If you’re an avid DIY gardener, pumpkins have probably been on your list of things you’d love to grow; and for good reason. Not only are pumpkins festive and beautiful on their own, but they also serve various purposes. From pumpkin pie and other tasty desserts to cute (or spooky) fall decorations such as jack-o’-lanterns; the possibilities are virtually endless!
We know it’s still summer, so — to help you prepare for the upcoming autumn and fall season — we’ve made a list of 11 types of Pumpkins that are easy to grow and will look stunning in your backyard.
We’ve even described each pumpkin down to size and whether they’re better for roasting or making jack o’lanterns, so read on and get ready to plant your crop wherever you can.
1. Miniature Pumpkins
If you’re looking for a little orange pumpkin for your table, you’ll want to grow “Jack B. Little” pumpkins. These pumpkins are easily complemented by the “Baby Boo” species, which emerge a similar size but bright white.
These varieties are relatively low maintenance compared to other pumpkins, and can easily be grown in a container on your deck or balcony. Once you’ve harvested them you can use them for fall decorating, or in a pie like any other pumpkin. Best of all, you can hollow them out as bowls full of applesauce, turkey stuffing, or soup on your Thanksgiving table.
2. Autumn Gold
These pumpkins are prized for their infamous “precious yellow gene,” meaning they turn gold weeks before other pumpkins, and you’ll never be left with green fruit come harvest time.
At their peak, they’ll turn a glossy golden orange and be highly visible as soon as they’re on the vine. This species is an excellent choice for northern climates as it can withstand an early frost, but it’s succeeded in gardens from Canada to Texas.
For this reason, it’s an All-American Selections winner and highly trusted for beautiful jack o’lanterns and pies. Each vine can grow 12 to 20 feet, and yield up to 5 pumpkins per vine.
3. Atlantic Giant
If you’re looking to grow the biggest, mother-of-all pumpkins look no further than Atlantic Giant pumpkins. These pumpkins can consistently produce 400-500 pound pumpkins, and the largest fruit ever recorded weighed over a ton at 2009 pounds! Nowadays, competitive pumpkin growing has risen to an international level so if you’re interested in joining the race or even just competing at a local level consider this variety.
Remember that this kind of pumpkin growing can be a massive effort, as vines can take up 1,200 square feet and need up to 500 gallons of water a week! Additionally, you’ll want to watch out for soil-borne diseases, so carefully roll them onto sheets of cardboard or plywood to keep them safe while they grow.
With that being said, if the extra labor seems unappealing, you can always grow a slightly smaller — but still humongous pumpkin— with a few tips from the masters, and knock the socks off your neighbors.
4. Sugar Pumpkins
This pumpkin is perfect for pie lovers —but you can also use them to make delicious puddings and custards. Most recipes will just rely on subbing a pumpkin puree for canned pumpkin, which often calls for sugar pumpkins because the flesh is much sweeter.
The puree is easily made by roasting, deseeding, and blending the pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins are especially easy to cook with because they are a lot less stringy and hold less moisture than other varieties. The best fruit will grow smaller than traditional jack o’lantern pumpkins, reaching about 6-8 inches in diameter at their peak.
This makes them a natural choice for backyard gardens, especially because they only need about 1-2 inches of rain per week. In addition, any problems like pests or diseases can be easily solved, making these great pumpkins for beginners.
Jarrahdale pumpkins are originally native to Australia but thrive in southern climates in the United States. They are prized for their blue-grey rind, which when cut open delivers a thick orange flesh. They can also keep much longer than other pumpkins, and if cured can last up to a year in your pantry.
However, if you want to use them right away you can roast them like any other pumpkin, just be ready to taste something a bit closer to butternut squash than pumpkin pie.
This species can grow anywhere from 6 to 120 pounds, but it’s very frost sensitive so it’s best to start your seeds in April. They need plenty of room to spread out, and can’t be brought up a trellis so make sure you have enough space in your backyard.
Otherwise, they’re fairly straightforward to grow and will yield a stunning blue pumpkin unlike any other variety.
If you don’t have a lot of space in your backyard you might consider growing Bushkins. These species’ vines grow just a few feet long, and can be planted as little as four feet apart.
Additionally, if you still don’t have enough room for an entire garden you can grow them in a big container like a half wine barrel on your porch.
