Nothing signals the start of fall like the pumpkin patches that seem to pop up everywhere! If you’ve ever tried growing your own for Halloween or Thanksgiving, however, you know that the perfect pumpkin takes a bit of preparation and planning.
The inputs seem relatively simple: seeds, soil, sun and water. But the perfect pumpkin is more than the sum of its parts.
Seeds. Everything starts with high quality, fresh seeds. Avoid big box or discount stores that sell generic seeds (sometimes labeled as “Jack-O-Lantern” or “Pie Pumpkin”). Instead, visit your local nursery where experts can help you choose specific varieties.
Soil. Pumpkins need mineral rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. For ideal growth and maximum yield, use remineralizing rock dust in combination with an organic compost when planting seeds into the ground. You can safely reapply an all-natural soil amendment like Cascade Minerals Remineralizing Soil Booster about halfway through the growing season. Apply as a top dressing, lightly scratching the product into the surface of the soil while taking care not to damage delicate vines.
Sun. In most parts of the United States, planting season is between late May and late June. Pumpkins need warm soil and full sunshine (minimal shade) to thrive, and they are very sensitive to frost.
Water. The secret to growing healthy pumpkins is to avoid over watering. When plants start to droop, water deeply—and wait until the soil begins to dry out before watering again. Also, avoid wetting foliage by using a soaker hose or watering in the early morning (this gives leaves a chance to dry off before mildew forms).
Here are a few other interesting pumpkin facts:
- The pumpkin’s cousin is the cucumber.
- Antarctica is the only continent where pumpkins don’t grow.
- Pumpkins are 90% water.
- The first flowers on a pumpkin vine are male. Their job is to attract bees in anticipation of the opening of the female blossoms (which are identified by the tiny fruit at the bottom).
- Bees are essential for pollination, so avoid insecticides. If absolutely necessary, apply in the early evening when blossoms have closed.
- To grow larger pumpkins per vine, wait until you have 3 to 4 fruits…then pinch off any remaining flowers as they form.
- It’s never too early to start planning for next Halloween! Most pumpkins take between 85 to 125 days to mature (the exact number is on the seed packet), and need about a week after being picked to cure in the sun (to toughen their skin). Count backwards from there to arrive at the best day to plant.
When looking for a soil amendment made of volcanic basalt, look for a high-quality product that is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production. One product that meets this criteria is Cascade Minerals Remineralizing Soil Booster which is made entirely in the USA from all-natural volcanic basalt from Central Oregon.