Since you went to the trouble to harvest seeds from fresh pumpkins last fall, you're surely excited about planting and growing them in subsequent years. Even if they're not an heirloom variety, the seeds will grow and probably even produce some interesting specimens. Pumpkins will grow and thrive only when the soil has warmed through completely, typically from late May through early July, depending upon your location. They'll require 120 to 150 sunny, frost-free days from germination to harvest, according to the variety. So start your home-grown pumpkin seeds a good 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost date for your area. Use a re-purposed milk carton to help your child plant his own special pumpkin seed project.
Obtaining the Seeds
Cut the fresh pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Use the pumpkin flesh to make pies and cookies.
Squish a wad of pulp and seeds between your fingers under warm running water to help loosen and separate them. Put the mass in a kitchen strainer and rinse well under warm running water to remove all the pulp and stringy residue from the seeds.
Drain the seeds well. Spread them out in a single layer on a couple of paper towels so that they're not touching each other. Place them on a counter or table in a well-ventilated spot to air for a week, or until they're completely dry.
Label a sealable plastic food storage bag with the pumpkin variety and the date. Secure the seeds in the bag and put it in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
Store the pumpkin seeds in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until it's time to plant in the spring. Fresh pumpkin seeds that have been stored properly can be expected to remain viable for five years or more.
Planting the Seeds
Remove the pumpkin seeds from their winter packaging. Use a nail file to lightly sand away some of the shell from the edges. This will allow easier germination. Soak the seeds in water for three or four hours.
Make a starter pot from an empty ½ gallon paper milk carton. Wash it thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinse well and pat dry. Cut the top half off and discard it. Use a skewer to poke three holes in each side of the carton about ¼ inch from the bottom.
Fill the pot to ½ inch from the top with seed-starting mix. Set it in a shallow container of warm water until the surface feels moist to the touch. Remove it from the water and allow it to drain well for about 2 hours.
Plant a pumpkin seed 1 inch deep with the narrow end pointing downward. Cover it with moist soil. Place it in a warm, brightly lit spot. The top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater are good locations. Check the pot daily. Don't allow the soil to dry out. Give the pumpkin seed just enough water to keep the surface evenly moist, but not soggy or wet. Your pumpkin seed will sprout in 7 to 10 days.
Place the pumpkin seedling in a bright, warm spot near a window until the weather warms up enough to move it outdoors. Tear off the paper carton. This allows you to transplant the youngster without disturbing the roots any more than necessary. Plant the pumpkin seedling in your prepared garden spot and water thoroughly to evenly moisten the soil.
About this Author
Axl J. Amistaadt began as a part-time amateur freelance writer in 1985, turned professional in 2005, and became a full-time writer in 2007. Amistaadt’s major focus is publishing material for GardenGuides. Areas of expertise include home gardening, horticulture, alternative and home remedies, pets, wildlife, handcrafts, cooking, and juvenile science experiments.