How do pumpkins grow?

Planting, caring for and harvesting pumpkins

As of: 01/29/2021 3:12 p.m.

Growing pumpkins in the garden is easy, but the plants take up a lot of space. If you want to grow pumpkins in pots on the balcony, you should choose special varieties.

Whether Hokkaido, butternut or nutmeg: pumpkins are not only very tasty, they are also among the particularly decorative garden plants. When planting you should definitely provide enough space, because pumpkins develop long tendrils and large leaves.

Bring pumpkins indoors from April

The pumpkin plants can be grown very well in small pots in a warm place.

Pumpkins are very easy to grow indoors around the middle of April. The best way to do this is to use potting soil and plant a seed about two centimeters deep. Allow to germinate in a warm and bright location - ideally at around 23 to 25 degrees. As soon as the small plants show up, move them to a cooler place so they don't grow too quickly. Otherwise, the young pumpkins will not grow as well outdoors.

Pumpkins can go outside from mid-May

After about four weeks, the young plants can go outside. After the ice saints, the pumpkin seeds can also be sown directly into the bed from mid-May. The planting distance should be at least 1.50 meters. Young pumpkin plants are popular with snails. Therefore, if necessary, protect the young plants with a snail fence, for example.

The ideal location for pumpkins

A sunny, nutrient-rich location is ideal.

Pumpkins like it sunny to partial shade. They need a lot of water and, as so-called heavy consumers, a lot of nutrients, especially nitrogen. The soil should therefore be as moist and rich in nutrients as possible. A place near the compost is ideal. Like all heavy eaters, pumpkins should not be planted in the same location for several years in a row if possible.

Pumpkin, corn, runner beans: "Three Sisters" in the bed

Pumpkin plants go particularly well with corn and runner beans. The maize serves as a climbing aid for the beans, which at the same time supply maize and pumpkin with nitrogen via the roots. The pumpkin provides shade with its large leaves so that the soil does not dry out. This mixed culture, also known as the "three sisters", was already used by the Maya in Central America.

Plant pumpkins in the pot

Under certain conditions, the pumpkin can also be grown in pots on the balcony or terrace. The best way to do this is to choose special, small-stature varieties such as Baby Boo or a mini Hokkaido variety. The tubs should hold at least 60 liters and the substrate should be enriched with a lot of compost. It is best to let the pumpkin shoots grow up on sticks or a trellis, so the plant needs less space. Possibly shorten a few tendrils in a targeted manner, then the plant puts its energy into the development of the fruits.

Water pumpkins abundantly and fertilize regularly

When the fruits develop, the pumpkin plant needs a lot of water. When watering, always water directly on the plant and not from above, otherwise powdery mildew will develop quickly. To prevent the fruit from rotting from the moisture, you can carefully bed it on a layer of straw.

Pumpkin plants also need fertilizer on a regular basis, preferably compost or horn shavings. Fertilization with nettle manure is also well suited.

Harvesting pumpkins

When the stem becomes lignified and the leaves slowly dry up, the pumpkin is ripe.

It is time for the harvest around the end of September or the beginning of October. When the peel has hardened and the stem is lignified, the pumpkin is ripe. Always harvest the pumpkins with their stems attached, otherwise they can start to rot. With a handle, they usually have a very long shelf life - in a cool basement room, about three months without problems.

Caution: Ornamental pumpkins are poisonous

In addition to seeds for edible pumpkins, seeds for ornamental pumpkins are also available from specialist gardeners. Ornamental pumpkins are poisonous and should never be consumed. They contain so-called cucurbitacins, which were bred from the edible pumpkins.

It is clearly indicated on the packaging whether the seeds are edible or ornamental gourds.

Caution is also advised with seeds that you have obtained yourself. If the plants grew next to ornamental gourds in the previous year, insects may have transferred the pollen from the bitter ornamental gourds to the plant. The fruits of the plants then possibly contain the poisonous cucurbitacins.

In case of doubt, a taste test provides information as to whether the fruit is edible: if it tastes bitter, do not eat any more. Incidentally, this also applies to botanically related plants such as cucumbers, zucchini and melons.

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North Tour | 04/25/2020 | 6:00 p.m.