Growing Our Jack-O-Lantern


I know the time has passed this year, but look forward to growing our own pumpkins for next fall!

We should know that their growing season requires about seventy-five to one-hundred days that are frost free.

If we live in the north, we should begin by late in May, and if we live in southern places then we can start by early June.

Pumpkins really do not like frost, so play it safe.

If you have the space and right climate, pumpkins should be a breeze to add to the garden.
Photo by: Constança Cabral


Pick a Site:  The site should be in place where there is full sun, to some shade, and a lot of space. Pumpkins are bulky and they vine out, so space is important with vine varieties. They will need about fifty to one-hundred square feet per hill.

Now, if you do not have that sort of space then plant mini varieties or you can put the pumpkins on the edge of the garden, where they will have room to sprawl out over lawn or concrete. They will only be in the way for about fifteen weeks. Also, take into account that pumpkins eat a lot and that they need well drained soil.
Photo by: Ilil Ziv


Planting with Seeds:  Pumpkins tend to do very well when planted with seeds.

  • If you do not have a very long growing season, then you can start the pumpkins indoors approximately two to four weeks before the last spring frost.

  • Soil need to be seventy degrees Fahrenheit or more before sowing the seeds. The best temperature is ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit but, again, anything above seventy will do. Cold is not very good for pumpkins at all.

  • When you plant, you should do it in hills that are around the size of pitcher mounds, maybe a bit smaller. This will warm the soil and lead to faster germination, and better drainage and pest control.

  • The mounds should have about twelve to fifteen inches of manure or two to four inches of compost.


We will now continue with planting pumpkins by seeds.

  • Place hills four to eight feet apart and put four to five seeds in each hill, about an inch deep.

  • Germination should occur less than a week if the soil is the correct temperature and you should see emergence in five to ten days.

  • When the plants get to be about two to three inches tall, thin out to only two to three plants on each hill. You can do this by snipping the weaker, unwanted plants, being sure to leave the remaining plant’s roots unharmed.

  • If you plant in rows, sow the seeds with half a foot to a foot apart and thin out until each plant is eighteen to thirty-six inches apart.
Photo by: Maria Bradbury

Basic Care


  • Row covers in the early season can be helpful with avoiding pests, but be sure to remove the covers before your pumpkins start to flower to ensure that they will be pollinated thoroughly.

  • Pumpkins love water. So, water about an inch a week and make sure to water deeply, specifically while fruit set. When you do water, do your best to keep the foliage and fruit dry, unless it is very sunny and hot, because dampness will encourage rot.

  • Add compost around your plants to trap water, suppress weeds, and keep away pests as best as possible.

  • Do not over do it with the cultivating because the roots are shallow and sensitive.
Photo by: Ellen Bulger
  • If you choose a small vine variety, you can train it to grow up a trellis. This will save space. This is possible for larger vine varieties as well, but it can be very difficult and will require a unique support system, possibly with netting or stockings.

  • Sometimes, the first flowering will not form fruit. That is okay, just wait for both female and male blossoms to open.

  • Bees are essential. So, do not scare them off with insecticides. If you find that insecticides are very needed, it is safest to use only in late afternoon to evening, when the blossoms are closed until the next day.

  • Be careful with the vines, they are more sensitive than they may appear. Damage can really affect the fruit quality.

  • Pumpkins need pumping, they are very heavy eaters. So, regularly applying manure or compost, with water, will help keep up with their appetite. Fertilization is also important. Fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer in early stages of growth when the plant is about twelve inches tall. Right before blooming, switch to a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous.
Photo by: Jim, the Photographer
  • When the pumpkins form, get rid of the fuzzy ends of the vines to stop vine growth so that energy is focused on the fruit.

  • In order to further focus energy on the fruit and vines and to save space, prune the vines.

  • As the pumpkins grow, the fruit should be turned, very carefully, in order to support even shape.

  • Place thin, plastic mesh under the pumpkins to discourage rot.


List of Pests/Diseases to Watch Out For

  • Squash bugs

  • Cucumber beetles

  • Aphids

  • Squash vine borer

  • Spider mites


Good luck with the pumpkins and be careful carving the Jack-O-Lantern.




-My Yard Garden


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