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Pumpkins are a wonderful thing to grow if you have kids or grandkids coming around often. They are quite easy to cultivate, so long as you have a large swath of land, shelter from cold winds, and access to sun. The sight of a colourful pumpkin come Autumn will be well worth the investment and you can even use it in cooking so nothing should be wasted, even the seeds can be made into necklaces for kids.
Sow seeds indoors in April and outdoors at the end of May
Pumpkins are best cultivated from seed, indoors. You can sow seeds on their side 1cm deep in compost during the month of April. If you want seedlings but don’t have space, many garden centres will sell them in small 9cm pots ready to grow on.
Alternatively, you can sow them outdoors directly. To do this, place 2 or 3 seeds per hole 3cm deep or sow them in shallow rows, either at the end of May or early June but the sooner the better. Cover the holes with plastic and leave this in place for 2 weeks or more, ideally, you want to leave them covered for as long as possible. Soon you will have seedlings and you should leave only the strongest seedling in place and pinch off the other seedling.
Plant in moist well-drained soil in a sheltered position
Pumpkins need a location that is sheltered from cold winds, with moist but well-draining soil and lots of sun. Two weeks before you sow outside or plant your new seedlings, you should make pockets in the ground where you plant to grow 1.8 metres apart. Backfill the area with compost and soil, with some fertiliser on top.
Hardening off young pumpkins grown indoors
At the same time, you should start hardening off younger, indoor-grown plants by moving them outside for a few hours per day, then the entire day, but always bringing them back indoors at night.
Planting the pumpkin seedling once they are hardened off
Once the risk of frost has gone, you can plant the pumpkins in the pockets around the beginning of June. Pumpkins are very, very thirsty so you will need to water them profusely.
Top Tip: Sink a 15cm put next to the plants but placed into the soil and water into the pots. This will ensure water moves right into the roots and doesn’t run around the neck of the plant.
Feeding punkins with a high potash feed
Every two weeks you will need to give a liquid high potash fertiliser from the time fruit begins to swell. This will ensure large, ripe pumpkins bursting with colour and flavour and are one of the secrets along with plenty of water for those huge punkins you see.
Keeping the punkins looking good
Once your pumpkins appear, you can protect the actual fruit by placing a piece of glass or tile underneath so that they are not sitting directly on the soil, you can also try placing them on a bed of straw.
Pests and Problems
Be cognizant of potential issues like powdery mildew which is a fairly common problem. If you notice white mildew on the leaf surface, you should grow the pumpkins in a cooler location the following year if possible. However, you can spray with a fungicide that is designed for use on fruit.
If your fruit never manifests, or it does but then it rots quickly, that is caused by weather problems and a lack of pollination. Often the issue will rectify itself once the weather improves, and with it, pollination.
When to harvest pumpkins
Once the outer skin has hardened, you can harvest. This curing of the skin in the sun helps you to store the pumpkin for a longer period of time in a cool place.
Recommended pumpkin varieties
- If you want to make pies, the Atlantic Giant is best.
- For small, handheld pumpkins that grandkids will love, Jack Be Little is a good variety.
- For pumpkin carving, the classic Becky variety is what you want.