Gardening Tip: Plant Now for Halloween Pumpkins

Want to delight the kids with Halloween pumpkins…just in time for Halloween?  Here’s a good gardening tip:  sow those seeds now!

Even in our desert gardens and landscapes, we can grow pumpkins…with a little care.  I planted my pumpkin seeds — Lumina (a ghostly white pumpkin that’s excellent for cooking) and Big Max, a giant variety — and, in just 5 days, they sprouted!  Best choices for Phoenix desert gardens are the smaller varieties like Baby Bear, Spooktacular, Jack ‘o-Lantern, just to name a few.  But it’s hard to resist those big boys for carving!

Big Max PumpkinJust find some good quality seeds from growers like Seeds of Change or Botanical Interests.  (If you’re going to be using them for pumpkin pie, do a little research to see which varieties are best and make sure to get organic seeds.)  Then dig a hole about a foot or so deep and a couple of feet wide.  Backfill it with compost and then fill it in with dirt to make a mound.  Plant seeds about an inch down and a couple of inches apart.  Cover with mulch and, like Linus and Sally, wait for the Great Pumpkin!

After the sprouts get to about 3-4″, thin to about 3-4 plants per mound.  Make sure they get plenty of water (water the soil around the plant, not the plant itself) and fertilize with fish emulsion every couple of weeks.

Depending on the variety, they’ll take about 100-120 days to mature (lop off a week or so if you’re starting with transplants). Remove them from the vine when the vine starts to die, but be sure to leave some of them stem. Give them a few days to cure in the sun, and then you can keep them for a few months after that if they’re in a cool place.  Christmas Pumpkins, anyone?

These guys are heavy-duty sprawlers so make sure you have a good amount of space for your pumpkin patch…about 6 feet or so per mound. Good luck!

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