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How Do I Grow a Pumpkin?

Pumpkin flowers are typically pollinated by honeybees.
Pumpkins.
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  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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Growing a pumpkin can be a fun choice for a beginning gardener or young children who are learning about plants. There are many types of pumpkins, and most are relatively easy to grow. There are several tips and strategies to help the beginning grower to create a large pumpkin to use as a jack-o'-lantern, or several small pumpkins for use in pies. Among the best tips for growing a pumpkin are to choose a sunny spot for planting, plant the seedling in early summer, mount the soil around the seedling and provide the plant with the proper amount of water.

Planting

A pumpkin plant requires lots of sun and good soil for best results. Choose a sunny spot in your yard and consider using a little bit of organic compost to fill the hole after you dig. You also should choose whether to grow the plant from a seed or from a seedling, which is easier. If you want to start with seeds, they should be started inside before being transferred to the growing site. You should allow the seedling to become 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) tall before you plant it.

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Pumpkin seedlings usually can be purchased in gardening stores and sometimes in hardware stores that have gardening departments. Planting should be done in early summer for a good yield by early fall. There are many pumpkin varieties to consider, and it is best to take the advice of the gardening department on which plants are most successful in your area. In most cases, if you are planting pumpkins just to use in pies, the small, dense sugar pumpkin variety is preferred.

The next step is to mound the soil. You should make a small hill about 2 inches (5.1 cm) in height. This gives the plant more space to expand its roots and discourages the development mildew, which can destroy the growing pumpkin. The seedling should be inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) into the mound.

If you are planting more than one seedling, they should be separated by at least 1 foot (30.5 cm), but not much farther than that. Honeybees typically pollinate the plants' flowers to produce pumpkins, but they also can be pollinated by hand if necessary. The chance of pollination by bees increases with more planted seedlings. Avoid using a pesticide such as malathion in your garden, because it can kill honeybees and reduce the bee population.

Watering

Pumpkins require watering every few days, but you should not over-water the plant. Unless the weather is particularly hot and the leaves seemed withered, the plant should receive water no more than every other day. The plant will quickly spread in the hot sun, and flowers typically will appear within four to six weeks, depending on the size of the initial seedling.

Thinning the Crop

If you are trying to grow a large pumpkin, you should eliminate all but one of the small fruits when they develop. Choose the best-looking pumpkin to remain, and neatly trim off its companions. Be sure to inspect the vine of the pumpkin that you intend to keep, and choose the one that is likely to receive the most sun. If the vine looks unhealthy, choose a different pumpkin. Smaller varieties do not have to be trimmed off, because they can produce four or five pumpkins on a single plant and occasionally produce as many as a dozen.

Harvesting

After you have trimmed off the excess pumpkins, the only task left is to continue watering the plant until the pumpkin has developed to the size and color you want. You can pick green pumpkins, because after being removed from the vine, they will become orange quickly. Smaller varieties will turn orange more quickly and are ready to pick after they are orange. After a pumpkin is picked, the hard shell can keep it good for several weeks or months. It is better to pick pumpkins earlier if your area receives significant amounts of rain in the fall, because they will begin to mold and rot if they are left on the vine.

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anon249619
Post 47

I got lots of great pumpkins. They all turned out great. I did nothing to them but plant and water them. I got 36 pumpkins to sell and make pies with.

anon247141
Post 46

I have no female flowers after three months of the males' first appearing. On any given day, I will have 20-plus male flowers and no females, across three main plants that are 20-plus feet long. I check most mornings for the female flowers so I can pollinate. But there are no females to pollinate. Any thoughts? --John, Sydney

anon210928
Post 45

I bought a pumpkin plant from the local garden centre, didn't say what variety it was. The male flowers came first and then female ones appeared. I pollinated the flowers myself and then a pumpkin grew, and it got to the size of a large orange but when I went to check it was covered in moldy spots and was very soft.

So I now have a crazy plant with no pumpkins. Anyone know what happened? Too much water? Not enough sunlight. The leaves did cover the pumpkin does it need direct sunlight. Boo-hoo.

Whatsthebuzz
Post 44

After all of the problems we had to start with, I now have five pumpkins growing, ranging from the size of a baseball, to the size of a large grapefruit. Do you think they have time to become jack-o-lantern sized by October? And, they're yellow.

I know it takes time for them to turn orange and get a thicker skin, and I know you should really pinch off all but one or two, but this early in the game, I'm afraid to do that. I have two vines with only one pumpkin each, and one really large vine with three. When is it safe to remove the smaller ones?

Hypothetically, if it's October and they haven't turned orange, if I remove the pumpkin will it turn orange, or stay the way it is? I know, you can tell I'm new at this but it *is* fun. I'm learning a lot and so is my little girl, so it's worth it but hey, I have to learn from someone who knows!

