Food, Garden

How to grow pumpkins: complete step-by-step guide

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Complete guide outlines step for how to grow pumpkins successfully, including why you shouldn’t use seeds from a pumpkin you’ve eaten.

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In the hobby garden, pumpkin is again at the top of the popularity list. Find out here how you can easily grow the delicious and at the same time decorative fruit vegetables in your garden. It will be a success across the board.

If you want to know how to grow pumpkins in your own garden, you first decide which type of pumpkin you want to grow, for example whether you want to grow edible or ornamental pumpkins. Ornamental pumpkins contain the bitter substance cucurbitacin, which makes them inedible. In contrast, pumpkins develop a nutty to sweet taste. In some cases, e.g. B. the bishop’s hat, however, have both properties combined, so that the meat of this decorative pumpkin variety is also suitable for consumption.

How to grow pumpkins: the right seeds

The first step in knowing how to grow pumpkins is choosing the right seeds. Anyone who has ever hollowed out pumpkins for Halloween has probably noticed the many pumpkin seeds inside. Unfortunately, these seeds cannot be used as pumpkin seed for edible pumpkins next spring, because it is relatively likely that the next generation of pumpkins will taste bitter.

Even an ornamental pumpkin planted a few beds away or in the neighboring garden can cause the pumpkin to cross-pollinate uncontrollably and the next generation of pumpkins to develop a bitter taste.

So if you want to be sure that you can actually eat the pumpkin after a few months of care and maintenance, you should not use pumpkin seeds that you harvest yourself, but rather pick pumpkin seeds from the gardener’s shop.

Indoor cultivation paves the way for magnificent pumpkins

Experienced hobby gardeners favor indoor cultivation, especially for one convincing reason: the cultivation period is extended by a remarkable 3 weeks. In view of an impressive ripening time of an average of 100 days.

How to sow pumpkins

  • Roughen the seeds with emery paper or a file
  • Soak in lukewarm water for 24 hours
  • Put in the seeding soil 1-2 cm deep and moisten
  • Cover the seed pot with cling film or cover with glass
  • Produce a germination temperature of 25 degrees Celsius in a partially shaded place

Sowing indoors should not take place before mid-April in the northern hemispehere, but this can vary depending on where in the country you are. In view of the short germination time of one week followed by a three-week growth phase , the young plants arrive at exactly the right time in the field. The planting season begins in mid-May – neither earlier nor later.

Properly transplant with ease

The location requirements of pumpkins are limited to two central attributes: sunny and nutrient-rich. If there are additional properties such as permeable, fresh and humic, nothing stands in the way of lush growth. How to plant the young plants:

  • Enrich the loosened, weed-free bed soil with compost and horn meal
  • Plant young pumpkin plants at a distance of at least 100 cm
  • Water carefully and cover with garden fleece to protect from the sheep’s cold

Their roots must not be damaged in the process, so take care with them. Since pumpkins take up a lot of space, there should be no other plants within a radius of about 1 to 2 m².

Use mulch

To prevent rot from moisture, cover the ground with straw or bark mulch. When the pumpkins are ready for harvest depends primarily on the variety. 

Caring for the pumpkin plants

The maintenance work is limited to regular weeding, watering and fertilizing. If you are aiming for particularly large pumpkins, limit the number of fruits per plant through targeted pruning. Experienced hobby gardeners do not leave pollination to chance if they want to grow a certain type of pumpkin. In a few simple steps a selected female flower is dusted with the male counterpart and tied with gauze.

Tips and tricks

Pumpkin and corn make a brilliant plant neighborhood. The tall maize plants serve as a natural climbing aid for pumpkin tendrils. At the same time, corn acts as an effective windbreak, while pumpkin reduces soil erosion.

How to grow pumpkins: growing the giants

Giant pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) represent a plant species of their own within the cucurbit family that is primarily about one thing: size. Every year you read about record pumpkins and new world records in the vegetable patch . We have summarized for you how you can grow and breed your own giant pumpkin – including tricks from the record gardeners.

