Whether used for carving a Jack-o-Lantern at Halloween or making a Thanksgiving pie, pumpkin is a simple garden vegetable. Pumpkin seeds require warm temperatures for successful germination and can be started indoors two to four weeks before transplanting outside, usually late April to mid-May. If you plan to use your pumpkins as Halloween decorations or for Thanksgiving cooking, hold off on planting until late May in cooler regions and early July in warm, southern regions.
Scarify your pumpkin seeds by filing them along the edges, leaving the pointed tip unfiled. The hard shell protects the seeds during prolonged drought or frost but can delay germination. Scarified seeds germinate at a better rate by allowing the seedling to emerge with less damage. Soak the scarified pumpkin seeds in a bowl of lukewarm water for two or three hours.
Sow the seeds with the pointed end facing down to a depth of 1 inch in their own peat pots filled with a seed starting mixture. Water the pots thoroughly and place them on top of a refrigerator, water heater or germination mat to warm the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy as the seeds germinate.
Move the pots to a location receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight once seedlings emerge. Let the soil surface dry out between watering and apply a liquid fertilizer diluted to quarter strength once per week.
Till your sunny garden bed to a depth of 2 or 3 feet. Incorporate 20 percent manure and 20 percent compost into the soil. Create a 6-inch mound of soil for each pumpkin seedling, each spaced 4 feet apart.
Transplant your pumpkin seedlings when roots begin to emerge from the bottoms of containers. Dig a hole in each mound just larger than the peat pots. Place the pots directly into the holes and fill in soil until the pot rim is just covered.
Water thoroughly after transplanting and apply a quarter strength liquid fertilizer. Continue to water your pumpkins whenever the soil begins to dry out.