How to Care for Pumpkin Plants

Overview

Pumpkins are warm-season vegetables that belong to the Cucurbita family, which also includes squashes and cucumbers. Pumpkins come in a wide range of varieties, including standard orange, jumbo, white and miniature pumpkins. Pumpkin plants need a long growing season of up to 100 frost-free days to produce fruits, which are typically harvested in autumn. Pumpkins are the icons of fall, used for jack-o'-lanterns, as well as for making pies, breads and soups.

Step 1

Water your pumpkin plants deeply to soak the soil around the roots once each week when rainfall is less than 1 inch. Apply the water to the soil at the base of the pumpkin plants to avoid getting water on the plant itself.

Step 2

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around your pumpkin plants to control weeds and retain soil moisture. Pumpkin plants have shallow roots, so hoe shallowly or hand-pull any weeds if you don't mulch around the plants.

Step 3

Trim away the ends of each pumpkin plant vine by pinching off the fuzzy parts. Doing this will help to control the vine and vegetative growth, helping the pumpkin plants to direct their energy into flowering and producing larger fruits.

Step 4

Feed your pumpkin plants once every two weeks using a 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer, either as a granular soil fertilizer that's watered in or a liquid applied as a foliar spray. Follow the dosage instructions on the fertilizer label.

Step 5

Treat your pumpkin plants for insect infestations, particularly by the cucumber beetle, squash bugs and vine borers. Control squash vine borers by applying an appropriate insecticide, such as diazinon, or get rid of cucumber beetles and squash bugs using a chemical recommended by your local agricultural extension office. Follow the directions on the insecticide label exactly.

Step 6

Harvest your pumpkins when they've achieved the appropriate skin color and when they sound hollow when you tap on the fruits. Ensure that the rind is hard and doesn't puncture from pressing your fingernail into it. Cut the pumpkins from the vines using a sharp knife and leaving at least a 3- to 4-inch-long stem attached to the fruit.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid applying insecticides to your pumpkin plants when they're blooming, because the chemicals can harm the beneficial pollinating insects like bees. If you must apply an insecticide, do so only in late afternoon or early evening when the flowers are closed.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Organic mulch
  • 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer
  • Insecticides (optional)
  • Sharp knife

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow -- Pumpkin
  • National Gardening Association: Plant Care Guides - Pumpkin

Who Can Help

  • Pumpkin Nook: Pumpkin Vine Care and Maintenance
Keywords: grow pumpkin plants, pumpkin vine care, growing pumpkins

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.