Pumpkins are best grown from seed indoors, but may be sown later outdoors in a sheltered spot.
For earlier crops or in cold regions sow seeds indoors on their side 1cm (0.5in) deep in 7.5cm (3in) pots of compost from mid- to late April at 18-21°C (65-70°F).
If you don’t have the space to raise pumpkin seedlings, garden centres often sell young plants.
Sow directly outdoors where you want your plants to grow. Sow two or three seeds per planting hole 3cm (1in) deep in late May or early June. Cover with cloches, jars or plastic. Leave this in place for two weeks, or as long as possible, after germination. Thin the seedlings, leaving the strongest one to grown on.
Pumpkins need a sunny position, moisture-retentive soil and shelter from cold wind.
Two weeks before planting or sowing seed outdoors, make individual planting pockets 1.8m (6ft) apart. Do this by making a hole about a spade’s depth and width. Backfill with a mixture of compost or well-rotted manure and soil. Sprinkle a general-purpose fertiliser over the soil.
Although it will be hard to keep up with their watering requirements, you can also grow pumpkins in growbags or containers (at least 45cm/18in wide). Plant one or two per growbag, or one per container.
In late May, start hardening off (acclimatising) indoor-raised young plants. Do this by moving them into a coldframe for a week. If you don’t have a coldframe, move plants outdoors during the day, then bring them in at night for a week. The following week, leave them out in a sheltered spot all day and night. Plant into your planting pocket in early June when the risk of frost has passed.
Pumpkin plants need plenty of water. To make watering easier, sink a 15cm (6in) pot alongside the plants when planting out. Water into this to help ensure the water goes right down to the roots and does not sit around the neck of the plant, which can lead to rotting.
Feed every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser such as tomato feed once the first fruits start to swell.
The fruit of pumpkins should be supported off the soil on a piece of tile or glass.
Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.
Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.
More info on Powdery Mildew
No fruit, or fruit rotting when very small: This is a physiological problem, caused by the growing conditions, not a pest or disease. It is a problem when the weather in early summer is cool and this causes inadequate pollination.
Remedy: This is usually a temporary problem and once the weather starts to improve, so will pollination. You can try to hand-pollinate plants yourself by removing a male flower (no swelling at their base) and brushing the central parts against the centre of a female flower (female flowers have a swelling at the base – this is the beginning of the fruit). But this is a bit of a hassle, and normally the plant will correct this problem itself.
More info on No fruit, or fruit rotting when very small
Grey mould: Can be a problem in densely sown crops, especially ‘cut and come again’ veg crops. Seedlings suddenly collapse. This is a problem normally in wet conditions, and is usually worse on weak or damaged plants. The mould usually enters through a wound but, under the right conditions, even healthy plants will be infected. You will see fuzzy grey mould on affected buds, leaves, flowers or fruit. Infected plant parts eventually shrivel and die.
Remedy: Sow thinly and when conditions are warm. Hygiene is very important in preventing the spread of grey mould. If you see it, remove the infected material and destroy. Grey mould is encouraged by overcrowding, so make sure you plant your seedlings, plants and squashes at the appropriate distance apart.
More info on Grey mould
Let the fruit mature and colour on the plant before harvesting. Protect from any early frost.
After harvesting, allow their skins to harden (cure) in the sun. Curing helps prolong storage.
Pumpkin Cake: You can use pretty much any kind of pumpkin or squash for this cake. It’s a delicious, autumnal alternative to carrot cake.
A large pumpkin with red-orange skin. Excellent for pies, shows, and as a giant vegetable.
Jack Be Little:
Mini-pumpkins that can be held in one hand. Very prolific and ornamental.
‘Rouge Vif d’Etamps’:A really stunning pumpkin with red, ribbed skin and moist orange flesh. Growth is vigorous and trailing.
‘Becky’:A classic orange medium-sized Halloween pumpkin perfect for carving. Prolific and high yielding.