Whatsthebuzz
Post 43

@braddqq: I am pollinating in the morning, but just so you know, I think I have one that's actually growing! I know, it's a small victory! I measured my longest vine: 21 1/3 feet and growing! I know I can cut it back but the problem is, the viable pumpkin is at about the 20 foot mark. I don't care if it grows to a giant size. I'll be happy if it's just a darn pumpkin, but I have pollinated two others (one on each of the other two vines) and I hope they work, because they're only out about seven feet on each vine, so maybe if they survive, they'll grow to at least an average size.

I am worried about one of them because I pollinated it before the flower completely opened. It didn't look like it was going to open in time before I had to go to work so I kind of pushed the paint brush through the opening and wobbled it around in there. I hope it works but I won't be surprised if it doesn't. Thank you for answering me, by the way!

braddqq
Post 42

@Whatsthebuzz: Are you by any chance pollinating later in the day versus first thing in the morning? The life of one of those blossoms in terms of fertilization windows is amazingly short - sometimes under 8 hours.

I've hand pollinated many pumpkins, and my success rate is about 95 percent, so it shouldn't take too much luck. However, I do have a vine right now where the female pumpkins are dying off before blossoming. All I can tell you is this:

1) It was the second plant in an area where there was already an existing pumpkin plant. I have a feeling the roots of the larger/existing one overwhelmed the new one.

2) The soil, plant food, amount of water, sunlight is exactly the same for both. So we can count one of those out, for me at least.

I think it's just crowded, and when the roots can't grow, there's not enough energy for female flowers.

Unfortunately if it's not because you are pollinating too late in the day, I'm not sure what else you can do here given as you indicated, it's already August. However if it stays hot for longer than normal, you might be able to still have time.

Whatsthebuzz
Post 41

I have three pumpkin plants. One is at least 14 ft. long and the others are a good 9 or 10. I've gotten a few female blossoms. A couple died before they opened, and I tried to fertilize three so far with the male blossoms on two of them, and a paint brush on the other. The ones I pollinated using the male both withered and died. I'm not sure about the paintbrush one yet, but it's early Aug. and I have no actual pumpkins. Is this normal?

Also, the females are growing at the far end of my vines. I'd like to prune the darn things because they're crawling all over, but I don't want to cut off the only baby females I've got. What advice can you give this novice because I'd like my four year old to get at least one pumpkin from this gardening experience.

braddqq
Post 40

mccallion1: there are actually a whole slew of reasons why your pumpkins aren't growing. Since I don't know how experienced you are, I just have to ask:

1) Are you sure pumpkins *are* growing, but just aren't getting fertilized for some reason (even though you have bees, sometimes they need a little manual help)? Are you seeing female flowers with a little pea-sized bulb underneath (they are usually only about an inch from the vine)?

2) If you aren't getting any female flowers, some reasons are: Too much or too little fertilizer, too much or to little sun, too much or too little water, poor soil nutrients, poor PH levels, bad luck.

Vine isn't long *enough*. I start seeing female flowers after the vine is around 5-6 feet. They usually come up last.

I have two vines, which combined, had around 10 females. Eight died without even getting close to blossoming, one died from not being fertilized (we were out of town), and one grew into a nice little pumpkin So you see, it's not easy. Try switching some things up like more/less watering, or more/less fertilizer, to see what happens.

mccallion1
Post 39

I am growing pumpkins for the first time this year with my kids, and the vines are growing everywhere and are starting take over. I have lots of flowers and I have bees on them pollinating them but I still don't have any pumpkins. What am I doing wrong? Why am I not getting any pumpkins? Please help.

anon185120
Post 37

I have never had luck with pumpkins, but this year I grew a very healthy looking start, which I just moved into the actual raised garden, only one but I hope it works.

Someone said a vine can grow more than one pumpkin? and I will also take the information about pollination. We have plenty of bees, but I do not see them around the garden which has small rows of leeks, scallions, lettuce, squash, and chive and dill.

I am living in a city but have big side yard in which I was having a container garden in but the plants all went nuts and grew so I had to develop a place to move them since large containers are so expensive.

I do have an idea for those who are container gardeners. A few years ago I was given about 15 large planters made of tires. The person left the metal center in and slit the tires close to one side of the metal center and flipped in inside out, thus making a wonderful planter with a heavy base, and slightly shallow sides but pretty deep center. They are perfect for flowers, or a center deep rooting veggie and shallow veggies around the sides. they even cut them scalloped around the edges to make them prettier. a great recycling idea for tires.

shazza1970
Post 36

Thanks so much for the info. Had no idea about male/female flowers but watch out tomorrow morning lol. This is my first time growing and was so proud when the seeds from another fruit actually came up in the garden. Just wondering if ants on the flowers can affect the way they grow?

anon151921
Post 34

my pumpkin plant grows very well but no flower. what should i do?

anon114722
Post 32

Difference between male and female plants (since I haven't read that anyone posted it for all those who asked): If you look inside the flower, the male flower will have a little pollinator pollinator stem (sorry I don't know what they are properly called, lol) and the female flower will have like four or five little pollinator stems in them. The ball that grows under the female flower is your pumpkin.