Since the fruit grows a bit smaller than other pumpkins, the sugars will be compacted and the flesh even sweeter.
While mostly prized for being so easy to grow, many gardeners also love that these pumpkins yield sweet seeds that can easily be roasted for a healthy snack.
These gorgeous pumpkins reach a deep orange color, and are a huge cult favorite. They typically grow flat and wide like Cinderella’s stagecoach, but their original name is Rouge Vif D’Etampes.
If you’re looking for seeds make sure you search for them under their original name, as these seeds will often be higher quality and marketed towards true gardeners.
Cinderella pumpkins thrive in Northern climates because they’ll grow quick enough to beat the fall frost, and are particularly disease resistant. Unencumbered by issues like powdery mildew, most will quickly grow to about 20 pounds. Easy to deseed and roast, these pumpkins are a favorite in the kitchen and can be used in a number of recipes.
8. Connecticut Field Pumpkins
Said to be the “Original Halloween Pumpkin” this variety was first grown by Native Americans in New England and is said to be one of the oldest species of pumpkins. The fruit often grows to be about 15 pounds and up to 20 inches in diameter.
Their round, hefty orange bodies grow on a flat bottom which makes them perfect for carving. In addition, they can also be used for cooking and are often used in frittatas.
Many gardeners revere this breed not only for their history but because they are one of the easiest, most reliable varieties to grow.
9. Jumpin’ Jack Pumpkins
This species grows tall rather than wide, and stretches up into a dark orange oval. Their stems are typically dark green to black, and the fruit often grows to be about 20-40 pounds.
They often require about 30 feet of space, and need to be monitored closely for the first 3 weeks to make sure they don’t succumb to disease or pests. Because of how tall they grow this strange pumpkin is often used for stand-out jack o’lanterns, but it is also the main ingredient in a popular Canadian beer.
10. Mammoth Gold Pumpkins
A variety of giant pumpkin, this species usually grows to be about 60 pounds, with a 20 inch diameter. However, if you’re trying to get more bang for your buck, consider feeding this pumpkin plenty of compost and manure and it could grow to 100 pounds!
Unlike other more competitive giant pumpkin varieties, this species’ seeds are still very affordable and reach maturity in about 110 days. They’ll grow best if started in peat pots inside, and then moved to an outdoor mound with plenty of space.
If you secure a wonderful harvest consider cutting open and saving the seeds from your pumpkin, as they can be stored for up to four years before being planted again.
11. Big Moon
If you’re looking to make a dramatic mark on your garden, consider the big moon variety. Pumpkins can reach up to 200 pounds, and their flesh can be easily used for baking.
Each vine will only yield 1-2 fruit, so as it develops you’ll want to place straw beneath each pumpkin to carefully protect it from mold and rot.
Additionally, the major threat to this species is gophers so watch out if you know these animals live near your garden. If you succeed in growing one you’ll find yourself with a pale orange pumpkin, sure to impress any houseguest or neighbor.
How To Grow Pumpkins
Most pumpkins need full sunlight to grow and can spread over 50 to 100 square feet. All varieties love well-drained, fertile soil and will benefit from their fair share of manure and compost.
It’s best to wait until the soil reaches 95ºF, but seedlings can withstand as low as 70ºF, they’re just very susceptible to cold weather. One way to warm the soil is to form little hills for your seeds, which will quickly warm the soil and help with drainage.
Make sure to mix manure or compost into the hills, and plant 4 to 5 seeds 1 inch deep in every mound. As long as your hills are spaced 4 to 8 feet apart, your pumpkins should typically germinate in a few days and emerge in about a week!
If you’re worried about having enough space for your plants, you can try growing them in 5 to 10-gallon buckets or plant a miniature variety. These vines can also be coaxed across a lawn or trained to climb up a trellis, making them even more efficient in a small space.
Either way, they’ll need lots of water, and plenty of love from bees for pollination. As they develop, you may have to snip off smaller fruit and choose one or two prize pumpkins for your plant to devote all of its energy to, but that’ll mostly depend on which variety you choose to grow. If you’re still unsure what type of pumpkin you want to grow, read on to see what this season is all about.
All in all, whether you’re growing pumpkins for pudding, jack o’lanterns or to beat the 2,009 pound pumpkin world record you’ll need some help getting your garden ready.
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