Steps in Growing Pumpkins in Containers

Have you ever thought of growing pumpkin but were frustrated because you have limited space for it? While pumpkin fruits balloon in size, it is one of those plants that you can grow in containers. There are some techniques to do this. If you are interested to know the steps in growing pumpkins in containers, just read on.

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Pumpkins are autumn icons and they are popular for the many dishes that you can cook with it. And of course, many use them for Halloween decorations. It does not matter if you don’t have a huge garden, you can still grow pumpkins, in pots.

Some of the popular varieties that you can grow in containers are:

  • Spooktacular
  • Sugar Pie
  • Baby Bear
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    Baby Pam
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    Small Sugar
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    Wee Be Little
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    Baby Boo
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    Jack Be Little

These pumpkins yield about 2- to 5-pound fruits that measure roughly 6 to 10 inches across. Their vines are also strong enough to support the fruits. Other varieties produce bigger fruits that the vines cannot support so they are not suitable for container gardening.

Steps in Growing Pumpkins in Containers

Pumpkins have a long growing season which could last up to 100 days. That means that you have to plant them starting late May if you are in the northern location, to early July for areas in the extremely south states. Do not start to plant until the soil has warmed and until the danger of frost has passed to prevent rotting. The right time to plant pumpkins is when the temperature is about 18 degrees Celsius or higher.

Step 1 Choose the variety that you want to plant

Do a thorough research on these varieties so that you can easily decide which one to plant. All About Pumpkins has a detailed list of pumpkin varieties together with some important facts about each. Pumpkin seeds for planting as well as pumpkin seedlings are widely available online or at your local plant store.

Step 2 Find a big container

Containers with 20 to 25-gallon capacity work best for growing pumpkins. Many growers use plastic kiddie pool as they are typically the ideal size and they are also inexpensive. Make sure that the container has drainage holes so that water can freely flow through them. This will help avoid creating soggy soil. If using a kiddie pool, you can add several small holes at the bottom.
Tip: The rule of thumb in choosing the right container is that it should be at least 20 inches deep and wide.

Step 3 Fill the container with potting mix and compost

Buy a potting mix that is recommended for container gardening. When you fill the container, combine equal parts of potting mix and compost. The compost can give your plant extra boost and it will also help improve the ability of the soil to hold water.

If your climate is naturally cool, choose a mix that is quick to heat and drains well. Also note that pumpkins don’t like acidic soil so that pH level of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.2.

Keep the mix about two inches below the container rim so that you can still add a layer of mulch on top. Mulching helps keep the soil moist.

Step 4 Plant the seeds

Position the container in an area with full sunlight. Shady corners, under a balcony, or under a tree shade is not a good spot for planting sun-loving pumpkins. Pumpkins need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

Plant three seeds about 1-inch deep in a mound. The number of mounds you can have depends on the size of your container. The distance between mounds should be 4 feet.

Step 5 Prepare the trellis

When seeds are showing up, build a sturdy trellis to encourage the vines to grow up. In a very limited space where the vines cannot sprawl out in the ground, a trellis helps in supporting the vine. You can place the trellis behind the container or you may also push it inside the pool through its bottom.

When the fruits start to develop, you can make some kind of sling for holding the fruits. Many growers use pieces of panty hose for this purpose.

Step 6 Maintaining the pumpkin plants

  • Early in the planting season, protect plants by using row covers. This will also help avoid insect problems. Remove the cover before flowering begins to allow pollination.
  • Train the vines to move upward on the trellis as the plant grows.
  • Water the pumpkin plants one inch per week. When the fruits start to set, water more deeply. When watering, try to keep the fruits and foliage dry as dampness causes rot and other diseases.
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    Do not over-cultivate as this may damage the shallow roots.
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    Bees play an important role in pollination so avoid using insecticides.
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    Pumpkins are heavy feeders. It would boost their growth if you add compost mixed with water once every few weeks. If you have to apply fertilizer, use a high-nitrogen formula when the plants are about one-foot tall and just before the vines begin to sprawl. Before the blooming period, you can then switch to a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous.
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    After few pumpkins have formed, pinch off the fuzzy end of each vine. This will stop the vine from growing so that the plant can focus its nutrients on the fruit. Pruning the vine may also help.

Step 7 Harvesting and storage

One way to know if the pumpkin fruit is ready to be harvested is when its rind is hard to touch and sounds hollow. In most varieties, mature pumpkins have solid and deep orange color when they mature. To harvest, cut the fruit from the vine using pruning shears. Don’t cut too close to the fruit, but instead leave a 3- to 4-inch stem still attached to it. This will increase the storage time.

Once gathered, handle the pumpkins gently to avoid bruising. Curing the fruits in the sun for a week is a good technique to toughen the skin before storing them in a cool and dry place.
If you like to plant the same variety, save your seeds and they could last for up to 6 years.

Common problems in Growing Pumpkins in Containers

  • Powdery Mildew – This appears as a white powdery substance over the surface of the leaves causing them to become stunted and shrivel. Solution: Keep the soil moist and transfer the container in a cooler location.
  • No fruits or they rot when still small – This is commonly caused by physiological problems, not pest or a disease. It normally happens when the early summer weather is cool, causing inadequate pollination. Solution: There is nothing you can do about it. This is just a temporary thing and once the weather improves, so will the pollination process. You could try hand pollination if you know about it, but it is a hassle.
  • Grey Mold – This is a common problem in container gardening where pumpkin plants are densely sown. It also occurs in wet conditions. Grey molds normally enter through a wound which could affect the buds, flowers and fruits. The affected plant typically shrivels and dies. Solution: Space out your plants correctly and only sow when the weather is warm. Hygiene is key to preventing grey mold from spreading. If you see it, remove the affected plant and destroy it.

Conclution

Growing pumpkins in containers is possible and is not as difficult as some people might think. However, you need to follow the right steps to ensure a healthy plant and a good harvest. There are also common problems that you may encounter in the process and our guide above should help you solve them.

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Did you find this article helpful? If you have other tips that you wish to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Ella Wilson
 

Hi! This is Ella Wilson, the founder of tinyplantation.com. Being a devotee with plants and gardens, you will find numerous things with me. I have developed enough interest regarding plants that these things do not bore me anymore; instead this has become my passion.

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