The seeds are the alpha and omega of successfully growing giant pumpkins. Make sure that you only use genuine Cucurbita maxima seeds . Tip: Most of the record pumpkins in recent years are representatives of the pumpkin variety ‘Atlantic Giant’. You can get the seeds of giant pumpkins online, in specialist shops, at auctions or in swap sites. But be careful: the seeds of winning pumpkins are expensive!

Incidentally, record gardeners recommend a germ test beforehand: Put the seeds of your giant pumpkins in cold water for six to seven hours. Only seeds that rise and swim above are capable of germination.

The American giant pumpkin Cucurbita maxima ‘Atlantic Giant’ does not bear its name for nothing: it makes the largest pumpkins. Even hobby gardeners often achieve yields with this variety that have an average weight of between 50 and 100 kilograms. The proud planting distance in the vegetable patch is at least 2 x 2 meters. The classic among the competition pumpkins can be grown worldwide and can withstand even cooler temperatures. The pumpkin is also characterized by its fine pulp without fibers. ‘Atlantic Giant’ is very durable and can be stored for up to a year.about:blank

Growing giant pumpkins

If you want to grow a giant pumpkin, you have to ensure a very warm environment and high humidity in the beginning. The sowing takes place between February and April. A preculture of three to four weeks has proven its worth with the record pumpkins – although direct sowing outdoors after the frosts have finished also possible. A heated greenhouse is ideal. The cultivation can also take place under glass or foil on the windowsill. Giant pumpkins root best when the soil is kept at a constant 20 degrees Celsius (day and night!). To ensure this, the room temperature must be between 23 and 25 degrees Celsius. If the first cotyledons appear, the seedling can be accustomed to a normal environment bit by bit by lifting the hood a little longer each day.

Giant pumpkin seedlings are slowly accustomed to the outside climate before they are planted out

When the first “real” leaves appear next to the cotyledons, the giant pumpkin can move into the bed. Here, too, record gardeners advise slowly getting the plants used to the new climate. When growing giant pumpkins, always choose a sheltered, but airy place in the garden. Although the plants need a lot of light, they should not be exposed to too much direct sunlight – a shady location is better. The soil should be enriched with nutrients in the form of organic fertilizer before planting : compost or manure is perfect. The recommended pH is between 6.5 and 6.8.

Keep a minimum distance of 2 x 2 meters when planting: the smaller the distance, the smaller the later fruits and the higher the susceptibility to fungal diseases and Co. The harvest time then begins in September and lasts until October / November.

Maintenance tricks of the record gardeners

Record gardeners spare no effort to ensure that their giant pumpkins thrive optimally. Whether water or nutrients: the giant pumpkin needs a lot of everything. Record gardeners therefore often plant it directly on or next to the compost heap. There is plenty of watering, sometimes several times a day.

Since the plants are very sensitive to frost, you should always have a fleece cover or something similar. As soon as flowers have formed, however, the cover must be removed, otherwise there will be no pollination by insects. Most of the record gardeners pollinate by hand anyway.

For a giant pumpkin to reach such record sizes, it takes some care

Giant pumpkins are extremely heavy eaters that are primarily dependent on minerals such as potassium and phosphorus. In addition to the organic fertilizers mentioned, many also rely on regular doses of plant manure, made from nettles or comfrey. When it comes to the soil, record gardeners leave little to chance: They determine the exact composition with the help of soil samples and then optimize them using secret recipes.

Once the fruits have reached a diameter of about 30 centimeters, the giant pumpkins should be placed on a surface to protect them from pests or rotten spots. You use straw, a wooden board or a plastic pad. Record gardeners usually choose black plastic sheeting: they increase the soil temperature. Also, always keep your giant pumpkins free of weeds. The important thing is that you pull it out by hand and not rake it. So you don’t run the risk of damaging the roots.

For particularly large fruits, it has proven useful to only leave the strongest plants. As the giant pumpkins develop, only the largest fruit is allowed to remain – all of the others are removed so they don’t deprive the potential winner of nutrients.