The Q&A Archives: Pumpkin Growing Basics

Question: I am a novice gardner and would like some info regarding the basics for growing pumpkins [i.e. fertilizer required, what time of year to plant, watering and care, etc.]. Some background such as "growing pumpkins from A to Z" would be very helpful.

Answer: Pumpking growing is fun, and fairly easy. The long-vining varieties need lots of space, but bush varieties have been developed for smaller gardens. They do need a rich, well-drained soil to grow well. Amend your garden soil with compost and/or aged manure to boost fertility, moisture- holding capacity and drainage. Plant seeds according to package directions (depends on mature size of chosen variety) towards the end of May in your area, after danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed. Pumpkins are thirsty plants - mulch the soil with newspaper covered with straw/hay/grass clippings to help it retain moisture. Stick your hand in the soil near the roots to check moisture level - if it feels moist at the depth of one inch, they don't need watering.If you have to dig deeper than that, they can use a thorough watering.<br><br>Pumpkins are succeptible to attack from squash bugs and cucumber beetles. You can cover your plants with a polyester row cover (see Burpee's catalog, pg 99) to keep bugs atbay, but remove it when they blossom to allow pollinating insects to do their thing. You can pollinate them yourself using a q-tip or small paintbrush to transfer pollen from male flowers to female blooms (those with a swollen area at the base of the blossom - the future pumpkin!). That way you can leave the cover in place for protection. Remove it when temps inside the cover rise above 80F, or you'll cook your vines.<br><br>Once bloom begins, you can apply a small amound of fertilizer to the soil around the roots (use as per directed by fertilizer label) and/or spray the vines once per month with liquid seaweed. Place a brick or piece of wood under each young pumpkin to elevate them away from the soil surface, and prevent insects and rot from marring the surface. Ripe fruit will be ready to pick anywhere from 85-120 days, depending on variety. I think that covers it - have fun!

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