If the sight of lovely ripe pumpkins in shops come autumn makes you wonder how to grow pumpkins yourself, you're in luck. Pumpkins are easy to grow provided you have the space for them. They're also a versatile vegetable for use in soups, stews, and, of course, pumpkin pie, so don't worry that there'll no use for them past Halloween.
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How to grow pumpkins
1. Plant seeds indoors in seedling tray, one seed per tray, placed on its side. Sow in March/April.
2. In mid-to-late May, begin hardening off the young plants by taking them outside during the day. When all risk of frost has passed, plant them out where they are to grow.* You may have success with pumpkins in large containers or grow bags, but we recommend growing them in the ground, as they need a lot of water.
3. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot that's protected from strong winds. Water your pumpkins regularly, making sure that water penetrates down to the roots and doesn't pool at the neck of the plant, which will cause it to rot.
4. Feed with tomato feed every two weeks during growing season.
5. Harvest your pumpkins in September-October, before the first frosts. To prolong their shelf life, keep your pumpkins out in the sun for a couple of days, allowing the skin to harden, or 'cure'.
* You can skip steps one and two, if you prefer, and buy young plants from a garden centre in the spring.
Common problems with growing pumpkins
Pumpkins are fairly low-maintenance, but they don't like temperature or moisture extremes. The main problems with them are:
- Powdery mildew: it looks like white powder on the leaves and signals that the plant isn't getting enough water and it too hot. Move to a cooler location in the garden.
- Black mould on leaves and fruit: this is the result of overwatering and/or the soil not draining well. Improve drainage in the soil by creating a well out of the sides of an old plant pot. Make sure you're watering into the well and not pouring water on top of your fruit.
- Rotting/shrivelling of young fruit: this happens during an unexpected cold spell in the summer, and the plant should recover by itself once normal conditions return.