Pumpkins are a great vegetable to grow in the garden, they are easy to grow, keep for a long time and the golden flesh they have is just delicious whether it’s roasted, in a soup or a salad.
Choosing your variety of pumpkin to grow
There are many varieties of pumpkins to grow and the main differences between varieties are flavour, how long they last and the size of the pumpkin. Last year we tried growing various small varieties which were small sugar, red kuri and golden nugget. We found these pumpkins did not have a lot of flesh inside and they did not last any more than a couple of months, while other pumpkins such as JAP, jarrahdale, Queensland blue and butternut pumpkins last until our next crop of pumpkin comes along.
How to sow your pumpkin seeds
To get a head start on our pumpkin seeds we like to sow our pumpkin seed in early September into trays then transplant it into small pots. We recommend sowing at least two seeds per cell or hole and once the plant is up, thin to one plant per hole. Pumpkins can also be direct sown by mounding the soil up and planting four seeds per mound. Put each mound between 75cm to 100cm apart.
When and where to plant your pumpkins
Pumpkins love the sun and warm weather, so we plant from September to November and harvest around April when the weather starts cooling off. Prepare the garden bed with compost, animal manure, blood and bone, organic slow-release fertiliser and a mulch. Pumpkins are a vigorous sprawling plant and need a lot of space to grow. Pumpkins also can be grown vertically which is great for space saving and for creating a well-ventilated environment.
Caring for your pumpkins
Once your pumpkin vine reaches 2-3m, pinch out the tips of the plant and this will encourage the pumpkin to send out more side branches, which will send out more flowers, more flowers meaning more pumpkins. Once pumpkins have started to appear makes sure the pumpkin are on dry mulch, not wet soil which can cause the pumpkin to rot.
Pumpkin plants are also very prone to fungal disease. To prevent this, limit getting water on the leaves of the plants, water with drip irrigation and water in the morning, giving the plant all day to dry. Also, plant in a well-ventilated area.
Common problems with pumpkins
My pumpkin leaves have turned white
This is powdery mildew, if you have caught it early with it only on a leaf or two, remove the affected leaves and spray with a potassium bicarbonate spray. If the whole plant has been affected, you can try to spray the whole plant with the potassium bicarbonate spray, but often once it has taken a hold of the plant there is not much you can do. It’s very common toward the end of the growing season for a pumpkin plant to be completely taken over by powdery mildew. Don’t pull the plant but just leave it to die off as the pumpkins will still ripen taking the energy and nutrients from the stem.
The bottom of my pumpkin is black/brown and rotting.
This is blossom end rot and is due to a lack of calcium. In most cases, it’s not an actual lack of calcium but the plant inability to uptake calcium due to lack or inconsistent watering. Check the moisture levels in the soil and renew mulch if low.