How to Grow Pumpkins in Kentucky
The first recorded pumpkin grown in Kentucky was planted in Richmond, Kentucky, in the 1700s, reports the University of Kentucky. Since then, thousands of pumpkins have been grown in the Bluegrass State. Whether you want pumpkins to carve for Halloween, to eat, or both, you can sow seeds in your backyard and raise your own gourds in as little as 90 days.
Insert a probe-style thermometer into the ground to take the soil temperature. Pumpkins thrive best in warm growing conditions and should not be planted until the temperature of the air and soil is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that pumpkins have different maturing rates depending on the variety. If you want fresh pumpkins around the Halloween season, the University of Kentucky recommends planting late harvest pumpkins -- those that take 100 or more days to mature -- in late May or early June, and short harvest pumpkin varieties in early or mid-June.
Prepare a sunny garden spot that hasn't hosted cucurbit crops, such as squashes, cucumbers or melons, in the past 36 months. Use a spade and break up the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Mix in 4 to 5 inches of aged manure or compost -- pumpkins love rich soil -- and apply a basic balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate listed on the specific fertilizer's label.
Build a mound of soil that measures approximately 6 inches high and 36 inches in diameter. If you're erecting more than one mound, space each mound apart by 5 feet.
Plant three pumpkin seeds in the center of each mound, spaced 1 inch or 2 apart and buried 1inch below the soil surface.
Water the mound once a day, using enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. The pumpkin seeds will generally germinate and break the soil surface within 10 to 14 days.
Thin out the pumpkin mound once the seedlings have grown three to four leaves. Identify the strongest, tallest pumpkin seedling and remove its two siblings.
Water your pumpkins on an as-needed basis. Kentucky rainfall is generally sufficient, but there is commonly a two- to four-week drought period during the summer when your pumpkin plants might begin to exhibit signs of drought stress, such as foliage curling or wilting. During these times, the University of Kentucky recommends irrigating the plants with 1 to 2 inches of water a week.
Harvest your pumpkins once the fruit have turned orange. For the best results, harvest on a dry and sunny day by cutting off the fruit with pruning shears and leaving 4 to 5 inches of stem left on the pumpkin. Although you can leave the pumpkins out in the field, the University of Kentucky warns that it only takes a night of heavy frost to damage your crop.