensures good ventilation. When storing on a shelf, place the pumpkins next to each other with a little space between them, preferably on newspaper or a bit of cardboard. Avoid stacking the pumpkins on each other; This will prevent pressure points from forming.

Storing pumpkin cubes

If the squash has already been cut, use it as soon as possible, as it will only last a few days in the refrigerator. If you want to process the pulp further, remove the dried cut surface before preparation.

To extend the shelf life of cut summer squash or winter squash, you can freeze them as squash pieces. Pumpkin varieties whose skin is inedible should be peeled before freezing. Cut the squash into pieces and blanch it. Add the pulp to boiling water for a few minutes, and then quench the pumpkin pieces in ice-cold water. 

Prepared in this way, you can freeze the fruit and vegetables, take them out of the freezer if necessary and prepare the pumpkin pieces directly. Summer squash or winter squash will keep in the freezer for about four to five months. Or boil the pulp in vinegar water, for example. Stored in clean mason jars, it will stay in a dark, cool room for at least a year.

How long can you store pumpkins?

If you don’t have a suitable storage room or pantry for your pumpkins, you can store them at room temperature. Pumpkins are a wonderful addition to the autumn decorations in your home. At room temperature, pumpkins like the Hokkaido or the butternut squash can be kept for about one to two months. The shelf life varies depending on the pumpkin variety.

How to discover rotten pumpkins?

If mold has formed on the skin, you should no longer use the pumpkin and dispose of it as soon as possible. Cutting out the moldy areas is insufficient, as the poisonous fungus usually spreads quickly throughout the fruit.

Rotten or mushy spots also indicate that the pumpkin is no longer edible. You can also identify spoiled squash by its musty odor and foul or bitter taste.

Note: Bitter gourds are poisonous and should not be eaten. A bitter taste in cucurbits indicates that cucurbitacin has formed; This does not break down during cooking and can lead to severe stomach and intestinal problems if consumed.

Last thought

Growing pumpkins can be a fun and rewarding experience, and with proper care and attention, you can have a bountiful harvest of delicious and decorative pumpkins. Remember to plant the seeds at the right time, provide enough water and nutrients, and harvest the pumpkins appropriately for the best results. Happy pumpkin growing!


When do you plant pumpkin seeds?

You can plant pumpkin seeds in the late spring or early summer once the soil temperature has reached at least 60°F (15.5°C).

Plant the seeds about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep and 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) apart in a sunny location with well-draining soil.

How far apart to plant pumpkins?

Plant pumpkin seeds or seedlings about 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) apart in rows spaced about 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) apart.

This spacing gives the pumpkins enough room to grow and develop properly.

How long do pumpkins take to grow?

Pumpkins are warm-weather plants that require a long growing season to reach maturity. On average, pumpkins take about 75 to 100 days from planting to reach maturity, depending on the variety.

However, the time from planting to maturity can vary depending on several factors, such as weather conditions, soil quality, and the specific pumpkin variety. In general, pumpkin seeds should be planted in the late spring or early summer once the soil temperature has reached at least 60°F (15.5°C). After planting, the seeds will typically germinate within 5-10 days, depending on the soil temperature and moisture levels.

Once the pumpkin seedlings have emerged, they will continue to grow and develop, with the vines spreading over the soil. During this time, it’s important to ensure that the plants receive adequate water, nutrients, and enough sunlight. Pumpkins require a lot of water, so it’s important to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

As the pumpkins grow, they will go through several stages of development. The first stage is the vegetative stage, during which the plant will focus on producing leaves and developing a strong root system. The second stage is the flowering stage, during which the plant will produce male and female flowers. The third stage is the fruiting stage, during which the female flowers develop into pumpkins.

The time from planting to maturity can vary depending on the specific pumpkin variety. For example, small pie pumpkins may mature in as little as 90 days, while larger carving pumpkins may take up to 120 days. It’s important to check the seed packet or ask the seller about the specific maturity time for the pumpkin variety you are growing.

When to harvest pumpkins?

Harvest pumpkin

Pumpkins are ready to harvest when they have reached full maturity and have developed hard, tough skin resistant to punctures and scratches; This is typically around 75-100 days after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Check the skin color and texture to determine if a pumpkin is ready to harvest. The skin should be uniformly orange (or the color of the specific variety) and hard to the touch. The stem should also be brown and dry, and the pumpkin should sound hollow when tapped.
Harvesting pumpkins before the first frost is important, as the cold temperatures can damage the fruit and make it more susceptible to rot. Cut the stem with a sharp knife or pruning shears to harvest pumpkins, leaving about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of stem attached to the fruit. Be careful not to damage the skin or stem during the harvest process.

What does a pumpkin plant look like?

Grow pumpkin

A pumpkin plant typically has large, lobed leaves that are dark green and are usually rough to the touch. The leaves can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide and long. The plant also produces long, sprawling vines stretching several feet or meters long.
As the pumpkin plant grows, it will produce small yellow flowers, either male or female. The female flowers are typically larger and have a small, undeveloped pumpkin at the base of the flower.

As the plant continues to grow, the pumpkins will start to develop and grow larger; This depends on the variety; the pumpkins can range in size from small pie pumpkins to large, heavy-carving pumpkins.

When to plant pumpkins for Halloween?

To have your Halloween pumpkins ready, we recommend planting pumpkin seeds in late May or early June, depending on your location and the expected date of the first frost.

This timing will give the pumpkins enough time to mature and be ready for Halloween on October 31st. However, it’s important to check the specific maturity time for the pumpkin variety you are growing and adjust the planting time accordingly.

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