How to Grow Pumpkins for Halloween
It's Easy to Grow Your Own Pumpkins - It's Fun Too
Of course you can just buy a pumpkin at Halloween, but how much better it would be to start right at the beginning and grow your own, and it's fun and educational for the kids.
"But", you'll say, "we haven't room to grow pumpkins." Well, that may be true, but if you have even a small garden, I expect you could find a square meter of ground in which to plant a pumpkin what is all that lawn doing anyway? Pumpkins do need space to ramble, you can see the stem on the pumpkin below, but you can let it crawl over lawns (which you won't then be able to cut easily), or better still paths and walls. The foliage is attractive and they have pretty yellow flowers which you can pick, stuff and eat - a great delicacy in Italy. I try to grow a few every year - so, why not give growing your own a go?
All You Need to Know About Your Halloween Pumpkin - Pumpkin growing, pumpkin cooking and pumpkin carving
How wonderful to find everything in one attractive book! I love the fact that this book takes you through growing your pumpkins to cooking and then carving them. A perfect gift for a cook, a gardener and all those creative souls that love to make lanterns on Halloween
Choose the Right Variety of Pumpkin
It makes all the difference
You can see from the photo below that choice of variety is very important. The larger pumpkin would be the only one to be left on the vine, but with the smaller ones you can harvest several from the same plant. The choice is yours. Here are a few varieties to choose from:
- Hundredweight and Mammoth were the varieties grown for show pumpkins in Britain, but they have been overtaken by the Atlantic Giant.
- Atlantic Giant This variety arrived from America and made the Hundredweight and Mammoth look like lightweights.
- Aladdin A large modern variety. Resistant to powdery mildew.
- Dill's Atlantic Giant Competition winner
- Autumn Gold Turns golden early in the season
- Ghost Rider A superior pumpkin with an excellent handle
- Trick or Treat Good for carving and pies
- Trickster Ideal for decorations, good handle, deep orange, high yields.
- Small Sugar Popular garden Variety for pies
- Sugar Treat - F1 Super handle and excellent color fruit. Smooth ribbed.
I must say, though, that I have never had a pumkin anywhere like the size of a three year old child, but then I haven't had time to cosset mine - I have too much to do. Look after your pumpkin and your pumpkin will look after you.
Sowing Pumpkin Seeds Indoors
When to plant pumpkins
If you live in an area that's frost free in Spring you can plant your seed outdoors, (see below). This guide is for Britain and France and places with similar climates where it's probably better to start off indoors but you can do 'belt and braces' and put seeds outdoors as well. Here in Limousin we can have frosts right up until May.
Sow seeds in pots filled with a good quality all purpose potting compost in April. Keep it moist but don't over-water, and place somewhere warm, like on the fridge or in a boiler room. Remember to put it in the light once the seed sprouts and becomes visible.
You can also grow them on outside in a cloche or coldframe.
Plant outside once all danger of frost is over. They should be nice, healthy little plants by this time and don't forget to 'harden off', by putting your plants out during the day for a while, gradually increasing the time and then leave out all the time for a few days to acclimatize your plants to the great outdoors.
Planting Out Pumpkin Plants
And after care
Choose a nice sunny spot protected fom strong winds. The soil must be moist, but well-drained. Dig holes about 30cm x 30cms x 30cms and just over a meter appart. Fill the holes with a mixture of soil, your well-rotted compost or manure and leave the hole slightly mounded at the top. You can also add fertilizer at this point. I liked 'Blood Fish and Bone', natural, slow release fertilisers.
Plant your young plants in the prepared patches, firm well and water.
At the same time you can plant seeds as these might overtake the plants raised indoors. Anyway, it's easy to pop a few in. Put 3 seeds into each of your prepared holes a few centimeters appart. Cover with a jar or cloche and when they sprout pull out the two weakest plants to leave the strongest one to grow on. Protect from slugs. I have tried all the organic anti-slug devices without success and have to resort to slug pellets. Make sure you do this or in areas bad for slugs all your plants will be gone in the morning.
Looking after the plants
Pinch out the tips of the main shoots when they reach a meter long. Water around the plants, not on them, and keep up with the anti-slug action.
For the large varieties
Feed Feed Feed. Once the fruits begin to swell feed with tomato fertilizer or similar (I don't do this hence small pumpkins I think.) Once one or two pumpkins begin to swell, nip off any subsequent fruits so that the plant can concentrate on growing the bigger ones.
Put your pumpkins onto glass or tiles to keep from rotting and keep up anti-slug action.
Remove plants before the frost. Keep on the stalk and store in a cool, dry place. Under these conditions they should last until Christmas.
How to Make a Compost Heap
Pumpkins are greedy feeders
Pumpkins like moist, compost rich soil and people often grow them on top of their compost heaps. If you have the time, space and inclination, then Halloween is not too late to start the compost heap for next year. You can buy clean, plastic containers that look ok in the garden, or make your own container, about 1 meter square or a little larger is ideal. Put in all your vegetable peelings, grass clippings, you can include a few autumn leaves, weeds etc. I don't put in cooked food or meat. We have chickens, ideal manure, and Bob Flowerdew swears by what he refer to as 'Recycled Cider' as a catalyst to get things going. I use bird and herbivor manure, but not 'manure' from dogs or other meat-eaters on the compost.
The compost heap should be moist but not wet. Then cover it with old carpet to keep rain out and heat in. Some people say you should turn it, and I'm sure that would be a good thing, but I've never yet got around to it.
The compost is ready when it is crumbly and smells nice.
If you can't make compost, (and I sympathise with you if you are too busy, have no space or find it too much work), buy a sack of rotted down manure or something similar to add to the soil. Do remember, however, that all the stuff that goes into a heap might otherwise go to landfill, so if you can house a compost heap, then it's win win all around.
I've Grown My Pumpkin
Now what do I do with it?
You eat them or use them as decorations for Halloween - and then eat them!
They make great Halloween decorations in their own right.
- Outdoor decorations. In France people decorate their walls and gate posts with pumpkins.
- You can put the smaller varieties on the table and around the house.
- You can scoop out the small ones to use to serve soup or salads
- Scoop out the insides of the large ones and make the contents into jam, pies, soup and other delicious things
- Make the shells into lanterns by carving Halloween shapes into them
- Toast the seeds and use as nibbles or decoration
- Use the seeds to grow pumpkins next year
- Use the seeds to make jewellery with the kids or seed pictures
- Compost what's left on your new compost heap
Pumpkins are fun and delicious! I hope that you enjoy yours as much I I've enjoyed mine. Good luck.
Great Books to Help You Grow that Perfect Pumpkin - How to grow pumpkins and squash
An attractive book full of good gardening tips for pumpkin and squash growers.
Have a wonderful Halloween