Every year when pumpkin season arrives I think to myself as I fork out $50 for a front porch pumpkin arrangement, “why did I not just grow these myself?”. Now clearly, I get it. Not everyone has acreage to grow a full pumpkin patch. But if you have even one raised bed (even if only a 4’x4’ plot of land), I think you should try it.
First I will share with you the “what not to do’s”.
A few years back I tried a pumpkin patch. I bought the seeds, haphazardly threw them about, and hoped for a magical patch to arrive. This did not happen. The things I did wrong that year were:
- I did not carefully space the seeds apart.
- I chose a spot of land that was always covered in tall weeds.
- I did not tend to the patch at all.
This time, I wanted to do it differently. I was planning a Fall Festival at our home and really wanted the kids to be able to go down to the patch and grab their own pumpkin. I carefully chose seeds from my favorite seed supplier, Johnny Seeds. Johnny Seeds is my go-to place for all flower and vegetable seed packets. Their pricing is reasonable and product is great.
The one lesson I learned the hard way this year with my pumpkin patch was planting too late. I can’t remember the exact date I planted the seedlings (likely late July), but I did not have all of the seedlings in the ground until August 25th. I planned to do it much sooner but with everything going on, pumpkins were low priority. This resulted in the most beautiful, bushy pumpkin plants one day (October 31) and frosted over, completely done plants the next (Nov. 1). We had a pretty cold Halloween in Tennessee this year. However, we were still able to harvest 20+ pumpkins that were about medium of their full potential size. The Jack O Lantern pumpkins needed much more time in the ground, though.
So here are the to-do’s of pumpkin patching:
- Plan ahead.
- Spend time carefully choosing your seeds.
- Plant them into pods in trays so you can have control over their initial growth, before planting them into the ground. This step is not essential, however it is what I prefer.
- Choose a plot of land that gets good sunlight and is somewhat well drained. Also if you can help it, choose a spot that has little issues with weeds.
- Plant your seeds in June. This should give you full grown pumpkins by the first of October. This is my plan for next year!
- Space your seeds and rows apart adequately. This is usually listed on the package but I spaced my rows about 6 feet apart and seeds 4 feet apart. If you are working with a small raised bed, that is totally fine, too. Each plant can give you multiple pumpkins so you don’t really need all that many.
- Make sure to give them enough water. Give them organic nutrients if you have the time.
- Buy a bale of hay and spread it out around your seedlings. This will help keep the weeds at bay and give your pumpkins something to sit on (other than the dirt) as they grow.
- If you are noticing a lot of pumpkin flowers blooming but they are falling off instead of turning into pumpkins, you may need to hand fertilize the flowers.
- I do this with a q-tip. Take the q-tip and add pollen from one flower onto it. Put that pollen into another flower. Continue to do this as you’d like. I like how it gives me a little control over the pumpkin potential of each plant.
That’s all the pumpkin advice I have for now! Hopefully after next year’s patch, I will have this down.
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