Who doesn’t like the sight of bright, round, and juicy pumpkins in the front yard, especially if they are on your own pumpkin patch? Pumpkin is a great fruit to grow in your home garden, and not just as a traditional and fun Halloween decoration!
Pumpkins can be used to make beverages, soups, bread, and most importantly, desserts. From pumpkin pies and muffins to custards and pancakes, this fruit can be used as the key ingredient in a lot of culinary classics. Pumpkins have a variety of health benefits too, making them the perfect healthy snack for the whole family.
If you’re planning to grow a pumpkin in your garden, there are a few things you need to know first — the most important of them all is when to plant pumpkin seeds. This article takes you through the factors you need to consider when planting pumpkins so read on!
Factors to Consider
1. Planned Use for the Pumpkins
Do you want pumpkins solely for Halloween and making jack-o’-lanterns? Or are you looking to add another fresh fruit to your backyard? You can decide when to plant pumpkin seeds depending on what you intend to use your pumpkin for.
As a food crop, the best yield of pumpkins can be ensured by growing them indoors around two to three weeks before the last date of frost in your region. The same goes if you’re planning to enter a pumpkin competition!
2. Your Climate
Pumpkins grow more quickly in hotter climates than they do in colder ones. So, if you need Halloween pumpkins, you’ll need to plant your pumpkin seeds earlier if you live in a colder climate.
If you want to know when to plant pumpkin seeds, the best time is late May if you live in a cold climate. This gives the plant enough time to grow until fall. In warm or hot weather, pumpkin seeds can be planted from July to mid-July if you want them ready for Halloween.
3. Rich Soil, Sun, and Space
You’ll also need to consider the space you have and whether it will be enough to accommodate big fruits like pumpkins. Another thing to keep in mind is the amount of sun your garden receives in a day and how rich your soil is in nutrients and minerals.
4. Timing to Consider
Planting Pumpkin Seeds According to the Soil Temperature
As mentioned earlier, pumpkins grow well and faster in warm climates. Naturally, warmer soil is better for their growth. For big, juicy pumpkins that are perfect for jack-o-lanterns, plant pumpkins outdoors once the threat of frost has passed.
The perfect soil temperature to plant pumpkin seeds is 65°F (~18°C). Since pumpkin seeds can’t germinate in cold soil, it’s important to note the soil temperature before planting. The warmer the soil, the better the yield!
An easy trick for warming outdoor soil faster is to cover areas that are cold with black plastic. Since black absorbs heat, it will help focus heat on the covered spots while increasing soil temperature. Once you’re sure of when to plant pumpkin seeds, just cut small slits in the plastic material and sow the seeds through them.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds According to Air Temperature
Pumpkin plants grow really well in warmer climates, but the opposite is true too. Their growth is inhibited by cold weather. So, if you want your pumpkins ready for Halloween, it’s better to grow them indoors until the danger of frost has passed. Plant seeds directly into the soil only if there’s no risk of frost.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds According to Soil Moisture Content
Pumpkins need soil with the right amount of moisture — not too dry, not too moist. If you reside in a hot and dry climate, you can add mulch to the soil. This helps retain soil moisture and keeps your pumpkin seeds healthy. Make sure to water the soil carefully, too much water can hamper your plant’s growth.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds Using Frost Dates of Regions
One thing to remember about pumpkins is they require a long growing season. This means they need at least 75 to 100 frost-free days to grow in favorable conditions.
When considering when to plant pumpkin seeds, make sure that all danger of frost has passed before sowing seeds directly into the soil. If the growing season in your area is very short, you can start planting pumpkin seeds indoors in pots around two to three weeks before the last frost.
5. Impact of Variety
Much like other fruits, pumpkins are available in different varieties. Each pumpkin variety impacts when to plant pumpkin seeds. Some grow faster while others take longer.
A miniature pumpkin like Jack Be Little can grow quite fast, whereas larger pumpkins like Dill’s Atlantic Giant can take almost double the time! Make sure you check the time it takes to fully grow the variety of pumpkin you’re using before deciding when to plant pumpkin seeds.
Days to Maturity and Its Influence on Planting Time
“Days to maturity” refers to the average number of days it takes to harvest a crop from the day of planting. The days to maturity for pumpkins differ according to the variety but on average, pumpkins take around 90 to 120 days to mature.
Mini pumpkins like Munchkin, Jack Be Little, and others have fewer days to maturity, averaging around 90 days. Normal-sized pumpkins that are used for carving during Halloween take around 100 to 120 days to mature. Giant pumpkins, however, will take a lot more time to mature — around 130 to 160 days! So, make to consider days to maturity as you plan when to plant pumpkin seeds.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds Outdoors
Keep in mind that pumpkins need plenty of space to grow if you’re growing them outdoors. Each plant will require a minimum of 20 square feet, so plan accordingly.
If you live in a warmer climate, you can directly sow seeds in your garden soil once the frost has passed. Pick a spot that offers full sun to light shade since pumpkins grow well in warm conditions. Once the soil temperature is at least 65°F (~18°C), you can safely plant the pumpkin seeds.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds Outdoors from Purchased Transplants
If it’s too much of a hassle to grow seeds indoors before moving them outdoors, you can purchase pumpkin seedlings that are ready to be grown outdoors. These are generally found at local nurseries and garden stores.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds Indoors
For those living in colder regions where the frost lasts longer, you can start by growing pumpkin seeds indoors around two to three weeks before the end of the frost.
Plant three to four pumpkin seeds in a container packed with potting soil. Make sure to plant them an inch deep into the soil.
Either place the containers under artificial lights or place them by a window that receives an ample amount of sunlight. You can also keep a heating pad under the pot or container. After germination, pick out the strongest seedling of the lot.
Once the frost has passed, you can safely transplant the germinated seed to the soil outdoors.
When Is Too Late to Plant Pumpkin Seeds?
If you live in colder regions, growing a pumpkin can be difficult if you don’t know when to plant pumpkin seeds. Generally, the best time to plant pumpkin seeds is when the last of the frost has passed. For those in colder regions, you need to start planting your pumpkin seeds indoors so they’re ready for transplanting once the frost passes.
Pumpkins grow pretty fast in warm weather, so you can plant pumpkin seeds even if it’s the middle of July (but no later).
Wrapping Up When to Plant Pumpkin Seeds
A lot of factors need to be considered as you decide when to plant pumpkin seeds. The thing with pumpkins is they aren’t a difficult plant to grow. You just need to know when to plant pumpkin seeds and how to take care of them, and you’re all set!
Excited for more pumpkin content? Keep learning all about pumpkin plants to become an expert on pumpkin planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!