Grow Your Own

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are great fun to grow with children. They are easy to cultivate, but need a sunny position, plenty of water and shelter from cold winds. One of the finest sights of autumn is colourful pumpkins ripening in the sun. Once harvested, pumpkins can be used in delicious soup and for roasting.
 

Pumpkin

Sow

Pumpkins are best grown from seed indoors, but may be sown later outdoors in a sheltered spot.

Sow indoors

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 outdoors

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.

Grow

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.

Common problems

Powdery Mildew

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

Grey mould: A usually grey, fuzzy fungal growth which can begin as pale or discoloured patches. Grey mould ( botrytis) is a common disease especially in damp or humid conditions. Spores enter plants via damaged tissue, wounds or open flowers. Mould can also damage ripening fruit such as strawberries. Black resting spores survive over winter.

Remedy: Remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected. Cut out infected areas into healthy tissue and clear up infected debris. In greenhouses, reduce humidity by ventilating and avoid overcrowding of young plants and seedlings.

More info on Grey mould

Harvesting

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.

Recipes

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.

Varieties

‘Atlantic Giant’:

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.


Buy pumpkins

Do now

  • Water
  • Weed
  •  Start feeding

Month by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Plant out
Harvest

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