Pumpkins are one of the most prized crops in a garden. With their large size and gifts at the end of the growing season, they feel like the ultimate reward to a diligent gardener. If you are thinking of growing your own pumpkins this year, it is so important, no matter where you live to understand the timing for planting them and the best practices to consider for a successful harvest. Many would like to have pumpkins to decorate for Halloween, so understanding this timing is key! In this post, I will give you all the info you need to grow your own pumpkins, whether for your porch for decoration or for just enjoying as the weather cools down.
Types of Pumpkins
Part of knowing when to plant your pumpkins is knowing which variety you will be growing. Here is a list of the main types of pumpkins:
These are the classic varieties that are used for Halloween. Their maturity is between 90-120 days, depending on the specific variety
- Sugar Pie Pumpkin:
These pumpkins are designed specifically for cooking and canning of their meat and flesh after they are baked. You can see how to save our own pumpkin in this post. It takes between 85-110 days. These are Mid to small-sized pumpkins typically.
- Colored Pumpkins:
These varieties are often solely for decoration, but some varieties are not and can serve as food and decor. Check the labels of your seed packets. The maturity ranges between 90-120 days
- Miniature Pumpkins:
These small pumpkins typically mature in 80-100 days’ time, which is great if you are short on time in your growing season. These are also great if you have a smaller space.
- Giant Pumpkins:
These varieties are obviously very large and require a lot of time to mature. If you have a short season but want to grow them, make sure that you begin them as a start before you plant them out. Their maturity length is 120-180 days.
These are specific types of pumpkins; each one needs a different length for maturity. Narrowing in on the ones that are right for your zone, which you can learn about here in the Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help you know which type to choose so you can nail the timing for your Hardiness Zone and garden.
When to Plant Pumpkins to Harvest by Halloween
Knowing when to plant your pumpkins so you can get them in time for Halloween will come down to a simple little equation. If you know your Hardiness Zone, then you can determine the amount of time you will have to grow this crop during the warmest times of the year. It will need plenty of water as well as fertile soil. I suggest doing the following to time your pumpkins no matter where you live:
- First, determine how many warm days from the last frost to the first frost you have relatively.
- Then determine the variety and see how many days it needs to mature fully. If you grow a jack-o-lantern variety, you may need 90-120 days, so count back from your last frost date 120 days to be safe. Where do you land?
- Knowing this date, you can then determine if you have time to direct seed or use transplanted pumpkins. Many times, transplanting will ensure you have plenty of time to get the desired harvest. Even giving you an extra 2-3 weeks jump start will ensure a great harvest.
This simple perspective can change your success with growing pumpkins in time for Halloween. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just knowing the parameters you are working within.
Direct Seed vs. Transplants for Pumpkins
To determine if you need to direct seed or use transplants is simple, do you want a jump start on your season? Is your growing season shorter? How much space will be allowed to give to the pumpkins to let them grow the way they need to? Transplants are also a great way to miss the times of Squash Vine Borers in the garden since they have a short season for many northern growers.
What Month is Best to Plant Pumpkins?
The best time to plant pumpkins completely depends on the specific variety, your climate (hardiness zone), and length of time. Though all these factors exist, the time is usually somewhere between April and July for planting, whether you direct seed or use transplants. Typically the soil needs to have reached 60°F (15.6°C) for you to plant and have germination and not stress the plant.
When Is It Too Late to Plant Pumpkins?
After July, it is too late to plant squash and pumpkins for the most part unless you are in a warmer region over Hardiness Zone 8. In those regions, growing pumpkins later may make sense since the weather is warmer but still cool enough not to shift their flavor and production.
How Long Does It Take Pumpkins to Grow?
Depending on the variety, Pumpkins take anywhere from 80-180 days to mature fully. This means you have to know the variety and their specific maturation. Once you know this, you will know how long your pumpkin needs to grow into the fruit you desire to harvest.
How Do I Know If My Pumpkin Is Ready?
Like many squash and melons, Pumpkins can be hard to know when they are ready. These simple tricks will help you check in and determine if your fruit is ready to be brought in for enjoyment.
- The stem of the pumpkin should be brown and woody. If it is still green, it isn’t ready. The vine should die back on the fruit. This is a sign it is complete.
- Check the skin to see if it is firm and hard.
- The pumpkin should be the desired color based on the variety you purchased to grow.
- Vines from the plants should be dead and brown, and just the fruit left.
These tricks will help you determine if your pumpkins are ready to harvest for Halloween or whenever you desire to have them.
Pumpkins can be such a fun and rewarding plant to grow in the garden, but they do take some diligence to understand their timing with how long they need to mature. Typically planting them at the same time as your tomatoes will be aligned well for a successful harvest.
To learn more about growing a great garden, feel free to join one of our Free Workshops or check out our Beginner Gardener Course so you can learn the basics of how to grow almost anything in your garden this year.
Check out our Podcast to learn even more about gardening as well.