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Pumpkin Seed Starting Tips

Sow pumpkins in the garden in spring when all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65°F.
Pumpkin seedling
Pumpkin seedling

Pumpkins are a tender, warm-weather crop. Pumpkins are a type of winter squash—grown through the summer for harvest in the fall.

  • Sow pumpkins indoors 3 to 2 weeks before the last expected frost in spring the transplant them into the garden after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Sow pumpkins outdoors when the soil temperature has warmed to 70°F (21°C). Protect pumpkins in the garden from cool temperatures with row covers.
  • Pumpkins mature 60 to 100 frost-free days after sowing depending on the variety.

Pumpkins, like other winter squashes, must fully mature on the vine.

Pumpkin Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Grow pumpkins from seeds or seedlings.
  • Seed is viable for 6 years.
  • Direct sow pumpkins in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to 70°F (21°C). In warm-winter regions, sow pumpkin in midwinter for harvest in early summer.
  • To start pumpkins indoors before the last frost in spring, sow seed in peat pots 4 to 3 weeks before planting out. The indoor temperature should be 66°F to 85°F (18-29°C) until germination.
  • Pumpkin seeds will not germinate at a soil temperature below 66°F (18°C).
  • Sow seed ½ to 1 inch (1.3-2.5 cm) deep.
  • Seeds germinate in 4 to 10 days at 85°F (29°C) or warmer.
  • Space plants in the garden 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm) apart in all directions.
  • Pumpkins will benefit from the warm soil created by planting on hills or mounds; raise the soil 12 inches (30 cm) tall and 20 inches (50 cm) wide and grow individual plants on hills. Space hills 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) apart.
  • Water to keep the soil from drying.
  • Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer at half strength.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of transplanting.
  • Pumpkins prefer a soil pH range of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Grow pumpkins in full sun for best yield.
  • Avoid planting pumpkins where cucumbers or melons have grown recently.
  • Common pest enemies include aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, slugs, and snails.
  • Common diseases include bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic.

Interplanting: Plant pumpkins with bush beans, corn, dill, eggplant, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.

Container Growing Pumpkins: Pumpkins are not a good choice for container growing. They require significant room to spread and grow.

Pumpkin Planting Calendar

  • 4-3 weeks before the last frost in spring: start seed indoors for transplanting into the garden later.
  • 2-3 weeks after the last frost in spring: transplant seedlings to the garden; minimum soil temperature 60°
  • 3 weeks after the last frost in spring: direct sow seed in the garden.
Pumpkin plants
Sow pumpkins in the garden in spring when all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65°F.

Recommended Pumpkin Varieties

  • ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’, ‘Red Etampes’, and ‘Cinderella’ are classic orange pumpkins.
  • Other varieties include ‘Atlantic Giant’, ‘The Great Pumpkin’, ‘Howden’, ‘New England Pie’, ‘Wee-B-Little’.

Botanical Name: Cucurbita maxima

Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family; other members cucumbers, melons, watermelon, and pumpkins.

More tips: How to Grow Pumpkins.

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12 Comments

  1. Do I just take out the seeds from my pumpkins now and let them dry over the winter and then plant them in the spring? I had a vine come up voluntary this year and it produced 9 beautiful large pumpkins!! it was amazing to watch but it probably wont happen next year I would like to try and grow a vine from the seeds of these beautiful pumpkins.

    • Remove the seeds from pumpkin; gently wash away any flesh sticking to the seed under clear water. Let the seed dry on a tray for 10 days to two weeks. Store in the seeds in a paper envelope in the refrigerator. Sow the seeds in the garden about two weeks after the last frost next spring.

      • I had poor luck with the pumpkins I planted this year. Next year I’d like to make sure the soil is properly fertilized ahead of time. What do you recommend? We have very sandy soil which I’ve been trying to build up the last several years using our own compost. Will I need to purchase compost in bags before I create my hills?

        • Next season before you plant pumpkins, hollow out a hole in your sandy soil 18 to 24 inches deep and 36 or more inches across. Fill the hole with commercial organic planting mix or with your aged compost if it has decomposed to humus–loam. Continue by mounding your planting mix up above the newly prepared planting area another 12 inches or so; you have created a mound on which to plant the seeds and off of which the pumpkin vines can run next summer. The fertile-loamy soil mound will hold both nutrients and moisture–which can easily escape in sandy soil. Once your seedlings are 6 to 8 inches tall begin feeding them with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion every couple of weeks through the growing season.

  2. I planted pumpkin seeds now the plants are 6in high too early to put them outside I want to transmit them into bigger pots can I plant them 3 in deeper like you do tomatoes and will it root

    • No, do not bury the stems of young pumpkin seedlings. Transplant them to a gallon or 2-gallon pot and give them as much bright light as you can if it is too chilly to set them outdoors. A gallon or 2-gallon pot should be sufficient for another month–until the weather warms. You may want to sow a couple of more pumpkin seeds that will be ready about the time the weather warms.

    • Pumpkin seedlings will demonstrate growth similar to pole bean seedlings. The soil, moisture, and nutrient requirements are very similar.

  3. I was carving pumpkins and found a seed that had already started to sprout but it is getting quite cold lately. what should I do because I’ve already planted it in a small pot.

    • You can grow it on in the pot and then pot-up to the next and next size pots as it grows larger–if you want to grow it through the winter. Pumpkin is a warm-weather crop so you won’t be able to set it outside until a few weeks after the last frost next spring.

    • Yes. Be sure to score the pots so that the roots can escape. We find that biodegradable pots do not always decompose quickly enough for the roots to grow quickly into the soil. Most often, we slip the seedling and its rootball out of the pot and plant it without the pot.

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