It’s one of my most favorite times of the year. Fall. It’s a wonderful season. Bonfires out back…pumpkins on the porch…crisp, cool fall air. But nothing says fall to me like the smell of fresh pumpkin pie baking in the oven. There’s just something about that wonderful smell of ginger, clove, and cinnamon!
Now, to be fair, it’s too late to plant and grow your own pumpkins to enjoy this season. But you can certainly get a jump on next year by doing a little research and planning now so that you’ll have some of the most beautiful, most mouthwatering heirloom pumpkins you’ve ever seen. I encourage gardeners to try one or two new things in the garden each spring and summer. So, how about adding a few heirloom pumpkins to your garden repertoire next year? Try it. You’ll be hooked. (And you’ll never buy an overpriced store-bought pumpkin ever again. Trust me.)
What do pumpkins need to grow?
Pumpkins need plenty of moisture, rich soil, and most of all, plenty of sun. Meet those few requirements, and you’ll have a bumper crop of glorious heirloom pumpkins for fall decorating, Jack-O-Lanterns, and pumpkin pie!
A few pumpkin growing tips to remember:
- Pumpkins like warm and fertile soil for best results. They also like a soil pH of around 6.0 to 6.8.
- When planting, you’ll want to enrich your soil with homemade compost. Work it into the soil as you plant.
- In cooler climates, you will want to warm your soil for a week or two before planting by using black plastic, or row covers. After the soil has warmed for 1-2 weeks, cut a hole in the plastic, plant your seedlings, and that’s it!
- Feed your pumpkins an application of liquid natural fertilizer when blossoms begin to appear. You do not want to over-fertilize your pumpkins as it can do more harm than good. One nice application should be plenty if you have rich, healthy soil.
- Pumpkins are quick and aggressive growers. They sprawl out, so they’ll need lots of ground to move about. To keep them from taking over your garden, plant them near the edges of the garden and let them sprawl out around the yard, not the garden. Train your vines to go outward, not inward.
- Space your transplants approximately 5 feet apart in rows, or put 1 plant in each hill so that each plant will have enough room to grow and vine.
- Pumpkin plants crave more water when the flowers and fruits are forming. A soaker hose can help with this if you live in a dry or drought-prone climate. Water them in the early morning for best results. Wet foliage on the pumpkin plant makes it more susceptible to powdery mildew and other fungus. If you see vines wilting before noon, that’s a tell-tale sign they need more water.
- Pinch off just the female flowers for the first 2-3 weeks after blossoms start to appear on the vine. This will increase your overall yield. How to tell a female blossom from a male blossom? The female flowers have a small swollen area at the base of the bloom, that looks just like a baby pumpkin. (It’s easy to tell when you compare the flowers side-by-side.)
- If you want larger pumpkins over having a larger quantity of pumpkins, pinch off all flowers after you have 2-4 fruits forming on the vine. The plant will send the bulk of its nutrients and energy into developing the established fruits instead of producing more blossoms or fruits.
That’s the long and short of it. Following these simple tips will pretty much guarantee you a great crop of bright, big, and beautiful pumpkins in your own back yard.