When it comes to seasons, fall is a classic icon.
But, even with the illumination of crunchy red-brown leaves on every step, is there something more inviting available that never fails to catch the eye of its spectator?
Yes, they are pumpkins! This popular member of the gourd family has left no doubts about being a seasonal sensation with its rising seekers. From being a permanent invitee on Thanksgiving dinners to living up to its spooky entity on Halloween, pumpkins have swept people off their feet.
What if you knew that growing pumpkins in containers was a possibility? Because not only is it possible, but we are here to make it a reality.
Follow this easy step-by-step guide as we elaborate on how to grow pumpkins in a container.
By the end of it, you will have a pumpkin spice latte ready anytime in proximity of your home. You can enjoy pumpkin carving with your kids, nephews, and nieces without worrying about missing fresh pumpkins of a new season. You will also have plenty of pumpkin pies to make and satisfy your inner chef.
How To Grow Pumpkins In Containers: Step by Step
Contrary to their humungous appearance, once they reach maturity, these bright and healthy tasting giants can be grown in pots and containers.
If there is any plant out there that you should grow at least once in your life, pumpkins take the crown. Who wouldn’t like to watch these plants as they inflate into a colossal balloon?
From gardening in an acre to downtown rooftop and eventually, suburban backyard, you can have it all. If starting with the accurate variety and space, growing pumpkins in containers can be an easy feat.
Meanwhile, the standard orange (large variety) is best suited for recreational activities like making jack-o-lanterns. It can develop to a whopping 15 to 25 pounds and takes 100 to 110 days until harvest.
However, if you are a first-time gardener intimidated by growing pumpkins in containers, consider miniature pumpkins as a starting point. Here are some recommendations you should check out:
- Jack be little
- Wee be little
- Baby Boo
- Pumpkin Hooligan
- Mini Jack
- Lil Pump Ke Mon
- Baby Bear
- Baby Pam
- Small Sugar or New England Pie
- Sugar Treat
- Winter Luxury
Above all, no matter whether small or big, growing pumpkins in a container is a manageable task with careful care.
Choosing The Right Container
Imagine getting locked in a pint-sized room for eternity where even stretching your legs wide is a grueling task. It will be distressing and eventually make survival harder. Similarly, if you choose a container without any room to breathe for your plants, they will ultimately die.
Therefore, determining the right size of the pot is a vital step in growing pumpkins in containers. The plant requires plenty of space for air and light to come in. Moreover, it also needs room to spread its roots.
The exact container size depends on your chosen variety. But in any case, you need a large pot.
A size range of around 10 gallons can work for gardening pumpkins in containers. Meanwhile, larger cultivators can opt for a container as huge as 15-25 gallons. Make sure for it to be 20-24 inches deep and wide and have adequate drainage.
Tip: Finding large containers can be arduous, and if you have a patio with enough space waiting for your garden to flourish, you can use a kiddie pool! Just let the vines roam around in the humungous spread. Also, do not forget to take care of it by providing proper water and sunlight.
Planting The Seed
For growing pumpkins in containers, you need to learn how to plant the seeds or seedlings properly, which you can get at a nursery store.
Pumpkins may be slow growers, but they can be started smoothly from seeds. They need warm soil and required temperature conditions. Hence, if living in tropical or subtropical, areas growing pumpkins can become a perpetual hobby for you. For warmer regions, plant pumpkins from spring beginning till July, and April and May are ideal months for colder climates.
Growing pumpkins in containers can be strenuous in comparison to seedlings, but follow the below-mentioned steps to avoid turmoil:
- Planting the seeds a little after the last frost cessation of the season should enable them to germinate in about a week.
- Avoid the first set of seedling leaves as they are cotyledons. After a pair or two of true leaves arise, thin the growing plants to two or three per container.
- If you live in colder areas, you can grow inside your home a couple of weeks before the last frost to get a head start. Plant a seed per pot and ensure the soil is damp and not too soggy. Also, make sure to place them under a sunny window.
- Usage of biodegradable containers indoors is a brilliant idea, and it will make transplantation easier.
But, if you are afraid to start from scratch, fret not because you can also get seedlings from a local farmer’s market, nursery, or garden store. While starting plants from seedlings might be facile, it’s tough finding seedlings for varieties of pumpkins that can be grown in containers.
If you decide to follow the seedling route, consult your local farmer for the growing conditions of the pumpkin seedling variety available there. Above all, if you choose seedlings, make sure they are hardened. In case you are unsure, gradually expose them to outdoor conditions before planting them in containers.
Tip: No matter whether small or giant, place your plant in a sunny spot. Establish your plant in a way it gets at least six hours of abundant sunlight a day to ensure healthy pumpkin growth. Keep in mind, shadows can slow down their progression, and remnant moisture on the plant can result in mildew.
Tending To The Soil
If you plan on growing pumpkins in containers in a colder climate, you should choose a soil type that will heat up fast. Pumpkins thrive in warm, well-drained, and humus-rich soil. Hence choosing a soil mix with these qualities is desirable. Also, remember to keep the pH levels almost neutral – ranging from 6.2 to 7.
Bonus Read: Here is a guide that teaches beginner DIY gardeners how to deal with composting.
A great way to enrich your soil is by adding compost to it. You can choose a container recommended bagged, soilless mix and add identical parts of compost and this soil into your pot. The preferable position for the compost is at the bottom since that will enable roots better exposure to nutrients.
