Growing Pumpkins

Pumpkins cannot survive frost,
so be sure you harvest your crop
before the weather turns.

Pumpkins are a fun, healthy, and easy-to-grow addition your vegetable garden -- as long as you have room for them. Pumpkins need a long growing season. They will grow almost anywhere in the United States, but in cooler areas you'll get better results with a smaller variety. Pumpkins are sensitive to cold soil and frost.

Plant them from seed two to three weeks after the average date of last frost, when the soil has warmed up. Bush varieties can be grown if space is limited. Pumpkins prefer well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Too much fertilizer encourages the growth of vines rather than the production of fruit.

Plant seeds directly in the garden in inverted hills six feet apart. Plant several seeds per hill and thin to one plant in each hill. Thin seedlings at soil level to avoid disturbing the roots of the chosen survivor. Pumpkins need plenty of water to keep the fruit growing steadily.

Harvesting Pumpkins

The time from planting to harvest is 95 to 120 days. Leave the pumpkins on the vine as long as possible before frost. They become soft after freezing. Cut off the pumpkin with one or two inches of stem.

Types of Pumpkins
  • Bushkin, harvest at 95 days, produces bright orange, 10-pound fruit; it is good for limited space.
  • Jack Be Little, harvest at 95 days, produces 3-inch fruit.
  • Jack-O-Lantern, harvest at 110 days, has 10-inch, bright orange fruit.
  • Big Max, harvest at 120 days, has reddish pink skin and can weigh up to 100 pounds.
  • Jarradale, harvest at 97 days, has gray-white skin and sweet yellow flesh.
Pumpkins are practically synonymous with comfort food. In the next section, we'll teach you how to select and serve pumpkins.

Want even more information about pumpkins? Try these links:
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin: The jack-o'-lantern is a quintessential element of Halloween celebrations. Learn about the basic carving tools and techniques.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.