HOW TO GROW PUMPKINS FROM SEED
As true fruits go, pumpkins can achieve monstrous sizes - so when it comes to growing them from seed you need to get the timing right so that they can make use of the warmest and sunniest part of the year.
This needs to be at least 60 degrees Celsius, in fact in Lincolnshire it’s believed that pumpkin growers test the soil by pulling down their trousers and sitting on the ground!
If you live in an area where the summers are neither long or warm enough, you will need to give your seeds a head start by germinating them under controlled conditions indoors i.e. plenty of additional light and soil temperatures of between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius.
To give you seeds the best start - although it is not strictly necessary – lightly file the edges of the seed with a nail file, apart from the pointed end.
Not only will this allow for a quicker and greater uptake of moisture into the seed more makes it easier for the leaves to emerge from the shell without damage.
Next the seeds can be soaked for several hours in warm water – not hot – as again this will speed up germination.
For the cautious grower, once you have removed the seeds from the water, remove any excess with a paper towel and then treat the seed with a fungicidal powder. This will help to reduce the incidence of fungal infections – especially if soil temperatures start to drop or if the young seedlings get overly wet.
SOWING PUMPKIN SEEDS INDOORS
.Start off with 6 inch pots with the bottom inch or so filled with a good quality seed mix such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’ compost. Take one seed and place it either on its side, or with the pointed end down, then fill the pot to within 1 inch of the top with more of the compost mix. Water thoroughly, and then move to a warm and sunny position such as south facing windowsill - preferably by a radiator, but not on a radiator. However if you have a heated propagator or germination mat – use that.
Once the new seedlings start to emerge – any time between 4 and 6 days - remove the basal heat, but keep them in a well lit area that receives as much direct sunlight as possible. If the seeds have not sprouted after ten days then consider that that batch has failed and you will need to make another sowing.
Your pumpkin seedlings will need to be watered every couple of days due to their high rate of growth but allow the surface to dry off before re-watering as this can tempt fungal infections. Also – after the first couple of days – you can commence feeding with a liquid fertiliser, but only at a half strength dose and only once a week.
Once the seedlings have been grown on for a couple of weeks they should be ready for transplanting outside so long as the threat of late frosts are over.
SOWING AND GROWING PUMPKINS OUTSIDE
In addition, they will also require a large amount of soil nutrition and so it is well worth while digging in plenty of well-rotted farm manure a few weeks before planting.
If you are in an area that is prone to a lot of spring rain that you may also wish to mound up the soil where you will be sowing or planting your pumpkin seedlings so that they don’t become waterlogged at this early stage.
Create a mound of soil three feet in diameter with a shallow trench surrounding it for collecting water. Plant four to five pumpkin seeds on each hill, spaced between six to eight inches apart. If you are intending planting more than one hill, make sure that each hill is at least 10 feet apart to give plants enough space to spread their tendrils. Once the seeds have germinated, remove all but the strongest seedling to continue on through to fruiting.
This is similar to mound planting but instead you are creating an elevated row of soil with small, shallow trenches on either side to collect water. Plant 2 or 3 pumpkin seeds every 18 inches along the row. If you are planting multiple rows, each row should be at least 6 inches apart from its neighbour. Once the seeds have germinated, remove all but the strongest seedling in each grouping to continue through to fruiting.