The minimum time required for pumpkins to grow from seeds is around seventy five days or approximately eleven weeks. The maximum time required for some varieties of pumpkins is a hundred and thirty days or just short of twenty weeks. Most varieties are ready to be harvested in twelve to fifteen weeks. It must be noted that the conditions should be conducive for pumpkins to grow from seeds, not just for a desirable yield but also for the six distinct phases to pan out as expected. Smaller varieties of pumpkins grow quickly. The larger variants take much longer to mature.
The Growth Cycle of Pumpkins
The first stage is of course seeds. After planting, seeds take a week or so to germinate and sprouts shall emerge. You will find two leaves growing out of the soil. These are not true leaves. The true leaves will emerge a week or so after the sprouting phase. Then you would have the vines, followed by the flowers and finally the fruits. The fruits would be green for most varieties when unripe. Mature fruits would be the classic orange pumpkins.
How to Plant Pumpkins
North America has a history of growing pumpkins spanning around five thousand years. Thus, only maize or corn can be considered to be a contemporary. Legatees of this amazing history don’t need any introduction to planting, growing and harvesting pumpkins, whether it is to be used as food or for the annual carving ritual. While pumpkins are grown in abundance across several regions in the United States, there are certain prerequisites for an optimum yield.
Before you can plant pumpkin seeds, you should bear in mind the requirement of space and the local environmental conditions. Pumpkins need more space than most other fruits and vegetables. Like tomatoes, pumpkins are classified as a fruit by botanists and as a vegetable by nutritionists. They also need a frost-free condition. Pumpkin seeds are extremely vulnerable to frost. The seeds can rot or be damaged if there are even a few frosty nights. If these basic requirements are ensured, then growing pumpkins is relatively easy and the reward is highly satiating.
The first step is to choose a suitable site. You can plant pumpkin seeds in your garden, if it has enough space. Pumpkin vines tend to be sprawling as the crop matures. Vines require anywhere from fifty to a hundred square feet space for every hill or mound. Do not pick a site that has lots of shade. The mounds or hills must be exposed to direct sunlight for most hours of the day. If you have a garden or farm that has limited space, then you should consider the edges of the lot to plant the seeds. This shall enable you to let the vines grow beyond the lot, towards sidewalks or pathways. Those who have a space crunch should choose miniature pumpkins.
The second step is to ensure the soil is rich or fertile enough, as pumpkins are voracious feeders. The soil should be warm and well-drained. Pumpkins do not grow well in moist or soggy soil. If the soil is not adequately fertile, then you must nurture and nourish it first and then plant the seeds. Use generous quantities of compost, including aged manure. You can also consider organic or inorganic fertilizers. Get the soil tested if you are unsure of whether or not it is suitable to plant and grow pumpkins.
There are two ways to plant pumpkin seeds. You can directly plant them into the soil in your garden or farm. You can also plant seeds in another setting, such as buckets and in some cases indoors, wait for the seedlings to germinate and sprout before replanting or transplanting them into the soil. The problem with this approach is that pumpkin roots are tender and sensitive. They are vulnerable to disturbance and displacement. Hence, you should consider planting pumpkin seeds directly into the soil, where they would undergo all the cycles of growth until harvest.
Do not plant pumpkin seeds when the soil temperature is below 70ºF. The most suitable temperature of the soil is around 95ºF. The seeds should be planted in rows. You must make pitcher mounds. The size of these mounds or hills would depend on the variety of pumpkin you choose, which basically means you have to bear in mind the size and weight of the mature and ripe pumpkins at the time of harvest. These mounds or hills ensure better exposure to sunlight and also facilitate drainage. It is also easier to keep pests off when the seeds are inside a mound.
The mounds or hills should be four to eight feet apart from one another, again depending on the variety of pumpkin. The seeds should be planted around an inch into the mounds. The seeds should germinate in five to ten days. There will be multiple vines in every mound or site in a row as the sprouts emerge. You should have up to three plants per mound or hill. In case of rows, you must have every plant separated from others by a space of at least eighteen inches, up to thirty six inches.
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seeds
As the seeds germinate and sprouts emerge, you will need some protection for the rows or mounds. You can use covers to keep insects and pests away. These covers should be removed well before flowering, so as to not prevent pollination. As mentioned already, pumpkins are voracious feeders. They are also rather insatiable drinkers. You must water the rows or hills every week. The water must seep deep into the soil. The aim should be at least one inch. Do not water the fruit or the foliage.
As the pumpkins grow, you may want to use mulch for the spaces between the rows or among the hills. The mulch tends to keep the soil dry, and also keeps pests at bay. Weed growth is limited and at times averted when you use mulch.
Pumpkins have a long growing season. You have to be a tad patient if you do not see the flowers transforming into fruits. The female and male components do not blossom simultaneously, so the formation of the fruit may not be as per a precise timeframe. You should also ensure you do not kill or affect the bees in the area when you use pesticides or insecticides. Bees must do their job of pollinating the flowers. Maintain a stringent feeding and watering routine. Without enough nutrients and water, you would not have the glorious pumpkins at the end of the growing season.