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How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds: The Best Method for Backyard Growers

If you have an ample yard and look forward to pumpkin season every year, planting pumpkin seeds is the perfect garden activity. These traditional gourds are stunning in their variety of sizes, colors, and textures. If you’ve never grown pumpkins before, you’re in the right place to learn how to plant pumpkin seeds!

How to plant pumpkin seeds

Why Plant Pumpkin Seeds?

Pumpkins are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium. They are also delicious when baked into pies, breads, and other confections.

Aside from their culinary advantages, pumpkins are beloved for their glowing appearance around Halloween. They are the perfect gourd to bring the family together for fun crafts like pumpkin carving. Knowing how to plant pumpkin seeds allows us to enjoy all of these benefits.

1. Choosing Your Pumpkin Seeds

There are hundreds of pumpkin varieties to choose from when starting your own at-home pumpkin patch. Choose a pumpkin that appeals to your size requirements, and desires for flavor, texture, and appearance.

Pumpkins come in a lot of different types

Learn how to plant pumpkin seeds well-suited for your region. If you live in a region that experiences cool summers, it’s best to select a pumpkin that stays small and matures quickly. Meanwhile, those living in areas with sweltering summers and warm winters will benefit from cultivars that can be planted in late winter for a springtime harvest.

Preparing Your Pumpkin Seed Selection

Seeds should have a sturdy texture and even coloration, without blotches that may be signs of disease. Larger seeds have a higher chance of flowering and blooming than small seeds.

Whether you’re new or experienced at planting pumpkin seeds, they are best acquired from reputable nurseries, garden centers, local farmers, or online retailers. Professionally harvested seeds are guaranteed to grow and provide a pumpkin variety of your choice.

2. Preparing to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Self-harvested seeds should be totally clean, with no pulp attached, and air-dried on a paper towel. Soak your seeds in warm water for up to 24 hours to encourage quick germination. You can also file the edges of your seeds (lengthwise) to help the shoot emerge from its shell.

Pumpkin seeds should be clean and dry before planting

Pumpkin seeds generally require 10 days to germinate. If that period elapses without signs of life, you may want to try re-planting. You can check for seedlings by using a trowel to gently lift the soil, being mindful of delicate roots.

3. How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds Outdoors

Pick a Planting Site

Select a location that receives full sun (at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily) or light shade. Add mulch or straw to your chosen spot to retain soil moisture during the summer heat.

Know When to Plant Pumpkins

Pumpkins are cold-intolerant. Plant them in soil that is at least 65° F, two to three weeks after the last frost, when night air temperatures are higher than 55° F.

Germination is easiest at an optimal soil temperature of 70° F to 85° F. In most regions, this means planting pumpkins between late May and early July.

The soil should be the right temperature for pumpkins

Floating row covers protect young plants from pests and cold fronts, especially at night. Discontinue covering your pumpkin plants when flowers develop.

Understand Plant Spacing

Knowing how to plant pumpkin seeds includes acknowledging that they require wide spaces to spread their vines. Create mounds of dirt for sowing seeds in a big area with plenty of airflow. Keep them three to five feet apart depending on whether your pumpkin variety is small or large.

Prepare the Soil

The ideal pH for pumpkins falls between 6 and 6.8. Remove large rocks and debris, working the soil at least eight to 10 inches deep. This will increase soil drainage and protect fragile roots. Adding three to four inches of compost or aged manure will encourage the nutrient-rich, well-draining environment that pumpkins love.

Pumpkin seedlings

Before planting, remove all pests, insects, and weeds from the garden bed. You can use a weed block or all-natural weed killer and mulch two weeks in advance to planting. In cool areas, cover pumpkin mounds with black plastic to absorb sunlight, warming the soil ahead of time.

Planting Pumpkin Seeds

Here’s the critical step in practicing how to plant pumpkin seeds.

Cut an “X”-shape into the plastic and plant four to five seeds, pointy-side down, into the slit and water them thoroughly. Remove the plastic as necessary when the seedlings begin to grow. At two to three inches tall, thin them so that only two to three of the strongest seedlings remain.

4. Care for Your Pumpkins

Watering Frequently

Water your pumpkins early in the morning to maximize moisture absorption before the sun can evaporate it away.

Watering pumpkin seedlings

Water pumpkins at the base. Avoid mildew development that can result from damp foliage. These plants require at least an inch of water every week, and more if the soil is particularly sandy or the climate especially hot and dry.

It’s also important to provide more water while the plants are flowering, and again post-pollination when the pumpkins are forming.

Don’t handle the plants while wet, as this can transfer fungal spores.

Fertilizing the Soil

The strong vines and large fruit that pumpkins bear require them to eat a lot. Applying a continuous-release fertilizer, compost tea, or diluted fish emulsion every two weeks will meet their nutritional needs.

Utilize high-nitrogen fertilizers early in the season, when the plant is about a foot tall, to encourage foliage development. Switching to a high-phosphorous treatment when the vines begin to show promotes healthy blooms.

Weeding the Area

Pumpkins are very sensitive to threats in their environment. Eliminate weeds as much as possible without damaging the pumpkin roots.

Weeding around pumpkins

Pruning the Vines

Pruning pumpkin vines creates more space for growth and, once pumpkins are blooming, encourages the plant to focus on creating healthy pumpkins. To prune, simply pinch and remove the fuzzy-looking ends of the vines. It is also important to remove and destroy any infected plants, as diseases and pests can spread easily.

Planting Pumpkin Companions

To encourage pollinators to visit your patch, plant flowering herbs such as dill, bee balm, marigold, and oregano. In addition to bringing bees to your garden, these protect your pumpkins by deterring pests.

Pollinating Pumpkins

Pumpkin blossoms open in the morning and close during the hottest part of the day.

The first flowers a pumpkin produces are male, producing pollen rather than fruit. They appear about a week before female flowers, and will eventually fall off the plant. Male flowers attract pollinators so avoid using insecticides during the pollination window.

When female flowers appear, they carry an immature pumpkin near the stem beneath the blossom. They must be visited by bees that carry pollen from male flowers, or you can hand-pollinate them with a brush. Simply gather male pollen on the bristles and then dab it onto the pistil in the center of the female flower.

5. Harvesting Your Pumpkins

After about 75 to 100 days, your pumpkin seeds will produce mature pumpkins. They are ripe when the exterior is vibrant with color and has a firm texture. The stem should be dry and beginning to wither.

A mature pumpkin on a vine

Using gloves and a knife or pruners, cut the stem to be two to four inches long. This length maximizes the shelf life of your pumpkin. Allow the pumpkin to cure in direct sunlight for 10 to 14 days before storage.

Congratulations on graduating from not knowing how to plant pumpkin seeds to planting pumpkin seeds of your own!

Wrapping Up How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Planting pumpkin seeds is easy to do with the right conditions and care. Now that you know how to plant pumpkin seeds, find the pumpkin that’s right for you this fall. A uniquely bumpy, green choice is the Marina Di Chiogga, or you can select a small classic like the Jester Pumpkin.

Keep learning about how to grow pumpkins and what kinds of pumpkins to grow to be a more informed pumpkin parent. Your garden will be radiant and abundant with gourds before you know it.