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How to Successfully Plant and Grow Pumpkins

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Pumpkins take up a large space in the home garden. To grow them successfully, you need to know how to prepare the soil, when to start the seeds, how far apart to space them and when to harvest the pumpkins.

Check the back of the seed packet for the number of days until maturity. If you are growing pumpkins for Halloween, add a week or two and then count backwards to arrive at the best planting date. It will most likely be in late spring or early summer. Pumpkin seedlings do not tolerate frost, but the pumpkins will rot before Halloween if you plant them too soon in a warm climate.

Prepare the soil for the pumpkin bed in an area that receives sun. Because pumpkins are heavy feeders, dig a hole 2 feet across and 1 foot deep. Fill it with a mix of compost and soil to which you've added a handful of slow-release fertilizer. Form a mound over the hole about 4 inches high in the center.

Make additional mounds. Space them 10 feet apart. Pumpkins like to sprawl and require plenty of room.

Sow six seeds in a circle in each mound. Push them about one inch deep into the soil and spaced four to six inches apart. After the seeds sprout, remove all but the strongest two seedlings. If you don't, you'll have all foliage and no pumpkins.

Weed the bed regularly. Pumpkins can tolerate short periods of hot, dry weather, but if you have extended periods of heat, water them. As the pumpkins grow, slip a shingle or tile under each one to lift it slightly from the soil. This foils some insects and improves the appearance of the pumpkin on that side.

Harvest all the pumpkins when they turn orange and before a heavy frost hits. To harvest pumpkins, cut the stem about three inches from the pumpkin. Pumpkins broken from their stems do not keep well.

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