In every fall of the year, stores are full of pumpkins ready for your fall decorations or Halloween festivals. The pumpkins you see in the store began many months before. Do you wonder how does a pumpkin grow from seeds to harvest? Here is the process for how to plant & grow pumpkins with pumpkin growth stages in between.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds
Like most plants, pumpkins start out as nothing more than a seed. As you plant the seeds in warm, moist soil, you are aught to wait a week for the first two leaves to appear. Pumpkin plant needs lots of space to grow, so the seeds should be planted in hills or rows between plants.
Dig holes or furrows about 1 inch deep and plant 3-4 seeds in each spot, then cover with soil. Keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout, which takes between 5-10 days. Once the seedlings emerge, thin to the two strongest plants per spot or one plant every 2-3 feet in rows.
Seedling Stage of Pumpkin
For the first few weeks after sprouting, pumpkin seedlings focus on developing roots and leaves. Their stems grow longer and leaves get larger for growth. Tend to the pumpkin plants by water them per week if there is not enough rain. Weed around plants to reduce competition for water and nutrients.
Vine Growth of Pumpkin
Once seedlings are established, pumpkin vines really take off growing. The vines can extend up to 50 feet, radiating out from the base of the plant. This vining growth stage lasts several weeks as the plant rapidly expands its foliage and root system.
Pumpkin plants need a lot of space for their spreading vines. Allow 6-8 square feet or 2-3 feet between plants in rows. Guide the lengthening vines away from each other and into open areas. Trim back overcrowded vines to encourage growth into new space.
Pumpkin Flower Production
After several weeks of vegetative growth, pumpkin plants shift energy into producing flowers. The bright yellow male and female pumpkin flowers bloom among the vines. It takes about 50-70 days from seed planting for the first pumpkin flowers to appear.
Pumpkin plants produce male flowers first, then female flowers about a week later. Female flowers can be identified by the small fruit or baby pumpkin located at the base behind the flower. Bees or hand pollination are needed to transfer pollen from male to female flowers for successful fruit set.
PumpkinFruit Fill Stage
Once female flowers are successfully pollinated, the fruit begins to form and fill out. All energy goes into rapidly swelling the baby pumpkins over the next several weeks. The pumpkins are still mostly green but enlarging to their mature size.
During fruit fill, pumpkins require consistent moisture and nutrients. Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil are dry. Fertilize vines every 2-3 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer or side dressing of compost to support vigorous growth. Protect filling pumpkins from pests and diseases which can ruin the crop.
As pumpkins near maturity, their growth slows and they transition from green to their mature orange color (or white, tan or other shades depending on variety). It takes 45-55 days from pollination for pumpkins to fully mature. The rind hardens and resists piercing from your fingernail when ripe.
Mature, orange pumpkins left on the vine will keep getting larger and reach their max size. However, leaving ripe pumpkins attached too long can reduce their shelf life after picking. Monitor pumpkin vines closely and look for the first signs of maturity to time harvest correctly.
Pumpkins are ready for harvest when they are fully colored and the rind is hard. Use pruning shears to carefully cut pumpkins from the vine, leaving several inches of stem attached. Be careful not to damage the tender pumpkin skin when removing from the spiky vines. Cure harvested pumpkins for 10-14 days in a warm area with good airflow to harden skins further.
Time harvests for late September through October depending on your variety and first frost dates. Pick any unripe green pumpkins once vines start dying back from frost to salvage as much of the crop as possible. Protect ripe pumpkins from freezing temperatures which can ruin their quality quickly.
Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor
It takes some patience and work to nurture pumpkin plants from seeds to a bountiful harvest. But the sweet payoff of brilliant orange pumpkins come autumn makes it all worthwhile. Now you can turn your homegrown pumpkins into the best pumpkin pies, soups, breads and other delicious treats. Understanding the key growth stages helps you provide the right care at each phase for a successful pumpkin patch.