Adding compost can prove beneficial for growing pumpkins in containers because they get a twofold advantage.
- Pumpkin vines are thirsty plants, and meeting the water requirement can be a formidable task. Worry not, because a handful of good garden loam or compost can increase its water retention capacity by tons.
- Additionally, you can also satiate your pumpkin’s voracious appetite for nutrients. Compost helps hiking the fertility of the soil. Add some slow-release fertilizer, and a good pumpkin harvest is ready to prosper in your garden.
Growing plants require a lot of potassium. Therefore, a potassium-based fertilizer will make a good fit for your pumpkin plant. At early stages, a 10-10-10 based fertilizer works best. Moving forward, you can reduce the nitrogen content being fed to your plant to prevent the inhibition of foliage growth. You can shift to a 5-15-15 based fertilizer as the plant grows, increasing potassium and phosphorous content.
Bonus Tip: If you are using home-based compost, make sure to strain it before addition. You can avoid insects getting in your plant that way, at least in the early stages. They eventually move into your plant later, but you avoided them munching on the seedlings in the tender growth phase.
How Much Water Is Enough?
These thirsty vines will require plenty of water to keep their warm soil moist. Here is where pumpkin shines the best as a member of the gourd family; its water needs are similar to melons and gourds. They need regular watering, but just enough so that the soil is not water-clogged.
Overwatering the pumpkins growing in containers can invite a common plant disease caused by a fungus called powdery mildew to the plant. While it may not kill your plants, it can result in stunted growth of younger vines and inhibition of fruit production.
A simple technique that ensures the productive growth of pumpkins in containers is:
- Watering at soil level
- Avoiding wetting the foliage
Keep an eye out for pests like aphids, flea beetles, and worms.
Can Pumpkins Stand By Themselves?
Pumpkins are climbers. These vine plants have weak stems and hence require the support of outside intervention to stand firm. The most recommended support option is a trellis. You need to build a platform for pumpkins growing in containers and train their vines to climb around the new item by moving it around.
If you want to build your own trellis, we have curated a list of 21 epic DIY trellis design ideas.
Trellises are strong enough to hold your plants, but you can also use sticks. A-shape trellises can make a satisfying purchase. Also, ensure it does not touch the wall to prevent an outbreak of diseases.
Most importantly, add the trellis before or during the seedling stage. It is the best way to avoid plant damage when attempting to train older vines. Not to forget, do not try to drive a trellis in a mature plant.
Pollinating Pumpkin Flowers
As you may know, to grow fruits, it is necessary to pollinate flowers first. Similar to zucchini and cucumber, pumpkins also develop flowers that need pollination for flower production.
After 60 days of planting, you may see flowers emerging out of your growing pumpkins in containers. They contain both male and female flowers. To identify a female flower, look for the tiny bulge of baby pumpkin at the base. Don’t be afraid to discard the males and even females if the vines haven’t become sturdy yet.
In case there are no natural pollinators around, like bees, no need to worry. You can hand pollinate the growing plant. First, wait for the female flower to bloom. Afterward, snip off a male bloom. If you peel its outer petals, you will discover a center stem or stamen. Just rub the pollen present in the stamen inside the female flower, and you have accomplished your goal.
Are Pumpkins Too Heavy To Support Their Weight?
Pumpkins are naturally heavier in weight, and their vines are too fragile to support them alone. Hence, to prevent the fruit from falling off the vine, make a sling to bolster growing pumpkins in containers.
If not supported using the correct technique, even miniature pumpkins will fall off the vines mid-growth.
Above all, you don’t need to go all out creating a sling. From a cut of pantyhose big enough to cradle the fruit to any fabric or mesh, stout to hold the weight of the growing plant can work. Tie this properly to the trellis. It will secure pumpkins from falling off.
Tip: Avoid the plant from setting off too many fruits. It will increase competition for nutrients and sunlight
When And How To Harvest Pumpkins?
After putting in hard work for 90-120 days of planting, finally, pumpkins are ready for harvest. Although, check the size and color of mature pumpkins in your selected variety beforehand. Pick green, unripe pumpkins to use in cuisines while look for orange mature ones for a ripe pumpkin.
Check the hardness levels of growing pumpkins once the pumpkin’s exteriors showcase growth. If the bark is hard enough to resist nail pressure and sounds hollow, it’s time to go harvesting!
If they are ready to go, carefully remove it from the branch using a sharp knife. To increase its shelf life, do not cut too close to the fruit. You can leave behind a stem about 10 cm long.
Tip: Never tear off growing pumpkins in containers. It can damage both the vine and fruit.
Elongating A Pumpkin’s Life Span
Now that you grew pumpkins successfully, wouldn’t it be rewarding if you could also prolong their life span?
Curing pumpkins helps to make them last longer, merely by hardening their outer skin. By leaving them in a spot receiving abundant sunlight, you are good to go. Also, do not forget to store them in cool, dry places after curing is over.
Since miniature pumpkins look enchanting as fall décor, a simple process will guarantee you are not tight on any festivity material this fall season.
If you always wanted a pumpkin plant in your garden, but its giant size and space restrictions held you back, growing pumpkins in containers is your solution.
Besides being a joy to any gardener, it is also an established aesthetic icon and a favorite of chefs. Hence, make your fall brighter this season, and follow this easy-to-replicate, step-by-step guide.
Consider uplifting the efficiency of your backyard with these 13 companions of pumpkin plants.