Top 10 tips for growing pumpkins
Let us share with you 10 practical tips on how to grow pumpkins easily and inexpensively in your own garden.
Pumpkins are an absolute must for autumn and Halloween. Whether as a Jack-o’-lantern with a cheeky grimace, a decorative garden element or as a delicious soup ingredient: pumpkins sweeten our autumn. Nevertheless, this versatile vegetable is grown by few gardeners. This is a shame because with just a few simple tricks, the pumpkin can be effortlessly incorporated into a vegetable bed.
The 10 best tips for growing pumpkins
If you are now intrigued by the idea of growing a pumpkin in your garden, then read on. We’ll show you how you can easily grow pumpkins that will become your pride and joy and make your neighbours green with envy.
10. Choosing a pumpkin variety
With pumpkins you are spoilt for choice. From unusual patterns and colours to giants in vegetable beds: there is such a diversity that there is a right pumpkin variety for everyone. That’s why you should consider in advance which variety should enrich your garden at home. Would you rather have something decorative or tasty and hearty for the kitchen? After purchasing the seeds, it is important to know if you bought an ornamental or an edible pumpkin. Ornamental pumpkins contain the substance cucurbitacin, which not only makes them unbearably bitter, but above all poisonous.
9. The area to grow pumpkins
The selection of the suitable area should also be well thought out. After all, pumpkins are not among the vegetables that can be grown everywhere. On the contrary, pumpkins have very specific needs. A pumpkin plant needs a lot of space: 1.5 to 2 m² should definitely be given to the plant. The pumpkin plant also likes it sunny and warm. Six hours of sunshine a day is a must for the plant to grow big and orange. Be careful with the garden bed neighbours: ornamental and edible pumpkins should never grow close together – they could pollinate each other and before you know it, the delicious edible veggies will also contain the poisonous bitter substances. Other similar plants such as courgettes are neither ideal pre-plants nor good garden bed neighbours.
8. The right soil for pumpkins
Besides sun and space, the pumpkin also needs good soil. The plant prefers light to medium sand soils with a high humus content. In order to maintain such a soil, it is advisable to thoroughly dig through the garden bed a week before planting and mix it with a good portion of compost. This not only promotes the soil structure, but also provides the pumpkin with important nutrients. A little tip: right next to the compost heap, the pumpkins not only get an extra portion of nutrients – they also decorate the less pretty parts of the garden with their elegant tendrils.
7. Sowing and planting pumpkin seeds
Once everything has been prepared and planned, the sowing process can begin. Even if the pumpkin is otherwise very robust, the plant unfortunately does not tolerate cold. So be sure to wait for the Ice Saints (11th to 15th of May) to pass and the last night frosts of the season. Temperatures above 14°C are ideal for germination. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can also plant the pumpkins in pots at the end of April. One seed per pot is enough. If the first leaves show up and the Ice Saints are gone, these plants can also make their way into the bed.
6. Watering pumpkin plants properly
The pumpkin has one thing for certain and that is thirst. To produce large fruits, the plant needs a lot of water and should be watered regularly. But beware: the water on the plant’s leaves and fruits is a welcome sign for fungal diseases. To keep the plant healthy, you should only water it directly on the ground. The plant also does not tolerate waterlogging well. A small tip for a home-made ‘irrigation system’: dig a store-bought clay flower pot up to halfway into the soil next to the pumpkin. Instead of watering the pumpkin, pour the water into the pot instead – it will get to the roots faster and waterlogging and damp leaves will be avoided.
5. Fertilising pumpkins
Just like your grandma told you: if you want to grow big and strong, you have to eat enough – this also applies to pumpkins. Even before sowing, compost should be mixed into the soil to ensure a perfect start in life. But even after sowing, the pumpkin will not say no to a portion of fertiliser. Organic fertilisers such as compost and manure are particularly suitable. It is also important to pay attention to the nitrogen balance. The more nitrogen the plant has at its disposal, the bigger the fruit will be in the end.
4. Quality over quantity
Is your pumpkin bejewelled with a plethora of flowers? It sure is a beautiful sight, but it doesn’t always serve the purpose. If a pumpkin bears too many flowers, it is quickly overwhelmed and all its fruits will remain small and puny. Thin it out early and remove all but two or three female flowers from the plant. These differ from the male flowers by short stems and a thickening below the petals. Since pumpkins depend on foreign pollination, the fruit set can also be very sparse, especially if there is a lack of insects. If you don’t feel like it, you can do it by hand: with the stamens of the male flower you can easily pollinate the stigma of the female flower.
3. Taking pumpkins to higher places
This tip may sound funny at first, as most pumpkin species grow on the ground. But if you take a closer look at the whole plant, it quickly becomes clear why it can be useful to lift the pumpkins a bit. Especially in rainy summers the orange fruits lie permanently on the wet ground. The consequences range from rotten spots and fungal diseases to complete loss of crop. For small pumpkin species, it is worth setting up a climbing aid, where the plants will reach for the sky all by themselves. With large and less climbing varieties, it is advisable to place the fruit on a base (e.g. a flat, upturned clay bowl or a pot). In this way, the fruits are at least protected from soil moisture.
2. Pumpkin harvest
Pumpkins are a typical autumn vegetable. So it’s no wonder that they need until autumn to ripen fully. A good indication of the right time to harvest is the condition of the leaves. As soon as they start to dry, it is time for the pumpkin to leave home. In some varieties, the fruit can also be recognized by its typical hollow sound when you knock on the skin with your knuckles. Use a sharp knife for the harvest. Be sure to leave a piece of the stalk on the pumpkin: this not only looks better, but also ensures that the pumpkins last longer.
1. Storing pumpkins correctly
There is already an army of carved pumpkins in front of the door and the pumpkin soup doesn’t taste as good as it did at the beginning of the season? No problem, you can easily store the pumpkin. It is best to leave the pumpkin in the sun for a few days after the harvest so that the skin can harden a little. In a cool, dry room the orange fruits can be kept for several months. Only the bad fruits should be sorted out regularly so that rot does not spread to other pumpkins.