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How to Grow Big Pumpkins
(And, small ones, too!)
Once you've decided what kind of pumpkins to grow, you need to get your garden ready for planting. Pumpkins are a vining crop with a big, big appetite. Work plenty of decomposed compost and manure (if you can find it) into your garden. Map out the garden to allow plenty of room for your pumpkins to grow. The seed packet will tell you the proper spacing for the variety you have selected.
Have the garden ready just before it's time to plant, so it is weed free and friable.
Pumpkins can be started outdoors, or indoors in peat pots. If you have a short growing season, you may want to give them an indoor start about two to thee weeks before the last frost in your area.
Plant seedlings outdoors after the last frost date for your area. Follow the spacing directions on the packet. They can vary significantly variety. If the seed packet does not provide information on spacing, space them four to six feet apart. Water well after planting, and a second time two to four days later, if there has been no rain.
Seeds can be planted in hills four to six feet apart. Sow four to six seeds per hill, thinning to two to three. Or, plant in rows six inches apart, thinning to 1 to 3 feet apart, depending upon how much space you have. Plant miniatures closer, and Giants farther apart.
Caring for Your Plants
Pumpkins have big appetites. A healthy plant vines out quickly. At peak growth, a vine can grow up to six inches a day,or more. Giant pumpkin fruit can grow 30-40 pounds a day. To promote this kind of growth, you need to give your plants plenty of water and fertilizer. Keep the soil around the vines moist at all times. Add fertilizer regularly. Follow the directions on the fertilizer container. Some expert growers also use liquid fertilizer whenever they water their plants.
Keep the pumpkin patch well weeded. You don't want weeds to take water or nutrients from your plant. By mid season, the patch will be one big sea of bright green pumpkin leaves. The shade from these big leaves will help to keep the weeds down.
You can add decomposed compost around the plants regularly. This will both keep weeds down, and will feed your plants.
In early to mid July, flowers will appear. There are both male and female flowers. The female flowers come a week or so after the males appear. You will recognize a female flower as ones that has a tiny pumpkin under the flowers. Assuming the bees (or other bugs) do their job, you will soon have tiny pumpkins growing. Usually, you will have two to five pumpkins per plant. If you want bigger pumpkins, leave only one or two fruit on the plant.
Insects and Pests
Lots of animals like pumpkins,too. They include bunnies, woodchuck, squirrels and deer. Use animal repellent like pepper and garlic sprays as needed. There are lots of things that people claim works to deter animals. They include: human hair, baby powder dusted on leaves, fox urine, and Irish Spring Soap. Do they work? We don't know for sure. But, try one or two of them and see.
A variety of diseases affect pumpkins, most notable is powdery mildew. Apply fungicides at the first sign of a problem. Better still, apply them before plant disease problems occur. It's far easier to prevent disease from occurring, than to eliminate it after it has gained a foothold and weakened the plant.
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