Pumpkin Seed Starting Tips

Pumpkin seedlings

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

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

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.

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

Recommended 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.
  • 3 weeks after the last frost in spring: direct sow seed in the garden.

Recommended 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.