If I notice I have lots of flowers week after week, and the pumpkins don't grow, I pollinate them myself by taking off a male flower and rubbing the center of the male flower on the centre of the female to pollinate them myself. Be careful not to destroy the female, and once done, just toss the male. (Sometimes the bees don't pollinate it enough.)

anon113915
Post 31

Would my pumpkin stay alive longer if I soak it in water every once in a while? Would the vine still soak up water even though it's been cut?

anon112992
Post 30

The way to tell the difference between the male and female is as follows: The male flowers grow at the end of a long stem, and usually there is more of them. The female grows next to the vine and looks like she is sitting on her throne (like a round ball). Good luck.

anon112736
Post 29

my pumpkin is about the size of a football but still green and growing on its side, should I be turning the pumpkin so it doesn't have a flat side and shouldn't it be orange by now?

anon111494
Post 28

I honestly did nothing to my pumpkin plants but fertilize a few flowers by hand and let the bees do the rest. I harvested 24 pumpkins tonight! Some are still green and they will turn orange. The flowers start as a male then die after one day and turn into a female the next. The bees gather the pollen then come back and fertilize. In case anyone was wondering, I did not thin or use plant food either, just let them do their thing!

anon108106
Post 27

I am in the UK (Norfolk) and have planted around four pumpkin plants to carve pumpkins for the kids at halloween. i have many flowers but they are all male which would explain why i have yet to see a pumpkin. is this common and do i have to just give up and dig them all up and try again next year with my fingers crossed?

anon102737
Post 26

I'm having great success growing pumpkins this year--lots of big pumpkins on numerous vines. One is already solid orange and it is only early August. Should I pick it or let it be? Will it continue to grow once it has turned color? I thought pumpkins only turned color when the nights began to be cool in the fall. Writing from midcoast Maine.

anon100659
Post 25

I have three pumpkin plants growing tons of flowers(males and females), but no fruit. I have been doing all the pollinating by hand, because I haven't noticed any bees around. Does anyone know why this may be happening?

anon98629
Post 24

I planted a lot of pumpkins thinking some of them wouldn't come up. Then I was told that I have to get rid of the plants that won't produce pumpkins. I don't know which ones they would be. I was told that some small fruit would grow and then die, and then grow and die again. How do I know which plants these are before this happens? --Mikki

anon93702
Post 23

Hi 92875: Have you tried spraying miracle-gro or adding plant food to the roots of the plant? Another possibility is bugs or animals snacking on the plant.

Just some ideas.

anon92875
Post 22

I have a pumpkin plant that grew all by itself. It is in the middle of my front yard it keeps flowering and growing. However, I never get any fruit. How do I tell the difference between a male and a female plant? My grandkids were the first ones to notice it growing. They check it every week end looking (but not touching) for pumpkins. Any help would be appreciated. --Darlene

anon91515
Post 21

I have been growing pumpkins and selling them to the public for six years now. Every farm is different on when you need to plant your pumpkins. if your farm is in the south, the later you plant. My farm is in rural Kentucky and my goal for planting is Fathers Day.

anon91505
Post 20

What time of year should I plant my pumpkins? I want to have them next september but I don't know if I can do that. Can you plant them and have them grow to the right size by that time?

anon79622
Post 19

my pumpkins are inside and grow amazingly but there are only flowers. Some get a big bud thing on the bottom of the flower and what is the difference between the female and male? Please post back.

anon78945
Post 18

i have been growing pumpkin plants one at a time for six years and that is rubbish about you need two. i only failed once when i first tried but after that pumpkins galore.

anon45498
Post 17

The reason your pumpkins are only getting to be about the size of a golf ball/baseball is because they are not getting pollinated by the male pumpkin flowers. You need to snip off one of the males and rub the pollen onto a female flower while it is open (early in the morning is the best time for this). Once it becomes pollinated it begins to grow.

anon44737
Post 16

I have two pumpkins growing and still green but small and I would like to know when is the last month before winter when they be will ready. I would also like to know will they be ready for the month of October.

anon42750
Post 15

I have a question. I have around 6 plants that have taken over my back yard. It is now August and two pumpkins are completely orange and I have around ten more the size of basketballs that are green. and even more smaller ones the size of softballs and baseballs. Should I pick the two orange ones now or let them grow?

anon42479
Post 14

My pumpkin plant is growing strong with lots of big orange flowers that I see at least two bees every morning pollinating. I have had at least two small pumpkins try to grow but they have shriveled up and fell off. I have no pumpkins, just big orange flowers. What am I doing wrong or what can I do to help?

braddqq
Post 13

Holly, I've heard that the farther away from the plant the better - but I don't want to be the one that decides the pumpkin's fate!

