Pumpkin Essentials


  • Pumpkins require a long growing season - from 75 to 100 frost-free days.
  • Plan to sow seeds directly in the garden after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. In the far north start seeds indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost.


  • Work organic material (composted manure is ideal) and a handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil for each hill.


  • Plant pumpkins in hills (circles 6 inches across, not raised mounds) 2 to 3 feet apart in rows 6 to 8 feet apart.
  • Plant six seeds 1 inch deep in each hill. Cover the seeds with soil, leaving a slight depression in each hill (about 1 inch below the surrounding soil surface) to encourage water to soak into the roots.
  • Set out two to three transplants per hill after all danger of frost has passed and the plants have about six leaves.


  • When several true leaves have appeared, thin each direct-seeded hill to the healthiest two or three plants.
  • Mulch to keep weeds down; do not over cultivate or the shallow roots may be damaged.
  • Pinch off the fuzzy ends of each vine after a few pumpkins have formed.
  • To grow extra-large pumpkins, side-dress the hill or the side roots that develop along each vine after several small pumpkins form on the plant.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common pumpkin pests such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs.


  • Unless frost threatens, don't harvest until the vine dies.
  • Don't hold pumpkins by the stem. If a stem breaks, use that pumpkin as soon as possible because it will soon rot.
  • Before storing pumpkins whole, cure them in a warm (75° F to 80° F), well-ventilated room for a week or two.

Other articles in this series:
1. Getting Started with Vine Crops
2. Cucumber Varieties
3. Getting to Know Squash
4. Melon Varieties
5. Pumpkin Varieties & Growing Big Ones
6. Ornamental and Unusual Gourds
7. How All Vine Crops Grow
8. The Facts of Life About Melons and Squash
9. Cucumber Essentials
10. Melon Essentials
11. Pumpkin Essentials ← you're on this article right now

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Vine Crops / Getting Started.

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