Growing pumpkins for their tasty flesh or to thrill the kids at Halloween. With the right seed, some compost, and plenty of water, if you follow our tips, you’ll have a spectacular harvest.
Growing pumpkins is simple and great fun – it is difficult not to get results. Just seeing these huge, fantastically colored fruits sitting on the soil is enough to make you smile.
Even if all you want is a fruit that can be transformed into a Halloween lantern, home-grown offers the best route, and it’s a wonderful project to do with kids.
The entire process, from seed sowing to harvesting, is something they can get involved in.
Pumpkins are rampant growers, so they benefit from a large root run, plenty of moisture, and food at all times.
For this reason, they are best grown in the open ground or a large half barrel.
When planning your patch, bear in mind that pumpkins grow fast but, being large, need a long time to reach maturity so that they will occupy your veg plot for a while.
I generally plant them out in May and rarely remove the plants until mid-to-late October.
Choose a sunny spot with moist soil.
Improve the soil by incorporating vast quantities of compost or well-rotted manure, and you’ll get far better results with little extra effort.
Pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup are among the most popular recipes for this flamboyant fruit’s delicately flavored flesh.
If you are growing pumpkins mainly for eating, the range of colors., flavors, and sizes available to grow from seed can’t be matched by any to be found in a supermarket or farm shop.
A single seed from a packet bought for £1 to £2 can produce several pumpkins. Each of which costs at least that to buy in a shop, you get an excellent return on your investment.
How to Grow Pumpkins
- Sow seeds individually in small pots of good quality compost, from mid-March to mid-June. Place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill, and keep just moist.
- When seedlings are about 10cm tall, harden off thoroughly. Once frosts have passed, plant them out in deeply dug soil into a large hole filled with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure.
- Mound soil in a ring at least 45cm-wide around the plant’s base to divert water to the roots. Water well and cover each plant with a vented bell cloche to protect against cool weather.
- Pumpkins have female and male flowers. Males only last a day, so remove them as they fade to reduce the risk of grey mold. If sun levels are low, take out leaves overshadowing the fruits (take out all that have mildew) as this encourages ripening.
10 Easy Growing Pumpkin Tips
- Make sure you plant your pumpkin in a patch of land you can spare for a few months – it takes about 18 to 22 weeks between sowing and harvesting.
- Incorporate plenty of rich, bulky, well-rotted organic matter or compost into the soil – the better the quality, the more extensive the pumpkin’s growth will be.
- Warm the soil with cloches or fleece if sowing directly into the ground—cover germinating seeds with a cloche.
- Water regularly, keeping the soil moist at all times. The stress of drought causes the plant to make a greater proportion of male flowers, and fruit is only borne on female flowers. Plentiful water is also needed for the fruit to swell.
- Train the vine up for support if space is short. Remember that individual heavy fruits may need extra support as they ripen.
- Remove fading male flowers – a slight swelling easily recognizes female flowers at the base.
- Thin fruits to two or three per plant if you want to grow giant specimens.
- Feed the fruits every couple of weeks with a liquid tomato feed or similar fertilizer.
- Raise fruits off the soil, especially in wet seasons – try upturned plant saucers, flowerpots, or small crates. This will reduce rotting and slug and snail attacks.
- Take care while harvesting, not to pull or break the vine. It is easily uprooted, and if
you damage the pumpkin’s ‘handle,’ this will reduce the time the fruit can be stored.
‘JACK OF ALL TRADES’ is great for carving, bright orange, rounded, and usually
flat-based. It tastes delicious too. (Alan Romans)
‘ATLANTIC GIANT’ is not the prettiest but great to grow after a pumpkin
heavyweight. The flesh is also well worth eating, but you will get a lot of it! (Franchi)
‘SUMMER BALL’ is more for eating than carving – its yellowish fruits only weigh up
to 1 kg, but the flesh is lovely. It can be grown in a good-sized container. (Tuckers Seeds)
‘TOM FOX’ has wonderful bright orange fruits, weighing in at about 3-5kg, which are
delicious to eat. (Organic Gardening Catalogue)