On a side note, I had a strange thing happen with my pumpkin plant this year. There were about 25 total flowers - pretty good right? Except, *all* were female! All were tiny pumpkins, and there were *zero* males to pollenate. Has anyone ever heard of this? Was a shame to see all these little pumpkins die one after another. Sounds like an odd fluke.

anon41790
Post 12

how long do pumpkins last once they are off the vine? my pumpkins are orange and two of them are cut off and I am hoping that they are good for Halloween.

anon39527
Post 11

Hi! We accidentally left our pumpkins outside through the winter, and surprise! We now have a pumpkin garden! My question is what can I use to protect them so that the small animals do not try to eat them, like the squirrels! Besides a fence, I had heard there is something we could spray on them, like a salad dressing or something? Look forward to your reply! -Stenuta18

anon38294
Post 10

Hi, I live in the UK so we don’t rely on the bees. If you get a female flower and a male flower, snip the male off, pull the petals of and then pollinate the female with the male, to make sure. All the best-- Malc—Rotherham - U.K.

anon35154
Post 9

We have our pumpkin plant and it is spreading beautifully. However, the small pumpkins that have started seem to rot right away, they are only about the size of a golf ball or smaller. Why does this happen? Michelle J - reno nv

Zola
Post 8

I have had a poor season with not many female flowers per plant. One plant had just one female but over 10 male flowers. Is there any way to stimulate the growth of female flowers?

anon18217
Post 7

This is my first season growing pumpkins. We planted 5 jumbo seeds in 5 different mounds. Not sure they would all grow, Well they did! My husband and I continued to weed out the smallest of the vines until we were down to 3 plants. The seeds were planted middle of May and have been doing GREAT! We know have 24 pumpkins. I was reading a comment above that said the gentleman had never heard of a pumpkin growing so close to the main plant, Well our biggest pumpkin grew basically straight from the main vine where the seed was planted. So close I was unable to turn the pumpkin, if I tried to move it it would surely snap off. Anyways, I do have a question. The vines have done so much growing they are a good 30 ft from where I planted them. I have carefully untangled the vines and lined them to grow straight out. The problem may be that I used miracle grow (fr vegtables) n them. The majority of my pumpkins are hidden under the thick LARGE leaves. It is now middle of Sept and was wondering if I need to trim away some of the leaves so the pumpkins get more sunlight and are able to turn orange faster. Less than half of the ones hidden under the leaves are turning orange, they are just now starting to get a darker green and lines. The ones in the sun turned orange much faster. It is getting a bit cooler and rain has been more days lately. I live in Omaha, NE and it is starting to get cool at nights. I don't want them to get moldy. Thanks for ANY help! This whole summer has been a blast and has been so exciting! Amy Nobles

braddqq
Post 6

100% percent not true. You pollinate the female flower, and let it be - then the pumpkin grows. Sure the flower will fall off anyway, but it has nothing to do with whether it grows or not.

braddqq
Post 5

I don't know - I've heard that the best pumpkins grow on the offshoot vines (not the main vine), and I never heard of one so close to the main plant, but I wouldn't pinch it off... who knows you might not get another female flower in a while, and it's already August! I'd let it grow.

anon16582
Post 4

I was wondering a friend of mine told me that when your pumpkin gets a bloom on it to pick it or your pumpkin will not grow is this true?

WGwriter
Post 3

Brad, Thanks for the nice comments. I wonder if it depends on the pumpkin plant type. The first year I tried, all I got was flowers, even though there are plenty of bees about to do the pollination. The next year, we planted two and Voila! pumpkins. Tricia

braddqq
Post 2

Great article, thank you so much for posting, however one part is inaccurate. You do _not_ need two pumpkin plants to grow a pumpkin. This actually steered me the wrong way for an entire afternoon because I was looking for another pumpkin plant of the same type and age since I became worried my plant won't grow pumpkins. Turns out, pumpkin plants have BOTH male and female flowers, so all it needs is itself! My pumpkin is growing as we speak and I only had one plant. So remember, only one plant is necessary!!! (although the more plants you have, the more likely a bee will come pollinate...)

holly88
Post 1

our pumpkins have a small pumpkin and flower about an inch from the main plant. Should this one be pinched off? Looks like it is too close to the main plant. So far it is the only one on the plant.

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