Grow a Halloween Pumpkin
While most people usually buy their Halloween pumpkins from stands or stores, some actually grow their own. While it's not as easy as sticking a seed in the ground and watering it occasionally, it isn't as difficult as you might think and can be a lot of fun. Pumpkins grow best in a sunny area, preferably where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Generally pumpkins require four to five months of frost-free growing days to reach maturity. The seeds should not be planted until the temperatures consistently reach the low 70's during the day. this is usually in late May, but may be different depending on your local climate.
Pumpkin plants love lots of growing space. A single vine can grow as long as twenty-five feet and will have many vine shoots along it's length. Select an area in your yard with ample space for the number of pumpkin mounds you want to plant. Build up as many mounds as you have room for with loosely packed soil. If you plan on planting more than one mound of pumpkins, separate each mound by at least 10 feet. Each mound should be about three feet in diameter and placed about ten feet from each other. Surround each mound with a six inch wide by six inch deep moat to help hold water around the plants roots.
Pumpkins need lots of indirect water, but the soil of the mound should be kept moist, not wet. As it gets warmer you may need to water more than once a day. The best indicator is the plants leaves. If they are green and look healthy, they're probably getting enough water. If the leaves look wilted, give them more water. We like to use an inexpensive drip system. This uses drip hose that is buried under the mound and is turned on twice a day for about an hour. Although not necessary, you can soak the pumpkin seeds in water the night before planting. This helps to soften the outer shell and make sprouting easier and faster.
In each mound, make four or five seed holes about an inch deep in a circle around the middle of the mound. Drop a seed into each hole and fill in the hole with loose soil. In addition to watering buy way of the motes you should also carefully water the top soil. This should be done very gently with a sprinkling can to avoid washing away any of the covering soil. For the first week or two the seeds start developing underground.
Generally it takes between 7 to 14 days for the seeds to sprout and crack though the top soil. Within a day or two you should see the sprout with two baby leaves have broken through the top soil and unfolded. Pumpkin flowers only bloom for one day and then fold into themselves. By night fall the flowers are sealed closed, never to be seen again. About two weeks after the seeds have sprouted the seedlings should be established enough to thin them down. Pulled out all vines except two or three of the healthiest and largest plants on each mound. If necessary the vines should be shifted so they get as much sun as possible. The pumpkins should be slightly rotated so they won't rot.
Pumpkin plants have two kinds of flowers - male and female. They will look about the same being a golden yellow in color. The male flowers, which usually appear first, sit on the long thin stems and are generally more plentiful than the females. The female flowers sit much closer to the vine for stability ready to produce it's young. Like most plants bees gather pollen from the center of the males and deposit it inside the female flower. After the plants have developed flowers tiny pumpkins will appear.
Pumpkins plants are vigorous growers and usually need some pruning just to keep them from taking over your property. Pumpkin plants have two vines, a main one and a secondary one that usually grow in opposite directions. Each of these vines will produce secondary vines which can be selectively pruned as the plant grows. Generally you should try to cut these new side shoots as they begin to develop. Only trim as much is as necessary to keep the plants in the garden space you're growing them in. If by the time a pumpkin has grown to the size of a grapefruit and looks unhealthy or shriveled, it should be removed. This will allow the healthy pumpkins more water and nourishment.
In addition to water pumpkin plants need food. Fertilizing your pumpkin patch is pretty easy. We use a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Grow, once a week. Pumpkins can be attacked by a variety of pests and disease. Beetles, aphids and vine borers are not most common insect invaders, while gophers and moles tend to be the animals that will want to eat your plants. Mildew can be a common threat causing your pumpkins to rot on the vine. Check your pumpkin patch for weeds regularly and remove them. The developing pumpkins should be handled as little as possible.
To help encourage the classic "rounded" pumpkin, wait until the pumpkin is at least a month old, then very carefully lift the stem and vine in one hand and the pumpkin in the other and adjust it so that it's bottom sits flat on the ground or a thin piece of wood. Your pumpkins will be ready to harvest once the color of the fruit has deepened into a deep orange. When cutting be sure to leave several inches of stem, this will helps the pumpkins stay fresh. At this point you can let them cure in the sun for a week to ten days. If you store the pumpkins in in a cool, dry place they can last for months.
The readers digest version 'How to grow pumpkins'