As you’ve visited pumpkin patches, you may have wondered how hard it would be to start your own. Pumpkins have so many uses from cooking to porch décor. Wouldn’t it be great to just have a supply of them in your backyard? With a little hard work and knowledge, you can learn how to start a pumpkin patch and grow your own pumpkins.
Keep reading to learn how to grow a pumpkin patch and have the best fall yet!
Select a Growing Site
You can’t grow pumpkins without a place to put your pumpkin patch! When considering where to start your pumpkin patch, you need to think of the size of space you have and the location.
Pumpkins take up more room than any other vegetable. Certain pumpkin varieties can trail up to 12 feet, and they need to be spaced at least two to five feet apart, so they don’t crowd each other. Combining several different pumpkin plants means you’re going to need serious space!
A general recommendation for growing pumpkins is that you have at least 100 square feet of garden space or about 10 square feet per plant.
For example, you’ve decided to grow six varieties of pumpkins, and you want three pumpkin plants per variety. That means you’ll have 18 plants in total. Eighteen plants multiplied by 10 square feet is 180 square feet, so you can expect to need around 180 square feet of garden space for your pumpkin patch.
Pumpkins love the sun, so you’ll need to plan your pumpkin patch in any area that receives at least six to nine hours of sun per day. Pumpkins also need good drainage, so make sure your garden isn’t in a low-lying area where water will collect.
Choosing Pumpkin Varieties
Here’s the fun part. There are so many different varieties of pumpkins with varying colors, shapes, and textures. To select which pumpkins you want to grow, think about how you’ll use the pumpkins. For porch décor, specialty varieties such as Jarrahdale, Porcelain Doll, and Blaze work great. You can also choose varieties with unique textures such as Marina Di Chioggia and Grizzly Bear.
If you just want to grow carving pumpkins, choose from jack-o-lantern varieties such as Champion, Igor, and Racer. These varieties will also create the classic pumpkin patch look with large orange pumpkins scattered throughout.
Space Needed to Grow
Not all pumpkin varieties grow the same. Some pumpkins grow from a more compact bush, while some pumpkins can trail several feet.
If you are working with a small space to grow pumpkins, choose pumpkin varieties that won’t need so much room. For example, the varieties Autumn Gold, Oz, and Edison all grow into a bush or semi-bush, so you can expect to only need about five to eight feet per plant.
Unfortunately, all the specialty seeds you’ve chosen usually won’t be lined up on the seed vestibule at the big box stores. Normally, you’ll only find two to three varieties of pumpkins there.
The best way to source seeds for your pumpkin patch is by searching an online seed distributor such as Hoss, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, or Harris Seeds. Most of these websites also have a satisfaction guarantee, so you can rest assured that you’ll get replacement seeds or a refund if your seeds don’t work out.
Now…How to Grow a Pumpkin Patch
Now that you’ve chosen the area for your pumpkin patch and bought your favorite seeds, it’s time to prepare your space and plant your seeds.
Prepare the Pumpkin Patch
As previously mentioned, pumpkins need good drainage, so make sure your soil isn’t heavy clay that will hold water. The best way to prepare your soil for pumpkins is by mixing compost into the top few inches of soil. This will also help your pumpkins grow, as they are heavy feeders and need a lot of extra nutrients.
To give your pumpkins extra protection from root rot, you can form your soil into several different hills about a foot tall to plant your seeds into. If your soil is healthy loam, you can just plant your seeds into rows, and you’ll be fine.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds
How you plant seeds in your pumpkin patch is not as important as when you plant seeds in your pumpkin patch. Plant your pumpkins too early, and they may start to rot before October. Plant your seeds too late, and the frost will get your plants before your pumpkins are ripe.
The best way to time when to plant pumpkins is by looking at the days to maturity on the seed packet. Most pumpkins need around 85 to 110 days to produce mature pumpkins. Count back from mid-September or a couple of weeks before your first anticipated frost, and that’s when you should plant your pumpkin seeds. Most of the time, it lands around mid-June or early July.
Following the recommended spacing on your specific variety’s seed packet, plant two to three seeds per hill. You can also space several seeds out in a row. Plant your seeds about an inch deep.
You’ll thin your seedlings out to one plant per hill when they are about six inches tall. This guarantees you’ll have a pumpkin plant on each hill in case one seed doesn’t germinate.
Caring for Pumpkins
Visit your pumpkin patch daily as your seedlings grow to watch for any potential pests or diseases. Pumpkin plants need lots of water, so make sure you’re watering your pumpkin patch if you’re not getting any rain.
Apply a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer to your pumpkin plants as they form foliage and vines. Switch to a fertilizer that has plenty of potassium once the plants begin to produce fruit, so your plant can focus on producing pumpkins instead of vines.
As your pumpkins grow, place something underneath the fruit such as cardboard or a paper plate to keep your pumpkins from potentially sitting in water. You can also purchase plastic cradles for your pumpkins to keep them from rotting on the ground.
It’s time to reap the rewards of all your hard work! To check if a pumpkin is ripe, look at the stem. It should be slightly brown, and the foliage of the plant should have started to die back.
You can also test the pumpkin by gently pressing your fingernail against it. If your fingernail easily leaves an indent, the pumpkin isn’t ready yet. You can also knock on the pumpkin, and it should sound hollow.
To remove the pumpkin from the vine, use a sharp knife or pruning shears to make a clean cut. Leave about six inches of stem on the pumpkin to help it store longer. And, even though it’s tempting, don’t carry the pumpkin by its stem, as it could easily break.
After you’ve harvested your pumpkin patch, it’s time to store your pumpkins. Curing pumpkins will help them stay for months. Simply place your pumpkins in a warm, sunny area, such as a porch or sunroom, for about ten days to cure them.
After you cure your pumpkins, keep them in a cool, dry place for whenever you need them. Or, display your pumpkins on your porch proudly. You grew those yourself!
Troubleshooting Common Problems
In a perfect world, your pumpkin patch would grow healthy and strong with any hiccups. Unfortunately, that’s not the case sometimes. Pumpkin plants can succumb to different pests and diseases, hindering all your hard work.
Pumpkin plants can be tricky. If you notice wilting, it could be that your pumpkin plant is underwatered, or it could mean that your pumpkin plant is rotting.
If you know the plant has been watered, check the stem where it meets the soil for any rot. If you see rot, it could mean that you have squash vine borers. Spray an insecticide at the base of the plant to get rid of these pests, or you can cut open the stem to manually remove the white grub-like pest.
The other most common problem is powdery mildew, which will give your pumpkin leaves a powdery white color. Powdery mildew is a fungal infection encouraged by high humidity, and it can cause your plant to lose its leaves. In turn, your pumpkins could get sunscald.
Apply neem oil to the plant to get rid of the fungus. To further prevent this problem, make sure your pumpkin patch gets good air circulation by following spacing recommendations.
Put Growing a Pumpkin Patch on This Year’s Garden List!
Now that you know how to grow a pumpkin patch, what are you waiting for? Pick out your seeds, and measure out your space. It’s time to grow some big, beautiful pumpkins! The more years you do it, the more you’ll learn. Before you know it, you’ll be sharing your own tips with others.
Excited for more pumpkin content? Keep learning all about pumpkin plants to become an expert on pumpkin planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!