Growing Pumpkins:
How to Grow Pumpkins Organically

Growing pumpkins is relatively easy as long as they have plenty of light, very rich soil and lots of water.

With a little luck and the following pumpkin growing tips, you’ll have plenty of pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns and that favorite fall treat, pumpkin pie. They also make great soups and tasty toasted seeds.

Growing Pumpkins: Plant Snapshot (Curcurbita pepo)

Growing Pumpkins
  • Family: Cucurbitaceae (Gourd family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – Ready to harvest about 100 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Baby Bear, Rouge vif D’Etampes, Ghost Rider
  • Cold tolerance: Half Hardy – Will survive light frosts. Seeds germinate at low soil temperatures and can be planted 2 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C)
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Curcurbits, courgettes, marrows
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Corn, Eggplant, Marigold, Nasturtium, Onion family, Radish
    • Avoid: Potato
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Growing Pumpkins: Planting the Seed

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You can start pumpkins indoors from seed or purchase pumpkin seedlings at your local nursery or garden center. They are a summer squash and therefore require long, warm days for ideal growth, so don’t plant outside until after the last frost has passed.

Pumpkins need a large site that receives full sun and has light, rich soil with good drainage. Pumpkin roots and vines can grow and spread up to 15 feet, so plan accordingly. Allow around five feet between plants for growing room.

Pumpkins’ size also requires a lot of nutrients, so be sure to use plenty of compost in their garden spot.

Snapshot: Planting Pumpkins

  • Planting depth: about 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 18 to 24 inches (45.7 to 61cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 70 to 90 degrees F (21.1to 32.2 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 5 to 10 days
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Pumpking Growing Tips: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Once your pumpkin seedlings are in the ground, you will want to water them deeply whenever the soil gets dry. But do not get water on the pumpkin leaves as this can cause fungal diseases.

Mulch will help the soil to retain water. Keep garden weeds at bay by hoeing the pumpkin patch as needed.

Snapshot: Growing Pumpkins

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7.0
  • Growing soil temperature: 65 to 80 degrees F (18 to 26.7 degrees C)
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Growing Pumpkins: Harvesting Time

Pumpkins that are ready to harvest will have a uniform, deep color and a hard rind. Harvest before hard frost by cutting the fruit from the vine, leaving about 3 to 4 inches of stem.

For improved keeping quality, pumpkins are best cured in a sunny setting of about 80 to 85 degrees (27 to 29 C) and a relative humidity of 80 to 85% for about 10 days.

Snapshot: Harvesting Pumpkins

  • Time to harvest: About 14 to 20 weeks after planting
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Storing Pumpkins and Freezing Pumpkins

For dry storage, after washing with soapy water and drying, cured pumpkins should be stored on wooden pallets or shelves in a cool, dry place. Arrange pumpkins in single layers so that air may freely circulate around them.

Pumpkins should not be stored on a concrete floor, nor should you keep them near apples, pears, or any other fruit that is ripening.

For freezing up to three months, choose pumpkins with good color, remove seeds, and cut into cooking-size sections. Cook pumpkin until it is soft, using your choice of methods, which could include boiling, steaming, baking, pressure cooking or microwaving. Cool, remove pumpkin meat from rind, mash, package and freeze.

Any leftover pumpkin seeds will be viable for up to 4 years.

Snapshot: Storing Pumpkins & Freezing Pumpkins

  • Storage temperature: 55 to 60 degrees F (12.7 to 15.5 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 60 to 70% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 2 to 3 months
  • Storage life (frozen): Up to 3 months
  • Seed longevity: About 4 years
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Growing Pumpkins: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Pumpkins. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Armyworms
  • Crickets
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Driedfruit beetles
  • Earwigs
  • Flea beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Leafhoppers
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Snails/slugs
  • Spider mites
  • Squash bug
  • Stink bugs
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Curly top
  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Fusarium crown and foot rot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root rot (Pythium and Phytophthora spp.)
  • Verticillium wilt
  • Viruses
  • White Mold
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Pumpkins

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