A pumpkin, the star of the Halloween season, is a delicious orange-colored fruit. Often mistaken for a vegetable, this fruit is very versatile. Be it baking pies, making lattes, cooking vegetables, or just plain aesthetics, pumpkins have it all covered. They’ve found their niche in every type, of course, ranging from snacks to desserts.
This winter squash is round and smooth with a ribbed texture. Hence it’s carved as a jack-ó-lantern for Halloween. Loaded with vitamin A and potassium, pumpkins are grown in the rainy season. The ideal time for seed sowing is February-March and June-July. China and India together account for half of the world’s pumpkin production.
Including sowing time, a typical pumpkin takes about 90-100 days to ripen. For example, small sugar pumpkins take about 100 days to mature. While it might seem intimidating at first, growing pumpkins is not that tricky.
We have curated everything, from the best fertilizer for Pumpkins to how to water them. We have also addressed any queries that you may have. To have a seamless pumpkin growing journey, go through all the tips, and select the best fertilizer for pumpkins.
General Care Tips and Facts
Pumpkins require a temperature of around 25-28 degrees Celsius. They need loamy soil that’s rich in organic matter. The soil of pH 6-7 is optimum for the best results. Selecting seeds and the best fertilizer for pumpkins needs to be done carefully. A well plowed and leveled land is also a must for pumpkin plantation.
Seeds are available for all types of pumpkins, from giant ones to teeny-tiny ones. Always go with a full sun-spot when planting seeds and space them out as instructed on the packet. They are sown directly in the ground. You can even take a step further and plant them in mounds of soil raised off the soil base.
Using a spacing of 60cm is generally recommended. Since they tend to spread out quite a bit, a sowing depth of 1 inch is advised. Weeding should ideally begin 2-3 weeks after sowing. It can be done using a hoe or by hands. 3-4 rounds of weeding is generally required throughout the production process. You can even file the seeds using a nail file if you have some experience. This allows more moisture to get inside.
Pest-control is necessary to prevent Aphids and Thrips from sucking the moisture from the sap. And neem oil-3% can be applied to prevent damage at the hands of flies. In general, they do not require pruning. Be extra careful while walking around your garden as you might end up harming the delicate flowers with your feet.
How to Water?
Pumpkins are thirsty vegetables. In order to keep up with them, you need at least 1-inch of watering weekly. It’s best done in the evenings. Along with using the best fertilizers for pumpkins, using drip tubes is recommended by experts. They supply the water directly to the roots. Push your index finger in the soil to check the depth of moisture.
Immediate irrigation after sowing is required, and in total, about 8-10 irrigation cycles are necessary. Ensure that a great drainage system is in place. Watering should be slow, with very little pressure. It’s also a good idea to water early in the morning as the afternoon sun will evaporate any residual water from the foliage.
Depending on the climate, deep-drenching once a week is also okay. Never use an overhead sprinkler, as we want to keep the water off the leaves. Excess moisture needs to be avoided as it can lead to pest formation and diseases.
Feeding and Pollinating Pumpkins
Pumpkin plants are hungry and thirsty beasts, so they demand timely feedings. We cannot emphasize the importance of rich soil more. Adding wood-ash and good quality rotten manure comes highly recommended as they feed on the nutrients present in the soil to bear healthy fruits.
Soil that’s been amended with compost is mandatory. Keeping the soil warm for better conditioning is also advisable. Hence, cold-climate gardeners should plant them three weeks before the last spring frost to get an early start. To warm the soil, you can even cover it with clear plastic sheets and seal the edges to retain the heat.
Pumpkins depend on bees for the pollination of the blossoms. And the female flower must be fertilized for you to get a pumpkin. (You can identify a female flower by its swollen base). In case you don’t see any bees in your garden, you can assist with pollination by hand. Self-pollinating using hands or an artist’s brush to transfer pollen from male to female flower is one method.
Using the best fertilizer for pumpkins is the most important aspect. The quality of the fertilizer cannot be below-par at any cost. They also need a good amount of sunlight as a source of energy. Keep in mind; it should not be too harsh.
Nutritional Requirements for Healthy Pumpkins
Nutrients are mandatory and vital for a plant’s growth. The more nutrient-rich diet, the better the fruits. Each nutrient comes with a package of purposes. Here are four nutrients that are crucial for a pumpkin plant-
Nitrogen is the most crucial element in the growth of a pumpkin. These aesthetically pleasing fruits rely on nitrogen for strong vines, healthy foliage (volume), and thick, textured skins.
To get nitrogen-rich soil, you can plant cover crops of clover or other legumes. Do it in the autumn before you plant your pumpkins. They contribute to elevating soil fertility and providing a healthy environment for your pumpkins.
Note that if you follow this diligently, you have to reduce nitrogen supplication during the planting season. Generally, applying half the amount is recommended. Contacting local experts is advised if you’re a novice.
