Last year I stocked up on some really unique pumpkins for our front porch. I loved the varieties I found and my husband being the homestead-minded one, thought we should harvest the seeds so we could have our own pumpkin patch this year. It has been so exciting to venture down the hill and see what new babies have grown. I knew you guys would be interested, so I had Farmer Greg help me create this guide to growing your own pumpkins for you all. We hope this covers it, but feel free to leave your questions below in the comments–or tell us which variety is your favorite.
How long does it take?
We planted in May and are beginning to pick our pumpkins now in early September. Most pumpkin and gourds take somewhere between 90 and 105 days to mature. If you’re trying to grow a prize-winner you’ll want to pad that time though, giant pumpkins take upward of 130 days.
Give ’em plenty of space! They need room to sprawl and grow. An average pumpkin vine will get between 10 and 30 feet long.
Roto till and hill before planting. Your hills should be about 8 to 10 inches tall and 1 to 2 feet in diameter depending on how many plants are going in. (Farmer Greg suggests planting no more than 4 plants per hill though!)
Pumpkins produce both male and female flowers that need to be pollinated–enter the bees. To attract bees, plant some colorful flowers close by, we took advantage of the wildflowers that were in this part of our yard and we let them grow freely. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, put a honey bee hive on the property or contact your local farms and see if they rent our their beehives for the year.
If you’re planting in your lawn, keep the grass short until the vines spread and then let the grass grow. You don’t want to damage any vines by attempting to cut the grass. If planting in a roto tilled area, try and maintain the are between the hills until the vines get too large to. If you want to use a herbicide to keep weeds at bay, find one that won’t harm your pumpkin plants. Landscape fabric is another good option for keeping the garden neat. We opted to let ours get wild this year, as it is out of view of our house, but we’re considering landscape fabric next year.
Pumpkins require a LOT of water, especially the larger varieties. You may want to consider planting in an area where the soil stays moist or at least a spot that is reachable with your garden hose.
Time to pick?
You can pick your pumpkins whenever they look ready to you! You can tell if they’re fully matured by examining their stem. If it is still green and solid, the pumpkin is still receiving nutrients from the plant. If it is brown and limp, it’s definitely ready! We have picked a few early because we like the size and color that they were–it’s totally up to you.
Winter squash and watermelons require about the same timeline and growing conditions, so have fun with it and mix them into your pumpkin patch!
Harvesting next year’s seeds
After you’ve enjoyed your pumpkins for eating, carving and decorating, it’s time to save those seeds! Scoop them out and get as much of the guts off as you can. Rinse them off thoroughly and towel dry them. Now is a good time to label which are which, because most seeds look the same. Lay them out so they’re not on top of each other and let them sit out in the air until they’re 100% dry (3-5 days). Store your seeds in air tight containers in a cool, dry place for the winter. Check them periodically and discard any with mold.
We hope you’ll try your hand at pumpkins next year too–and share your photos!