By Heather Rhoades
When do you start growing a pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) is a question that many gardeners have. These spectacular squash are not only a fun fall decoration, but they can make several tasty treats as well. Pumpkin growing is not hard and is even a popular garden activity for a child in the garden. Let’s take a few minutes to learn a few pumpkin growing tips for starting pumpkins from seed.
When to Plant Pumpkin Seeds
Before you can grow pumpkin seeds, you need to know when to plant pumpkin seeds. When you plant your pumpkins depends on what you plant on using them for.
If you plan on making jack-o-lanterns with your pumpkins, you will want to plant your pumpkins outside after all chance of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65 F. You also need to take into account that pumpkin plants grow faster in hot climates than cold climates. This means that what month to plant pumpkin seeds changes depending on where you live. So, in cooler parts of the country, the best time when to plant pumpkin seeds is in late May and in warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins for Halloween.
If you plan on growing pumpkins as a food crop (or for a giant pumpkin contest), you can start your pumpkins indoors about 2-3 weeks before the last frost date for your area.
How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds
Starting Pumpkin Seeds Outside
When you plant pumpkin seeds outside, you need to realize that pumpkins need an incredible amount of space to grow. It is recommended that you plan on a minimum of 20 square feet being needed for each plant.
When the soil temperature is at least 65 F., you can plant your pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Mound the soil in the center of the chosen location up a bit to help the sun heat the pumpkin seeds better. The warmer the soil is, the faster the pumpkin seeds will germinate. In the mound, plant 3-5 pumpkin seeds about 1 inch deep.
Once the pumpkin seeds germinate, select 2 of the healthiest and thin out the rest.
Starting Pumpkin Seeds Indoors
In a cup or a container with holes for drainage, loosely pack some potting soil. Plant 2-4 pumpkin seeds 1 inch deep in the soil. Water the pumpkin seeds just enough so that the soil is moist but not swamped. Place the cup on a heating pad. Once seeds have germinated, thin out all but the strongest seedling. Then place the seeding and cup under a light source (bright window or fluorescent light bulb). Keeping the seedling on the heating pad will cause it to grow faster.
Once all danger of frost has passed in your area, move the pumpkin seedling to the garden. Carefully remove the pumpkin seedling from the cup. Do not disturb the roots of the plant. Place in a hole that is 1-2 inches deeper and wider than the rootball of the pumpkin plant and backfill the hole. Tap down around the pumpkin seedling and water thoroughly.
Pumpkin growing can be rewarding and fun. Take some time this your to plant pumpkin seeds in your garden.