How to Grow Pumpkins at Home
This fall, skip the pumpkin patch and pick your own.
There is nothing quite like picking fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden. That goes for pumpkins, as well. Growing your own pumpkins means you'll have plenty of squash to make pies and other autumnal dishes, and even plenty left over for jack-o'-lanterns. So, what do you really need to know about growing these fall favorites at home? Here, Adrienne R. Roethling, the Director of Curation & Mission Delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, gives her best advice.
Start from Seed
According to Roethling, it's always best to start pumpkins from seed as opposed to buying plants from the garden center. "I think timing wise, you have more control," she says. You can purchase seeds ahead of time (or save them from the prior year's harvest) and keep them in your refrigerator until it's time to sow—and pick up seeds for several companion plants while you're at it. "I would also recommend putting a cutting flower garden nearby to help introduce the pollinators," suggests Roethling.
Put Them in the Ground
Once it's time to plant your seeds, you'll want to sow them in an area that receives full sun. "When you sow the seeds, sprinkle some diatomaceous earth (DE) to deter critters from eating newly emerging stems," she says, adding that you should continue to spread it around your plants as they grow. "Vining vegetables are prone to squash borers and applying DE is like applying shards of glass for crawling insects." Once they begin to sprout, water them in the morning to avoid the powdery mildew or rust buildup on the leaves. And since pumpkins are seasonal, you may need to give them a little extra care, Roethling says, which means applying a fertilizer during the growing season.
Harvest by Halloween
If you want to be able to harvest pumpkins by Halloween, Roethling suggests getting them into the ground by June. "On average, pumpkins take 100 to 110 days to harvest," she says. "I would recommend early June to sow seeds. They should be ready anytime throughout the month of October."