How to Grow Pumpkins

     Abigal Gordon's Home Grown Pumpkins




Planting Pumpkins

Watering Pumpkin Plants  

Fertilizer and Soil

Favorite Varieties of Pumpkins

Common Pests and Diseases

Harvesting Pumpkins

The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." The French turned "pepon" into "pompon" The English changed that into "pumpion." The Americans changed it " into "pumpkin." A pumpkin is really a squash.

It's a member of the Cucurbit family which includes squash and cucumbers. They are rich in Vitamin A and potassium, and are pretty much an overlooked Vegetable other than on Halloween. You should see what you can really do with a pumpkin ! Check out our Pumpkin recipes section also.



Planting Pumpkins  

You can sow the seeds directly in the soil, or start them off early in planters. In either event don't place either seedlings or sow seed outdoors until the threat of frost has passed. Start with a rich soil and fertilize with potassium, check your Soil ph .

Direct seeding pumpkins is not recommended in areas with short growing seasons. Pumpkins need at least three months of frost free, warm weather. If you live in a cool climate, start pumpkins indoors.

Plant semi-bush varieties one inch deep with 6-8 seeds per hill, based on the assumption that all will not germinate,( if using transplants use 3-4 Plants.) If too many seeds germinate thin to the best 3 plants per hill. . Allow 4 feet between hills and 8 feet between rows.

Plant miniature varieties one inch deep, with two or three seeds every 2 feet in the row. Rows should be 6 to 8 feet apart, with seedlings thinned to only the best plants every 2-3 feet .
The giant varieties develop so rapidly and large that they may actually break from the vine as they expand on a vine anchored to the ground.

Plant bush varieties one inch deep with 2 seeds per foot and thin to a single plant every 3 feet. Allow 5 feet between rows

Vining pumpkins require a minimum of 50 to 100 square feet per hill. Plant Vining seeds one inch deep with 4-5 seeds per hill and 5-6 feet between hills, Rows 10 to 12 feet apart. When the plants are well-established you may want to thin them out to the best plants per hill.

When the vine is about five feet long and has set three to four good fruits, pinch off the growing tip and remove all new flowers to direct the plant's energy into ripening the crop.

Watering Pumpkin Plants  

Keep the pumpkins evenly moist and water deeply during dry spells. To prevent mildew, water pumpkin plants at their base, avoid watering the pumpkin foliage, as this will minimize the occurrence of opportunistic fungal infestations.
Drip irrigation can minimize the amount of foliage and fruit disease compared with overhead irrigation . Inexpensive drip systems are available.


Fertilizer and Soil

Pumpkins need fertile, aerated soil that is 70-90 for proper germination.  Work compost or well-rotted manure into the soil. The ideal pH for pumpkin and squash growth is between 6.0 to 7.5, but they will grow on soils with a pH of up to 8.0.

  • The first stage of fertilizing should be based on providing phosphorous for root growth,
  • Gradually shift to more balanced formulation with more nitrogen.
  • As time progresses, prior to fruit setting switch to higher potassium formulation for development of the set fruit.


Best Varieties of Pumpkins for Home Growers   

The following are my personal favorites, you of course may prefer to scan any of the many online nurseries and seed catalogs.

Standard Varieties


Novelty Varieties


Sugar Pie Pumpkin Good cooking pumpkin. The heirloom seeds retain the old-time flavors your grandmother used to love. Sugar Pie Pumpkins have a marvelous, sweet flavor. Dills Atlantic Giant Historic World Record set at 1689 lbs.  The grand-daddy of all giant pumpkins. Produces 400-500 lb. fruit with proper growing procedures.
Jack O'Lantern Pumpkin A great pumpkin for carving, Jack O Lantern was bred to be the size of a human head so it makes the perfect prop for carving on Halloween. It is also a good cooking pumpkin   Microwaveable Mini Pumpkin   Each plant produces an average of 6 - 7 10 oz cricket ball sized tangerine/yellow skinned fruit. Simply slice off the top, scoop out the seeds, replace the top and microwave for 4 minutes.


Seed & Nursery Catalogs

Common Pests and Diseases



Black rot, is a phase of the disease called gummy stem blight that infects pumpkins.  Caused by a fungus. Black rot is the most serious disease contracted during storage of squash, pumpkin, and gourds . Affected fruit may show black rot lesions in the field before harvest, collapse soon after harvest, or exhibit lesions some time later in storage.

