Nothing says “Fall” like a Pumpkin patch! And if you want to grow your own pumpkins for Halloween, you’d better plant by early summer. Follow this guide for growing huge pumpkins to delight the neighborhood kids!
Preparation and Planting:
Pumpkins need a site with full sun and good drainage.
They take a lot of space: about 200 square feet (20 feet by 10 feet of space) per each plant. You could plant pumpkin after some other early crop has matured, or let the pumpkins take over the summer garden when the spring crops are harvested. Be cautious, as the tendrils will attach themselves to anything nearby.
They develop large root systems, and so need loose, rich soil.
Another idea I’ve heard for Texas gardening is to not plant in mounds. The idea of mounds is to keep the roots from too much water. In Texas, the soil dries, hardens and water just runs off the mound before it has a chance to sink in and reach the roots. So, plant in a depression. The small hole will collect water, and allow it time to seep into the soil and reach the pumpkin roots.
In early June, plant 2-3 seeds about 1-1.5 inches deep, about 6 to 8 feet apart. Put the seeds in the center of your growing area, as the vines will grow every which way. The large leaves are also prone to blowing in the wind, so the vines may end up growing downwind of where you planted them.
You can add compost at the planting time, and top dress with a nitrogen fertilizer about 3-4 weeks after planting.
To have pumpkins by October 31, start in June or July. Most pumpkin varieties mature between 3 to 4 months. You can harvest early and keep the pumpkins, but you cannot rush the ripening process if you plant too late.
Water deeply about once a week. Pumpkins are mostly water. They can stand a little drought if it doesn’t rain regularly (like Texas in summer) where you live. Deep and infrequent watering is best.
Pumpkins have male and female flowers. The male flowers grow from the stem, while the female flowers have a little pumpkin shape at their base. If the female is pollinated by bees or by hand, you will notice the pumpkin shape begin to grow.
Pests and other Problems:
Squash bugs, Aphids and Cucumber Beetles are some pests that attack pumpkins. Aphids can be controlled with Ladybugs, or a spray of water to knock them off. Bugs and Beetles can be hand-picked and dropped into a jar of soapy water. Cucumber beetles can be attracted to a trap crop of Sunflowers.
You can harvest pumpkins at any stage of growth. Very early pumpkins can be prepared like summer squash. The pumpkin is ripe when the skin becomes tough and hard to cut into with your fingernail. Cut the stem six inches or so from the pumpkin, and let it sit in the garden to cure for a few days.
If you pumpkin is not a hybrid, you can save the seeds for planting later. Wash all the stringy residue from the seeds, and place them in a single layer on several sheets of newsprint or paper towels to dry. It may take a few weeks to dry completely. If they are not completely dry, they will mold in storage.
So there you have it! Let me know how your pumpkin patch is doing in the comment section below!