When I was a kid, my dad lined up 5 jumbo sized pumpkins he grew himself on our driveway in front of our garage. Me and my siblings gathered around to pick our choice and stand behind them while my dad (or maybe it was my mom) took a photo. It is one of my favorite photos from my childhood when it comes to pumpkins and a vivid memory.
Last year, I tried growing some pumpkins of my own on a very small scale compared to my dad. He grew his pumpkins in a one-acre garden also filled with tomato plants and other vegetables. As children, we never lacked fresh vegetables. They were always abundant in the summertime. I can imagine for my dad it was not only a hobby but a necessity with five kids to feed plus one other sibling who came a little later than the rest of us!
Anyhow, I decided to try growing some pumpkins in a large pot at home and put some of the seedlings in a friend’s plot at a community garden. It was neat to compare how each growing scenario did. The one in the large patio pot grew just fine, but it did not produce as many pumpkins as the one grown in the ground at the community garden.
The type of pumpkin seed I chose is called Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (Curcurbita moschata) because of its shape. It looks like a small Cinderella pumpkin or a cheese wheel. It is edible as well, but I wanted to grow them to use for my succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces I make in the autumn season.
You may direct sow the seeds of this pumpkin into your garden or start them under protections up to 3 weeks before frost. I did neither of those. I sowed them indoors, in my greenhouse about three weeks before frost. Then transplanted them in my big patio pot near the end of May. The pumpkin fruits were ready a little too early for my needs (as noted I used to create autumn centerpieces) so I made a mental note to start them later this year in 2023.
Pumpkin seeds germinate easily (usually within five to seven days), and the seedlings will grow quickly. Also, the seeds are larger, thus pumpkin seeds are a great choice to sow with kids. Their smaller hands are able to handle the seeds easily, the sprouts will pop up quicky, which is great for kids. They will feel the reward of sowing seeds within days. Bear in mind however, the little plant will grow fast, and you will need to transplant it before it gets unruly. Also, because the seed is larger (than say tomato or pepper seeds), you may direct sow the seeds into a small starter pot (versus into a seedling cell tray). Small nursery pots or even a terracotta pot or something the size of a soup can is a good size pot for kids too. See my photos below of the seedlings I started in small black nursery pots (probably about the 3-4″ diameter size pot) and I put only one seed per pot.
Pumpkin plants may be grown in large pots (about the size of a half-barrel), but just be sure to give the vines plenty of space to sprawl. I placed my pumpkin pot by a fence which runs along my driveway, and I guided the vines onto the fence as it grew longer. It was growing along beautifully, and pumpkins started to appear after the flowers, but the leaves developed the problematic powdery mildew later in the summer on the leaves. Powdery mildew looks just like powder on the leaves but be aware there is a natural patten to the leaves along the leaf veins of this pumpkin which may confuse you. The powdery mildew usually grows on the whole leaf or in big patches, whereas the natural pattern on the leaves is along the veins. See the photos after this post to see what I mean about the patterns.
The plants in my friend’s community garden did not experience any major pest or disease problems, other than the pumpkins had blemishes on one side because one side stayed rested on the ground. Those grown in my large pot were hanging from the vines on the fence due to my trellising them, so they did not have blemishes on the rind. And the pumpkins did not need extra support as they hung from the vines on my potted pumpkin plant. They seemed to hang there just fine.
This type of pumpkin is technically a squash, and it may be cured and stored all winter, but I did not cure or store them because I was using them for my centerpieces. But I did put them outdoors on a table for a while which is part of the curing process because I was waiting to decorate them. They did not rot which is great. These cheese pumpkins have hard rinds which were of benefit to me for my uses because of how I use them to create with succulents and floral design items. And the shape is a desired shape I like to create with the plants, so they are just perfect for my needs in that regard.
The seed packet indicates they are ready in 98 days (approximately 3 months), thus this season, I will actually count backwards from this timing to make sure I have them at the right time for my centerpiece purposes. I started them a bit too early last year in 2022. I will wait to start the seeds a few weeks later than last year and will have to work out my timing on my calendar. It is also important to note that pumpkin seeds do not “require” being started indoors early as is done with tomato seeds. They may be direct sown into your garden, but I prefer to enjoy starting seeds indoors, so I do so.
When you plan to plant the started seedling plants outdoors, be sure to wait a little while after spring frost has passed. Because squash and pumpkins are warm-season plants, they are frost tender and while frost may not kill them, they will be damaged by shock if exposed to frost. And again, because these pumpkins grow very quickly, there is no rush, they will move fast and keep you moving as you witness their vines grow for miles (well, not literally miles, but they grow long for sure).
If planted in a patio pot (make sure it is a large pot with drainage holes), be sure to locate it where the vines won’t be in the way. If in the garden, be sure to keep rain or collected moisture away from the plants (i.e., should plant on a slope) and or perhaps check them to rotate the pumpkins so the rind won’t be damaged from laying on the ground as they develop and grow larger. Also, full sun sites are best for pumpkins, as is for most warm-season vegetables.
In regard to transplanting the pumpkin seedlings into a large container or patio pot, I used good quality potting soil and mixed in slow-release fertilizer. I also situated the pot where I knew it would be out of the way, easy to water with my garden hose, and along a fence so I could lift the vines up and trellis them. I used twine to guide the vines, but the plant also produces tendrils which naturally clung around the wrought iron fence areas. I probably added compost to the soil as well. With very little attention, the plant grew well and quickly. I would see bees visiting the flowers often and took many photos of them in the mornings. The large yellow flowers are pretty too.
Squash or pumpkin seeds generally last 4 years if stored appropriately (cool, dark, dry locations). I have packets from last season, so they are good still (i.e., viable) and I plan to test out the growing process of these Long Island Cheese Pumpkins again this season. Things I will change are a) timing of starting seeds; sow later this year by a week or two so the fruit is not ready too early for my needs, b) grow more of them in large pots; do 2-3 pots this year along my fence, c) grow some pumpkin seedlings for my friend’s community garden if they would like some again, and c) cure them since I plan to have more this year.
Thanks for visiting and Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Date of Post: March 17th, 2023
Author of Post: Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT