ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Grow Organic Pumpkins

Updated on July 21, 2013

Planting Pumpkins

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, jack o' lanterns for Halloween - all good reasons to plant your own backyard pumpkins. If you want the kind for eating, you'll probably want to plant organic pumpkins, grown from certified organic seeds and with organic soil amendments and fertilizer. Growing organic pumpkins is relatively easy, provided that you keep up with fertilizing and are mindful of the weeds.

There are several great sources for organic pumpkin seeds, my favorite being Seeds of Change because they offer interesting heirloom varieties, including the "sugar pumpkin." This is a fantastic pumpkin for cooking as it is small enough to handle in the kitchen and has a very sweet flavor.

Sugar pumpkins also keep very well on the vine or, after picking, at cool, dry temperatures indoors. They are also a good carving pumpkin for Halloween, albeit on the small side. I plant sugar pumpkins in my backyard garden every season, in a surprisingly small 1'x1' planting mound containing 5 plants, with very good results. Here's how:

Glorious Pumpkins

Pumpkins on the vine
Pumpkins on the vine | Source

Tip: Grow Pumpkins in a Bag of Manure

If you're really tight on space, or if you're a patio gardener, try growing your pumpkins directly in a bag of composted manure. You can buy composted manure at the nursery or from your local home improvement big-box store. Slice a hole into the center of the bag and add a shovel-full of ordinary soil to the hole in the bag, mounding it as necessary. Plant the pumpkin seeds in the soil to a depth of about 1" deep, pressing the soil around the seeds to make good contact. Water well. The composted manure in the bag will feed the plants after they germinate and maintain the plants until pumpkins are ripe and ready for harvest.

Best Way to Use Pumpkins

How do you use pumpkins?

See results

How to Grow Pumpkins

Successfully growing backyard pumpkins is all about timing. If you direct-sow your seeds too soon, before the weather is warm, your plants will grow sluggishly or worse, not germinate at all. Planting too late means missing the prime summer months for growing, leaving you with unripe fruit rotting on the vine. If you are trying to time your pumpkins to be ready by Halloween, it's important to get the seeds in the ground during the first week in June, or risk having a lovely summer harvest with no pumpkins remaining in October.

Seed Selection

Most pumpkin varieties need about 100-120 days to harvest, so you will need to buy your seeds before June in order to have enough time to grow them. For organic seeds, look for "Certified Organic" on the package and the USDA Organic logo.

Assuming that most gardeners have an Oct 31st goal, be ready to sow seeds during the first week in June. About a week or so ahead of time, prepare your site for planting.

Site Selection

Most backyard gardeners are tight on space. If you're growing organically, selecting a site may be even more challenging. You want a spot that hasn't been subjected to inorganic weed killers or fertilizers. It needs good drainage and sun for most of the day.

If you're lucky enough to have a raised bed, you can use that, even if it is already very crowded with other crops - you just need about a 1'x1' space to create the planting mound. Otherwise, even a spot among your perennial flowering plants will work, as long as you're committed to keeping the spot organic.

Soil Preparation

Pumpkins are heavy feeders, and organically grown pumpkins need a reliable and consistent supply of nutrients during the growing season to help fend off diseases and bug infestations. The best organic fertilizer for pumpkins is sterilized manure that you buy in bags from the nursery or home improvement store.

A week before planting, dig in a bag of manure into your planting spot. Assume you'll use a full bag of manure for a 3'x3' space. In my 1'x1' space, I use about 1/3 -1/2 of a bag to start, but go through the full bag of manure during the growing season.

Sowing Pumpkin Seeds

On or about June 1st, you'll plant your pumpkin seeds. I create a mound of soil and manure mixed together in an area of about 1'x1', and about 6" high. Plant 5-6 seeds per mound to a depth of about 1". Press soil to make good contact with seeds. Water well.

Pumpkin seeds will germinate in about a week; if nothing happens in 10 days, you may need to re-sow with new seeds to a depth of 1/2" - 3/4".

Watering

Pumpkins needs consistent daily watering during the summer months, particularly when it is forming fruit. Never allow the soil to become too dry, and if you see the leaves wilting, give plants a good drink from the hose. Pumpkins lose a lot of water from their leaves.

If you use sprinklers or micro-sprayers in your garden, the pumpkin leaves may block the water from the plant roots. Soaker hoses, drippers or hand watering from a hose works well.

Tending Pumpkin Vines

Since pumpkins grow quickly, the vines need to be "trained" to grow where you want them to be. Otherwise, if you are growing in a crowded garden, you may end up with pumpkins growing among your daylillies, or on the lawn. Simply move the vines as needed so that they grow in the "right" direction.

