Growing pumpkins is very similar to growing marrows, growing courgettes and growing squashes as they all belong to the same family and all need the similar growing conditions.
Growing Pumpkins – Sowing seeds:
You can buy pumpkin plants from you local garden centre or even a car-boot sale, though you can grow you own pumpkin plants quite easily from seeds. You can either sow them directly into the ground where you want to grow them – though you may find that the seeds can rot easily. Or my favourite way is to start growing pumpkins is to start them off in pots inside or in the greenhouse or in a cold-frame. Fill a 3” pot with multi-purpose compost and water, then sow 1 seed per pot.
The seeds are very quick to germinate; they usually only take between 5 and 8 days. Sow the seeds indoors, at the end of April and sow outdoors at the end of May.
Many gardeners find that raising a pumpkin plant indoors is much easier. Then plant them out once the danger of frost has passed.
Growing Pumpkins – Planting
Pumpkins are a very hungry plant and like a humus rich soil so dig in plenty of well rotted manure or compost in to the ground before planting your pumpkin plant. It’s best to start growing pumpkins in a warm, sunny spot that is well protected.
You can plant out your pumpkin plant in May – you’ll need about 36 and 48” around each plant. Before you plant them out you will need to harden off the pumpkin plants before planting them outside.
Dig a hole and place the young pumpkin plant in to the hole, fill it around with soil and firm the soil around the plant and water.
If the weather is still cold you can either put a surround around the plant, this will give them warmth. You can use an old bucket and cut the bottom off or anything else you can think off. You can also use an plastic bottle and cut the bottom off and take the lid off as well – as otherwise the plant will cook. Or just place some fleece over it.
You will need to protect the young plants from slugs and snails. Also you will need to water the pumpkin plants often especially in hot dry weather and when the fruit starts forming. To keep moisture in the ground you can place grass clippings around the plant and this will also help stop the weeds from growing.
Feed the plants with liquid feed or some chicken pellets so that it will produce some bigger fruits for you.
The pumpkin plants produce male and female flowers the pumpkins only grow on the female flowers. Insects help with pollination, but if the weather is cold then you might find that the fruits on your plants are not setting. If this happens you need to help pollination; remove a male flower by cutting it off and insert the male flower into the female flower – this is known as hand pollination. The male flower has just got a thin stalk the female flower has a tiny fruit behind it.
Allow the pumpkin plant to grow several pumpkins if you want to have very big pumpkins it’s worth taken any new small pumpkins off the plant to allow the ones on the plant to get bigger. I like my pumpkins all various sizes so allow as many as will grow on the plant. The choice is yours.
Use a sharp knife or secateurs to cut the pumpkins from the plant. Don’t be tempted to twist or pull them off, as you will damage the whole plant.
I hope this article encourages you to start growing pumpkins in your garden.