Ensure that you don’t apply nitrogen too close to the weak seedlings or at the wrong time. Else, your pumpkins might experience poor growth. They might not realize their intended size and will bear thin-skinned fruits.
Never establish nitrogen’s direct contact with leaves and vines. If nitrogen exceeds the prescribed limit, it can reduce or delay the emergence of flowers and fruits. If you witness that your plant is healthy and green but has not birthed flowers, stop nitrogen supply.
Phosphorus is an integral nutrient as it assists pumpkin vines in bearing fruits. It also boosts root growth. Pumpkin roots need to spread out substantially, as mentioned before.
The best way to supply adequate quantities of phosphorus is to add it just once, at the time of plantation. However, over-application does not do any irreparable damage or burn your plants here, unlike nitrogen since phosphorus is less soluble in water.
Potassium helps pumpkin vines produce fruits. Just like phosphorus, it also needs to be supplemented once during the planting season. However, over-application of potassium, along with other ingredients (sun, water, and rich soil), can boost the growth way too much. You might end up with an exploded pumpkin, just like too much pampering spoils children.
Some very rich sources of potassium include granite meals. Remember to switch to high potassium once the fruit is set. You can also supplement your feeding with extra potassium. Some of the potassium-rich and best fertilizers for pumpkins are listed in the coming segments.
Also referred to as trace nutrients, these are not present in the soil in high amounts. This is how they get their name. Micro-nutrients are very beneficial and vital to overall health, as they shield the plant against pests and diseases.
Just in case your soil lacks micro-nutrients, you can make up for it by adding more nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus fertilizers. A few NPK fertilizers contain micro-nutrients. Other useful sources of them include liquid kelp and other seaweed and fish liquids.
When to Fertilize?
Pumpkins are heavy-feeders, justifying their size. Fertilizing them a couple of times during the season is generally recommended. Even before planting, you can mix in some well-rotted manure and compost.
Early in the season, applying a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer is necessary for a healthy plant. An all-purpose vegetable garden fertilizer can be used to provide them with the right food. You should bless the vines with the best fertilizers for pumpkins one week after the first blossoms appear.
If pumpkins have been planted for Halloween, make sure you plant them early or in mid-summer. This way, the fruits will mature by the time fall comes around. If they are fertilized too early or in humid weather, they might soften and rot.
How often to Fertilize?
Testing your soil every couple of years is a good idea as you will get to know what type of dirt you are dealing with. Checking the pH and nutrient levels constantly will also help you plan. Make sure to side-dress the fertilizer so that the roots can eat it up quickly.
After a plant starts blooming flowers, you can help it with a dose of fertilizer every month or so. You need to adopt local methods to keep a check on the requirement. If you use too much fertilizer, you might end up with an excessively large plant that doesn’t bear fruits.
How to Fertilize?
If you use a granular fertilizer, feed the pumpkins in accordance with the 3-number code on the bag of the fertilizer. These three numbers indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. Apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as most fertilizers are different in terms of applicability.
Usually, granular fertilizer is applied at a rate of 1 ½ pound per 100 square feet. Scatter the granules around the plant and water them. Be careful that you don’t scatter them on the plant itself as it might lead to unwanted outcomes.
If you have chosen a water-soluble fertilizer, it is the best fertilizer for pumpkins. You can also mix a balanced fertilizer in the soil. Water it, create mounds, and plant the seeds. Then later, you can use a water-soluble fertilizer.
What Kind of Fertilizer Should You Use?
Choosing the best fertilizer for pumpkins can be quite a task. Hence following our advice and contacting local experts is advised.
You need to judge a fertilizer by referring to the N-P-K ratio and its pros and cons.
For instance, a granular type fertilizer with ratio 10:10:10 means; 10% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus and 10% Potassium. A 10:5:10 ratio means; it contains 5% Phosphorus.
You can find a water-soluble fertilizer for pumpkins at your local garden center. But, their pricing can be a little on the higher-end. A good all-purpose fertilizer can be just as good, with lower nitrogen content.
It has an NPK ratio of 18:18:21
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Plant Food fertilizer consists of natural ingredients. This fertilizer yields better results and voluminous harvests. This fertilizer is great for squash, tomatoes, basil, peppers, carrots, cucumber, and other herbs and vegetables.
To get the best result, feed it to the plants over 7-14 days during the active growth period. It is best applied with a watering can or Miracle-Gro garden feeder.
- Benefits flowers as well
- It can be used in hydroponics
- It does not contain ingredients that attract animals or insects
- No strong smell
- Feeds almost instantly
- It does not include calcium
- Not organic
It has an NPK ratio of 12:4:8.
It consists of vital ingredients, especially micro-nutrients. These ingredients help the plant grow stronger and sturdier. The result is vibrant and happy pumpkins basking in the sun. This feeds plants for up to three months.
It contains natural ingredients to feed microbes present in the soil. These microbes break down the natural ingredients to nutrients that ultimately support the development and root strength.
You need to reapply it every three months and water the plants regularly. This plant food is formulated with kelp, earthworms, feather meal, and bone meal.