Because infection originates in the field, control practices include the use of disease-free seed, a minimum 2-year rotation , and fungicide sprays as required. When powdery-mildew-resistant (PMR) varieties are released, the losses from black rot are reduced.

Gummy Stem Blight : See Cornell University : Gummy Stem Blight



occasionally infects squash and pumpkin. Anthracnose, caused a fungus similar to gummy stem blight/black rot, is favored by warm temperatures and high humidity l. Lesions usually develop while fruit is in storage. On pumpkin, lesions are mostly circular, sunken, and measure 2 to 5 mm in diameter or larger. U Because the anthracnose fungus overwinters in debris, a minimum 2-year rotation out of all cucurbits is required for control.


Powdery Mildew - The surface of affected leaves are covered by a white mass of the fungus, which has a powdery texture. Symptoms may also be found on petioles. Treat with Garlic GP: Vegetablel Fungicide


*** Steps to Minimize Squash and Pumpkin Rots

  1. Maintain a fungicide- and insecticide-spray program during the growing season to minimize foliar diseases . Safer's Defender Garden Fungicide: 500mL Concentrate  sulphur-based fungicide which controls the most common surface-infecting fungal problems such as powdery mildew, black spot, apple scab and rust.
  2. Avoid blossom-end rot of fruit by fertilizing and liming fields when needed.
  3. Mulching with organic matter such as straw or dry grass clippings helps control weeds, conserves moisture and keeps fruit from direct contact with the soil, where they could be infected by diseases
  4. Harvest fruits when they are mature and the rind is hard, but before night temperatures are below 40oF and well before a frost .
  5. Do not harvest or handle wet fruit. Do not let harvested fruit get wet.
  6. Harvest fruit by cutting the peduncle (stem) with pruning shears to leave a 3- to 4-inch handle for pumpkins .
  7. Destroy pumpkins that are immature, injured, or have rot or blemishes. These pumpkins should not be harvested, stored and by all means don't put them in the compost pile !.
  8. Do not pick up freshly harvested fruit by the peduncle, because it may separate from the fruit and provide easy access for rot organisms.
  9. Do not permit harvested or stored fruit to get wet.
  10. Washing is only necessary prior to consumption or cooking, but if washing is necessary, be sure the water is chlorinated (one part 5.25% liquid bleach to 999 parts water). Prepare fresh wash solution when the water becomes cloudy and chlorine cannot be detected. Dry thoroughly.
  11. For better keeping, some growers cure pumpkins for 10 to 20 days at 80 to 85oF with good ventilation (e.g. four air exchanges per day).
  12. Storage life of healthy pumpkins is typically 2 to 3 months without significant loss in quality.

For more extensive data on Pumpkin fungal rots and similar blights see:

Pests of Pumpkin and Squash


Beet Armyworm



Cabbage looper

Pickle worm


Leaf Hoppers



Seed Corn Maggot

Spider mites

Squash Bugs


Vinegar Flies,


Cucumber Beetles

Flea beetle


Sharpshooter Natural Insecticide Citric acid destroys the wax coating of the insect's respiratory system. When applied directly, the insect suffocates. Sharpshooter is biodegradable. Persons with known citrus allergies may be affected. Do not spray on red mature fruits.  Effective on most insects including aphids, beetles, caterpillars, cutworms, earwigs, flies, gnats, lacebugs, leafhoppers, loopers, mites, moths, snails/slugs, mosquitoes, whiteflies

Hot Pepper Wax repels bugs from your plants, fruits and flowers.  100% natural spray uses pepper extract and wax to effectively discourage pests. Helps to reduce stress on cuttings.

See Pest Control  for more extensive data



Harvesting   Pumpkins   

Pumpkins can be harvested whenever they are a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties) and the rind is hard. If vines remain healthy, harvest in late September or early October, before heavy frosts. If vines die prematurely from disease or other causes, harvest the mature fruit and store them in a moderately warm, dry place until Halloween. Cut pumpkins from the vines carefully, using pruning shears or a sharp knife and leave 3 to 4 inches of stem attached. Snapping the stems from the vines results in many broken or missing "handles." Pumpkins without stems usually do not keep well. Wear gloves when harvesting fruit because many varieties have sharp prickles on their stems.

Avoid cutting and bruising the pumpkins when handling them. Fruits that are not fully mature or that have been injured or subjected to heavy frost do not keep well. Store in a dry building where the temperature is between 50 and 55F.





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Hydroponics Gardening

Companion Gardening


Control Garden Pests

Track Soil pH

Preserve The Harvest



1,001 Old-Time Garden Tips