Growing pumpkins has to be one of the most fun ‘grow your own’ vegetables there is. The excitement in wondering how big they will get, and then turning them into tasty soups or casseroles or simply carving them up for Halloween, they are a truly enjoyable vegetable to grow.
Preparing To Grow Them
You can plant pumpkins in April, May or June so you can harvest them in autumn. Around a fortnight before planting them outdoors you will need to make some planting pockets.These should be roughly 6ft apart from each other in a cool area of the garden.
Create each pocket by digging a hole that is around the depth, width and height of a spade. Fill with compost and lay some fertiliser into the soil as well.
Each hole will be the home for just one seed or seedling. If growing in grow bags, only place 1-2 seeds or seedling in each grow bag.
How To Care For Them When Growing Them
You will need to keep the soil that surrounds the pumpkins consistently moist. The water needs to get right to their roots as watering near the stem of the plant can rot it. To aid with getting the water into the roots try pushing a 6 inch plant pot with a hole in the bottom next to where you have planted the seed or seedling (before it starts to root).
Pour water directly into the pot and it should direct the water to the right place. You will also need to feed your pumpkins with a high potassium content fertiliser once the first fruits are growing.
To avoid the pumpkins rotting on the soil, place glass or plastic underneath them once they grow heavy enough to sit on the soil.
As with all plants, pumpkins have a few potential problems which are easily avoided or remedied if caught in time.
Powdery Mildew – This appears all over the leaves and deforms them. To avoid the problem ensure the soil is kept moist and spray the leaves using plant oils.
A Lack Of Pumpkin, Or The Pumpkins Rot When Young – This is an issue with the growing conditions. It regularly happens when early summer weather isn’t warm enough, so pollination doesn’t occur as it should. If this happens, it should stop when the weather warms up. You could also pollinate the plants yourself brushing a male flower (no base swelling) against a female flower (swelling at the base).
Grey Mould – This tends to happen when too many seeds have been planted close together. This can happen if the conditions are particularly wet and the plants are weak and looks like the plant has literally gone mouldy. To avoid take care to plant at the right time of the year and to sow seeds far enough apart. It also helps to remove any of the plant with grey mould, as this will stop it infecting other parts of the plant.
How To Know When Your Pumpkin Is Ready To Pick
If the leaves and vine are dying or are infected, you might be forced to harvest your pumpkin there and then. However, if the vines and leaves are healthy you will be able to keep growing your pumpkin until it is completely ripe. Look for:
A firm rind
A fully coloured rind (whatever colour the type of pumpkin you are growing should be)
A dried or shrivelled vine where the pumpkin has started to separate from the plant