Pumpkins are a warm season crop believed to be native to North America.
They grow best in the summer months with temperatures in the low to middle 80s. California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana are the top states for growing pumpkins.
It is estimated that around a billion and a half pounds of pumpkins are produced every year.
If your location isn't on the above list, don't worry; there are varieties of pumpkin that will grow well in almost every climate zone and area.
Vegetable Gardening Tips for Growing Pumpkins
If you have a gardening area that receives only a couple hours of sunlight a day, most vegetables would not thrive there but you might take a gamble with growing pumpkins.
Some young gardeners and those young at heart like to scratch their initials on a pumpkin. The time to do so is when the pumpkin is nearly full grown but still green. The scratches will heal quickly at that stage and leave permanent markings on the pumpkin skin.
Pumpkins need an adequate supply of food to sustain them during their long growing period.
To prepare the soil for planting pumpkin seeds, begin digging a hole about two feet across and 18 inches deep for each pumpkin hill.
Fill the hole with equal parts of compost or manure and soil.
Add a handful of slow-release fertilizer.
The well-prepared site ensures the plants a steady supply of nutrients over their four month growth span.
Mound the soil mixture into a hill about four inches tall in the center, with hills about ten feet apart to allow for the plant's long vines.
Sow six seeds in a circle on each hill, leaving about six inches between them.
Push each seed into the soil about one inch deep. In a week or so, most of the seeds will have germinated.
Save only the two best and remove the rest because the weaker ones do not take well to transplanting.
If you neglect the thinning process, you will have six plants worth of foliage all summer long and not as much as a taste of pumpkin pie in the fall!
Pitfalls When Planting Pumpkins
Heavy rains and early frost are two of the weather events that can prevent pumpkins from producing a bumper crop in your vegetable garden.
Area flooding can soak a field and rot the pumpkin seeds. The seeds will have to be replanted, which can leave a gardener high and dry for the mid-fall harvest.
How to Grow Pumpkins for Pies and Jack O'Lanterns
Most pumpkins grown are carved up to make jack o' lanterns or are used to make pumpkin pies. One variety of pumpkin is very good for both purposes.
Lumina PVP pumpkins are 10 to 12 pound fruits ready for harvesting in 90 days. The growing pumpkins are an eerie white color and perfect for carving. Its bright orange flesh makes great tasting pies.
Growing pumpkins is a great idea for kicking off the new year gardening season with the harvest timed just right for decorating your holiday table with the festive fruits from Halloween through Thanksgiving.
Facts about Growing Giant Pumpkins
In October 2009, the record for growing giant-sized pumpkins was broken by a pumpkin grown in Ohio that weighed 1, 725 pounds! The hugest fruit to date is a variety known as Dill's Atlantic Giant that grows in 120 days.
The giant variety was developed from more standard-sized stock by Howard Dill from Nova Scotia in the early 1970s. In the past, it took years of saving seeds from the largest pumpkins to gradually grow giant sized pumpkins in the home garden.
However, since the overgrown variety was created we have quickly learned how to grow pumpkins that are bigger and bigger.
You may not be interested in growing a one-ton pumpkin, but growing a crop of normal-sized pumpkins can be a lot of fun, and can add some extra goodness to your winter pantry! Growing pumpkins is very easy if you have some space in your garden for them to sprawl.