We retired our accidental pumpkin patch in the backyard just in time for fall. I say accidental because I never planned or intended to have a pumpkin patch there. But after haphazardly throwing a pumpkin into a compost pile, I noticed some seedlings emerge in the spring (I blame lazy gardener disease). The small plants soon grew into vines that covered a space about 17 long and 8 feet wide.
It was my first time growing pumpkins and it was definitely a learning experience. So here’s what I found out about pumpkins…. They love full sun, plenty of water and they love to be pampered with nice rich compost (I'd feed them a nice dose of compost tea once and a while). I also learned that seed saving is easy. I guess I should also say I learned not to throw pumpkins with seeds into relatively shallow compost piles.
Anyway, growing your own pumpkins is not only fun, it’s cheap since you can just use seeds saved from this year’s jack-o-lantern for next year’s patch. To save the seeds simply scoop out seeds into a bucket of warm water. Let the pulp settle and pick out the seeds. Let them drain, and then dry for at least few days (I usually just set them on newspaper or a paper towel). Then store them in an envelope in the fridge till you’re ready to plant. Easy right? The rest you can bake with some sea salt, butter and garlic. Soooo good!
If you’re going to grow pumpkins make sure you have the space (some varieties require more than others so check the seed packet or Google the variety). Pumpkins come from the squash family whose members tend to be space hogs in the garden. Plant seeds in May through late June or plant transplants at the beginning of July. Most varieties will take 85-125 days to reach maturity, though some heirloom and large varieties take longer. Seeds should emerge in 7-10 days. Water deeply in the mornings to prevent fungal diseases, side dress with rich compost throughout the season and keep a look out for squash bugs, cucumber beetles and aphids. I would just scoop squash bugs/beetles into a glass of hot water and dish soap (RIP bugs), and then spray the leaves with water to get rid of aphids. Catch them early and you’ll be fine. I had the worst problem with earwigs though! They slowly ate through the skins and ruined some of our pumpkins. Jerks.
Anyway, there are plenty of varieties to choose from when it comes to pumpkins. Certain ones work better for carving, eating, etc. You might want to save the seeds from several different types or order a few packages online. See which varieties grow best for you and your family.
I will say that while pumpkins are space hogs, they are definitely well worth the space they take up. In fact, I think we’ll plant some on purpose next year.