Pumpkins are a fun backyard crop for home gardeners. Kids find great joy in watching the grow and then form orange orbs, ready for carving or pie baking. However, sometimes things right in the pumpkin patch. Knowing when to plant pumpkins so they’re ready to harvest at the perfect time is a major key to enjoying this vine crop. Let’s dive into all the factors that influence when to plant pumpkins. With this information, you’ll be able to determine the best pumpkin planting time for your region.
There are many factors that help determine the best time to plant pumpkins. I’m going to discuss most of these factors in greater depth throughout this article, but this initial bulleted list gives you an idea of how many considerations are involved in the proper timing of pumpkin planting.
- Soil moisture level
- The average first and last frost dates in your region
- The variety of pumpkin you are growing
- Days to maturity of each variety
- Whether you’re growing from seed or transplant
Let’s tackle each of these topics and look at how they impact when to plant pumpkins.
Planting pumpkins according to soil moisture content
Wet spring soils often result in rotten pumpkin seeds, rather than happy seedlings. If you have a wet spring with a lot of rain and the soil is waterlogged, it’s always better to wait a little longer to plant pumpkins, even though the soil may fall within the proper target range. This is particularly important in regions with heavy, poorly drained, clay-based soils.
Alternatively, when planting pumpkins, don’t plant the seeds or transplants into very dry soil either. If it’s been very dry in your garden and you’re ready to plant, water the garden thoroughly with a hose or sprinkler a few hours prior to planting. The soil should be moist down to a depth of at least three inches at planting time.
When to plant pumpkins from seed sown in the garden
Growing pumpkins from seeds planted directly into the garden is often more successful than starting seeds indoors and planting transplants. There is no transplant and the plants are growing in their permanent home from day one, which is certainly less work for the gardener, too. Plant pumpkin seeds as early as two weeks after your last frost date. To determine how late you can plant pumpkin seeds, use the days to count as described above.
When to plant pumpkins from seed indoors
If you live in a cold climate with a short growing season (less than 110 days or so), plant pumpkin seeds indoors under grow lights two weeks before your last expected spring frost. Then, move the transplants out into the garden two weeks after the of frost has passed (be sure to them off first – here’s how). These four weeks of indoor growing are often enough to get a jumpstart on the growing season and enable you to harvest ripe pumpkins before cold fall weather strikes.
Another thing to consider is whether you’re growing pumpkins for eating or pumpkins for decorating. It’s far more that pumpkins intended for consumption are ripe at the proper time than those meant for decoration only. Some pumpkins have a very thick rind and they can sit ripe on the for weeks without rotting. Others have a thinner rind and they aren’t intended for storage. If you want a pumpkin that stores well, look for a variety that is noted to have a long shelf-life.