Every year about this time, I spend too much money on pumpkins. And gourds. And oddly-shaped squash. Eventually, my husband tells me that I am not allowed to buy any more (at this point, they are usually covering every table in the house). This year, I decided to grow my own pumpkins in addition to buying a ridiculous amount from various places. Because I have a problem.
- The first thing to realize when growing pumpkins is that they take up an enormous amount of space. In general, you should allow four square feet per plant, unless you want some sort of pumpkin-y highlander “there can be only one!” scenario. And even if you do, planting them too close will limit the pumpkin’s ability to grow fruit due to overcompetition. Also, be prepared for vines to escape the garden area. Ours are climbing fences, taking over the walkway next to our house, and encroaching on the raspberry bushes.
- Smaller varieties of pumpkins, such as
“Jack Be Little” and “Baby Bear” are better for a suburban garden, as they take up a little less space and produce slightly quicker. Large Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkins are more difficult.
- “Baby Bear” pumpkins are considered one of the best miniature pumpkins, as they can be carved, and their sweet flesh classifies them as a “pie” pumpkin. Because of this, they are better for a variety of uses than either a traditional Halloween pumpkin or other miniatures.
- Pumpkins require a tremendous amount of water to grow properly, as well as rich soil. If conditions are dry where you live, you may have to water daily to produce good fruit. Mulching and using manure can also help with this, as it decreases competition by weeds, enriches the soil, and helps preserve moisture.
- Many animals find pumpkins delicious, so you will need to protect them if you hope to have any by Halloween. Growing them in raised beds with chicken wire or other fencing can help deter fuzzy pumpkin thieves.