Growing Pumpkins

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on July 16, 2010

Pumpkins are a fall staple for many people.  However, they have a long growing season and need to be planted in the middle of the summer so that they will be ready for your Halloween and Thanksgiving pleasure.  For Texans, that means mid June to mid July, even though it is hot.

Pumpkins are space hogs.  They require 50 to 100 square feet per vine.  They are planted on a hill of dirt instead of in a row.  You simply build a raised mound about a foot square and about a foot high.  Then you plant five pumpkin seeds in the hill and water them in.  The hills need to be separated by around 6 feet and the rows need to be planted ten to fifteen feet apart.  There are bush pumpkins and mini pumpkins that do not take up so much room.  The package of seeds will tell you exactly how to space them.

When the pumpkin vines come up and are started good, pinch off (kill) the two weakest vines.  You do not pull them out of the ground because you will damage the good vines.  Simply pinch off the stem and remove it.

It is necessary to irrigate pumpkins regularly so all that pulp can develop and grow inside the pumpkin.  No water means no pumpkin so if it is not raining regularly, you will have to provide the water.  Try to deliver the water to the base of the plant so that the leaves do not get wet.  Drip irrigation is a big help here.

Pumpkins are susceptible to powdery mildew, which will kill the vine if it gets too bad.  So if your leaves develop a whitish or grey cast, you need to treat it.  Your county extension agent can suggest a treatment that works well in your area.

Since pumpkins are members of the cucurbit family, they get squash bugs and cucumber beetles.  Care should be taken not to spray in the early morning.  The bees that pollinate so many of our crops  visit in the morning, when the pumpkin blossoms are open.  Wait until afternoon, when the bees are gone, to spray.  Then the next morning when new blossoms have opened, the bees should be okay.

Pumpkins are harvested when they are a deep, solid color and have a hard rind.  The stem should be cut about 3-4 inches from the fruit.  Pumpkins may be stored in a dry, cool place for three to four weeks.  Once the rind is cut, as in carved, they start to spoil.

Pumpkins provide seeds to eat, pulp to use in cooking, and fun carved Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.  You can get more information on growing them from the University of Illinois Pumpkin page.

Was this article clear?  Do you have any questions on growing pumpkins?  Any tips I missed?

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Available in print or ebook from or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today! 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Smits July 28, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I have a pumpkin that I planet in a large pot. The vine is growing well and lots of flowers. But the pumpkin withers and turns yellow and falls off. What’s the problem?



Stephanie Suesan Smith July 29, 2010 at 6:15 am

It sounds like a pollination problem. Is the pot where bees and such can reach it to pollinate the flowers? If not, check out my squash rot article for a description of how to hand pollinate the flowers. Let me know if that helps.


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