When pumpkins begin to form, you can pinch off the growing ends of the vines. This will cause the energy for growing to be directed to forming the pumpkins instead. Pinch the vine ends when you have 1-3 nice pumpkins on the vine. If you have more than 3 pumpkins on a vine, you can remove the smallest pumpkins if you like, leaving 1-3 larger ones. This will make the remaining pumpkins on that vine get a bit bigger.

When to Fertilize

Side dress the plants with two or three shovels-full of manure when blossoms form, and again when fruit has formed.

Pumpkin Seeds

Organic pumpkin seeds, like Seeds of Change "sugar pumpkin" are easy and fun to grow.
Organic pumpkin seeds, like Seeds of Change "sugar pumpkin" are easy and fun to grow. | Source

Tip: Keep Pumpkins Off Ground

To keep small pumpkins off the ground while growing, and possibly protecting it from pests or disease, prop it up using small stones set in a circle. Rest the pumpkin on top of the stones so that it does not touch the soil.

Common Pumpkin Diseases

Even the most careful gardener may find that their beautiful pumpkins come down with some horrible disease, scarring the fruit or even killing the plant or fruit outright. Some common diseases you may see include:

  • Powdery Mildew - patches of white powdery-looking areas on leaves and fruit.
  • Bacterial Spot - tan or black scabs on fruit; yellow or black spot on leaves.
  • End Rot - white or black mildew at the stem end of fruit, which causes the fruit to rot on the vine.

When growing organically, there isn't much you can do in terms of using chemicals to kill or control disease. Some gardeners will pre-treat their seeds before planting in order to sanitize them, thus reducing the probability of getting a bacteria or fungus later on. But pre-treating seeds involves soaking the seeds in a mixture of chlorine bleach and water for a prescribed time, and may go against your ideas of organic gardening. An alternative method is to heat small batches of seeds to 100 degrees, soaking the pre-heated seeds in 122 degree water for 25 minutes, and then plunging the seeds into cold water to stop the heat treatment. The seeds are then sun and air dried and then planted.

If you see that your pumpkin plants have picked up a disease, keep the plant stress down by making sure that water and fertilizer remains consistent. Next season, rotate your crops so that you aren't planting pumpkins in the area where you previously had a disease.


Growing Pumpkins

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pumpkins growing in a small space. Train the vines by moving them to where you want them to grow.Beware of powdery mildew!Sowbugs ate my new pumpkin seedlings! The horror...
Pumpkins growing in a small space. Train the vines by moving them to where you want them to grow.
Pumpkins growing in a small space. Train the vines by moving them to where you want them to grow. | Source
Beware of powdery mildew!
Beware of powdery mildew! | Source
Sowbugs ate my new pumpkin seedlings! The horror...
Sowbugs ate my new pumpkin seedlings! The horror... | Source

Types of Organic Pumpkin Seeds

Variety
Use
Comments
Sugar Pumpkin
Cooking and baking
Heirloom variety, about 100 days to harvest
Rouge Vif D'Etampes - "Cinderella" pumpkin
Baking and decorating
French variety, about 110 days to harvest
Howden
Jack o' Lantern
Traditional look, about 115 days to harvest
Jack Be Little
Decorating
Miniature pumpkin, about 100 days to harvest

How Libby's Grows Pumpkins

Harvesting Pumpkins

Pumpkins are ready for harvest when most of the leaves have withered on the vine and the stem attached to the pumpkin is brown and fairly hard. If there are tendrils next to the pumpkin, they will be dry and brown as well.

Pumpkins keep on the vine for quite awhile, a couple weeks at least, and will store in a cool dry spot for a month or longer indoors.

If you plan to use your pumpkins for cooking, pick them when ripe and ready, and then cut in quarters and roast, cut side up, in a 300 degree oven for 45 - 60 minutes, or until softened. Allow the pumpkin to cool and then peel and cut into cubes. Cubes can then be frozen and used when needed.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      3 years ago from America's Finest City

      Thanks Kristen!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub with useful pumpkin growing tips! Voted up!

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      3 years ago from America's Finest City

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Brian Dashner profile image

      Brian Dashner 

      3 years ago from St. Charles

      done. thanks I'm planting too early

    • prokidwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      KA Hanna 

      5 years ago from America's Finest City

      Hi Jackie! Thanks for reading my hub and commenting!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I might give this a try. Great info, thank you.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)