Pumpkins are one of the most impressive fruit vegetable species in the vegetable garden. Hardly any other vegetable presents itself in so many shapes, colors and flavors. In addition, some representatives of the heat-loving cucurbits produce the largest fruits in the world. So it is always worthwhile to plant pumpkins in order to reap a rich harvest afterwards. It all depends on the right timing, soil preparation and subsequent care.
Planting pumpkin: The most important things in a nutshell
Pre-grown pumpkin plants can be planted in the bed after the last frosts. The latest planting date is the end of June. Fertilize the bed already in the spring with deposited manure and add well-rotted compost to the planting hole. When planting, be careful not to damage the fragile root ball. A planting distance of 2 x 2 meters (6 x 6 ft) is important for large, climbing varieties; 1 x 1 meter (3 x 3 ft) spacing is sufficient for bush forms. A thick mulch layer of straw prevents pressure points for large-fruited varieties.
When can you plant pumpkin?
Pre-grown pumpkin plants can be planted in the bed as soon as the soil has warmed up to about 20 °C / 68 °F. This is usually the case in mid-May, when no more night frosts are expected. Likewise, it is then possible to sow pumpkin seeds directly into the garden.
You can also buy pumpkins as young plants and put them directly into the bed, but it is recommended to pre-cultivate from mid to late April. Place the pumpkin seeds individually in small pots with growing soil and place them in a growing house in a bright place at about 20 to 24 °C / 68 to 75 °F. Keep the seeds constantly moist. After three to four weeks, when several strong leaves have formed, place the plants in their final location in the garden. Important: The pre-sown plants should have a maximum of two to three real leaves, not counting the cotyledons, otherwise they will not grow well.
Do not forget to harden before planting the pumpkins
It is important that the plants are hardened before they are planted. Therefore, during the pre-cultivation, place the small pumpkins outside on warm days during the day so that they can get used to the light and temperatures.
What is the distance at which to plant pumpkin?
The space required is one to three square meters (11 to 33 sq ft) of bed per plant, depending on the growth rate of each variety. Climbing and large varieties are planted at 2 by 2 meters (6 by 6 ft), small ones at about 1.2 by 1 meter (4 by 3.5 ft). Make absolutely sure that the sensitive root balls are not damaged! Overhanging plants should not even be put in the ground, because they do not grow well.
The right location for pumpkin
Pumpkins are heavy feeders and heat-loving plants. To thrive, they need a humus rich soil that can store water well and a warm and sunny location. Since pumpkins are very sensitive to frost, you should cover the plants with a fleece on cool days and nights in May and in June, as this promotes growth.
The right soil for planting pumpkin
To give your pumpkins good starting conditions, you should fertilize the vegetable bed with deposited manure as early as spring and add well-rotted compost to the planting hole in May. A ground cover such as a layer of mulch is very beneficial to shallow-rooted plants, as it ensures even soil moisture. As creepers and climbers with large leaves and meter-long shoots, cucurbits need a lot of space. If you plant them near a garden fence, many varieties will climb up the fence on their own. You can also plant the pumpkin varieties directly at the base of the compost pile. There they are supplied with sufficient nutrients and the tendrils of the plant gradually grow over the compost.
Tip: A thick mulch layer of straw prevents pressure marks on the fruit and thus potential rot fungi in large-fruited, ground-clinging varieties. However, with prolonged wetness, the layer rots and should therefore be renewed regularly. Small pumpkins protect a wooden board as a base from dirt and moisture. And: Young plants should be protected from slugs in the bed. The easiest way to do this is to use a slug collar for the individual pumpkin plants or to enclose the entire bed with a special slug fence.
What goes well with pumpkin in the vegetable patch?
Corn, bush or pole beans and pumpkin are considered the perfect trio. Green manure is recommended as a precrop, especially with legumes, for nutrient enrichment of the soil. After fungal diseases, especially powdery mildew, take a three-year break from cultivation.
A few tips on care
From mid-July, yields increase significantly if you provide the plants with sufficient water. Watch out, though, as pumpkins are sensitive to waterlogging. When the fruits are formed, twice re-fertilizing with plant liquid manure such as stinging nettle liquid manure or field horsetail infusion is advisable.