How To Grow Pumpkins



Pumpkins have strong associations – with pumpkin pie and of course Halloween. Competitions for growing the biggest pumpkin turn into competitions to make the scariest face! They are also, of course, a tasty and versatile vegetable to grow. We’ve put together this special guide to help you get started.

When and Where to Plant
Plant out seeds from mid-spring, when spring rainfall has lessened and the weather has warmed to the low 70s (Fahrenheit), 20s (Celsius). The location needs to be sunny – the greater the degree of sun, the happier the pumpkins will be. If your garden is located in a cooler climate, start the seeds off in 7 to 8 cm pots of seed compost indoors before planting out when established. Ideally, the location needs to receive six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.

How to Plant
Dig over the soil and mix in well-rotted organic matter. Create small mounds which are around 90 cm in diameter. Using a trowel, create a small trench around each mound to help retain water around the roots. In the centre of the mound plant 5 seeds in a circle, with a space of 12 cm between seeds.

Soak the seeds the night before planting out. Cover the seeds over with 3 cm of soil, firmed very gently down. Water in carefully, making sure you don’t disturb the seeds. Within two weeks the seedling will sprout up through the soil surface; then two leaves will unfold. Once the seedlings are well established, thin out to leave only the three strongest plants.

Harvesting
Pumpkins should be left on the plant to mature and ripen – pick only when the stem cracks and the skin of the pumpkin has toughened. Use a sharp knife to cut through the stalk, leaving a long stalk on the pumpkin. The fruit can be stored for four to six months in a well-ventilated storage location.

If a picked pumpkin needs to be hardened, expose it to sunlight outside for a week, or indoors in the sun for four days.



Through the Year
Keep the plants well-watered and feed with general fertiliser. Use mulch to help retain water. Some varieties of pumpkin are extra-large – use wire to train shoots to achieve a balanced plant, and prune off some early fruits so that only two or three develop. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on producing the pumpkins which remain. Prune away leaves which shade the fruit to allow maximum ripening light to shine through.

Handy Tips
There is a risk that the fruit will rot as they lie growing on the ground. Keep them lifted off the ground on wooden supports if this is a risk. Protect pumpkin fruits from any early frosts by using protective fleece, cardboard or straw.

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