- Good for flowers and all kinds of vegetables
- No odor
- Inadequate information on the packaging
- Inflammable, if instructions are not followed properly
- Cannot be used on lawns
It had an NPK ratio of 11:8:5
It is acidic and contains a blend of plant growth stimulants, among other nutrients. This pumpkin juice is specially designed to accelerate plant growth and improve yields. It feeds through roots and leaves. It consists of 0.02% Boron, 0.11% Iron, 0.05 Manganese and 0.05% Zinc.
- It can be used every two weeks
- No harsh smell
- It is only a supplement and needs to be used with other fertilizers.
- Inadequate information on the label
It has an NPK ratio of 12-0-0.
This is one of the best fertilizers for pumpkins as it is listed by Organic Materials Review Institute for use in organic production. It assists in rapid pumpkin growth and helps compost piles heat up and break down faster.
This works with micro-organisms, fungi, and organic matter in the soil to feed plants and stimulate growth. It is fantastic for heavy feeders, like pumpkins, corn, spinach, salad greens, and garlic.
You can even place some of this fertilizer in mesh bags and hang them from tree branches for effective work as a repellent.
- It is organic
- No low-quality fillers like poultry waste have been used
- No synthetics
- Contains growth stimulants
- Very little odor and when dissolved in water it is imperceptible
- High-end pricing
It has an NPK ratio of 6:5:5.
This fertilizer has especially been devised to make organic gardening easier. It is quite simple to use and grows healthy plants quickly. You can add it directly to soil and roots or mix it with water and feed it to your pumpkins.
This fertilizer is meant to intensify leaf and stem production and pumpkin development. Also, 1lb of it is enough to treat about 1000 square feet.
- Gives amazing growth boost
- Variety of flavors available
- Works on indoor plants as well
- It can be used in hydroponics.
- Low shelf life after opening
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are coffee grounds good for pumpkin?
Coffee grounds are believed to be an acidifying agent when added to garden soil, but the pH of the grounds tends to be more neutral. They tend to increase essential oils and nutrients and may not even cause the soil acidity to increase.
Some may think it is full of soil friendly nutrients, and bacteria will feed on it and break it down into nutrients that pumpkins can use. However, coffee grounds are highly acidic. Pumpkins are meant to be grown in soil pH of 6-8. So, if you are inexperienced, it’s better not to take this risk.
2. Are eggshells good for pumpkins?
Eggshells, when crushed and used, can help your garden as fertilizer. As they break down, they become a natural fertilizer and can provide pumpkins with natural nutrients useful for their growth, especially calcium.
While for plants prone to damage by slugs and snails, such as tomatoes, it should be good to go for pumpkins. Provided you take the necessary precautions.
3. Are banana skins good for the garden?
Banana peels are good fertilizers because they contain 42% Potassium, along with Nitrogen and Phosphorus in good amounts. They aid plants in moving nutrients and water between plant cells as they are the best natural source of potassium. You can bury banana peels that are close to your pumpkins, and this will help in them releasing their nutrients by breaking down.
Even though bananas have more potassium than some other foods, it is not a magic wand that will miraculously boost growth. It is advisable to add bananas along with other fertilizers.
4. How do you increase the yield of a pumpkin?
You can increase the yield of a pumpkin by removing all female flowers for the first three weeks. This may produce a sturdier vine that can set smaller but more pumpkins during the growth period. Ensure that your pumpkins get adequate sun and moisture. Good and timely irrigation can also ensure a higher yield.
5. How many pumpkins do you get per plant?
Usually, you can get 3-6 pumpkins, but some miniature varieties can yield 10-12 pumpkins. A large variety can produce only 1-2 pumpkins.
6. What happens when you pick a pumpkin too early?
If a pumpkin is picked too early, it will not have a good shelf life and will lack color and flavor. You must wait for it to mature properly to enjoy it.
7. Why does a pumpkin plant have flowers but no pumpkins?
The main reason for this can be that the female flowers aren’t being pollinated. This could be due to a lack of agents such as bees and insects. But you can always self-pollinate, as mentioned in the article.
It could also be because of too much heat, and you need to provide the pumpkins with shelter. Overly moist soil and drought conditions can also play a part. Only proper care can resolve this issue.
8. What can you not plant next to pumpkins?
You should always avoid planting root crops such as beets, potatoes, onions, etc., as they disturb the sensitive pumpkin roots. However, pumpkins are huge fans of certain herbs and flowers like mint, lavender, and thyme as they attract beneficial insects.
Even though pumpkins are made to look scary during Halloween, they are quite versatile and have eclectic uses. They’re also adaptable as plants and can be grown quite easily provided the instructions above are abided by. It’s natural to get intimidated while trying new things, but if we do proper research and collect proper tools, nothing is impossible.
Roll up your sleeves and dig your hands into the dirt. Your garden is about to blossom with beautiful, scary, orange pumpkins.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.