Pumpkins are easy, delicious, and decorative crops to grow in your summer garden. They are a quintessential favorite and symbol or the fall season for many. Pumpkin cultivars come in a wide array of sizes, colors, flavors, and textures which makes for some enjoyable garden diversity.
Enjoy these tips on when to plant pumpkins and to ensure a successful and plentiful pumpkin harvest check out How to Grow Pumpkins for a complete guide through the pumpkin growing season.
When to Plant Pumpkins Based on Location
The timing for when to plant pumpkin seeds depends on the climate in which you live and what you plan on using your harvest for. While many say that you can plant pumpkins from late May through July, this depends considerably on your USDA Grow Zone.
Pumpkins grow most vigorously in warm climates, so if you are seeking a fall crop, you can plant seeds in midsummer if you live in the warmest grow zones. If you live in climates where frost is a factor, it is best to plant your pumpkin seeds in late May to expect a mature fall harvest. Those who live in colder climates can also start seeds indoors to get a jump start on the growing season.
Seed packets can provide a wealth of information when determining when to plant pumpkins. Pumpkins grow much faster in hotter temperatures than they do in colder temperatures. If you live in an area where frost is prominent, we recommend calculating the best planting date based on the date of the average frost in your area. The ideal planting date for your region can be determined by subtracting the days until maturity from the back of your seed packet, from the average date of frost. On average, pumpkin plants require at least 75 to 120 frost-free days to reach maturity. Using this as your guide will ensure that your pumpkins will produce before the conclusion of the growing season.
Where to Plant Pumpkins
Pumpkins tend to grow better when they receive a large amount of sunlight. Your pumpkin patch should receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight each day, which makes a south side facing garden ideal. Since pumpkins do not tolerate frost, you can plant your crop alongside a fence or wall for added protection from the elements. It can be difficult to decide when to plant pumpkins, one great method is to calculate your average expected first frost date and count backward to ensure you have enough time for your pumpkins to reach maturity.
Planting Pumpkins in Containers
Even though pumpkins require a lot of space to spread out their vines, most varieties can be grown in containers. Just make sure you are growing them in at least a 10-gallon pot for smaller types and a whopping 25-gallon pot for larger varieties. Proper drainage of the container and placement in a sunny location is also essential.
Growing Pumpkins in Raised Beds
Raised beds are another excellent option for growing pumpkins. They keep the soil warmer than in traditional garden beds which can improve the growth of the plants. Make sure that your raised garden bed is filled with fertile organic soil that is well-draining. Dedicating an entire garden bed to your pumpkin crop is also a good idea since pumpkins can take up a lot of real estate in the garden.
Traditional Backyard Garden
Backyard gardens provide plentiful space in most cases for vining pumpkin plants to thrive. If planting in a backyard garden, be sure to work the soil well and amend the soil with well-decomposed compost or manure. Adequate drainage is very important for pumpkins as well, so avoid low lying areas when planting.
Ideal Soil Composition and pH
Pumpkins grow best in rich, well-draining soil that ranges from 5.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale. You can obtain a simple soil test kit from your local garden center and amend your soil accordingly, aiming for an ideal 6.5 pH.
Pumpkins are a heavy-feeding crop, so be sure to amend the soil with plenty of organic material like well-decomposed compost and manure and work the soil thoroughly. You can also preemptively add some organic fertilizer to the soil as you prepare your garden bed for planting your pumpkins.
How and When to Plant Pumpkins
After working the soil, pile the dirt into well-spaced mounds. The mounds will help to ensure proper soil drainage, while also protecting pumpkin plants from rot. If you started your pumpkin seeds indoors, harden your plants by transitioning them to the outdoors for at least one week before planting in the ground. Then plant each pumpkin plant so that the entire root ball is covered
If directly sowing seeds, insert four to six seeds about one inch deep into the top of the soil mounds. If you’re not sure when to plant pumpkins, a good rule of thumb is that all seeds and plants should be planted after any risk of frost has passed and when the soil has reached a median temperature of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds that are directly sown should germinate and sprout up within ten days. When the seedlings sprout two to three leaves, thin out your pumpkin plants to two plants per hill. Water pumpkin plants and regularly throughout the growing season.
Pumpkins grow on very large vines, and while there are some more compact varieties available for planting, space is a large consideration. Different varieties of pumpkin plants have varied spacing needs. They can range from needing as little as 2 feet to as much as 6 to 8 feet between them. Overall, fully mature pumpkin plants can exceed 50 square feet of garden space, depending on the variety. So, it is vital to check your seed packets recommended spacing requirements, as pumpkins traditionally need plenty of elbow room to spread out in the garden—plan to plant at least six feet apart in rows that are at least 3 feet apart.