Pumpkins and Squash – Grow Guide

Discover how to sow, grow and harvest pumpkins and squash, in this handy growing guide.

Overview

Scan the pages of a seed catalogue and you’ll find a far better range of pumpkins and squash than you ever would in a shop. Ornamental and good to eat, they require little attention to produce great autumn crops that store well into winter.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sow
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Plant
Plant
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Harvest
Harvest
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Spacing: 90cm apart 90cm between rows

Depth: 2.5cm

Avg yield: 1 large or 4-6 small fruits per plant

Growing pumpkins and squash from seed

Sowing and planting

Sow seeds indoors in spring. Soak in water overnight to speed up germination, then sow two seeds into 8cm pots filled with seed compost. Place seeds on their edge and not flat to stop water sitting on top and causing rotting. Put them on a warm, light windowsill and water well. When the seedlings grow, remove the weaker one so the strongest has plenty of room to develop.

Once the danger of frost has passed in late May or early June, plant them. Choose a sheltered, sunny spot and dig lots of garden compost into the soil. Insert a bamboo cane next to each plant and you’ll always be able to find its centre for watering, no matter how large it grows. Plant at least 90cm apart, according to the variety. Cover the surrounding soil with a mulch of garden compost to retain moisture.

Tending the crop

Plants will rapidly put on growth. Depending on space, either let them trail over the ground or train them up a support. It must be sturdily made to take the heavy weight. Stems touching the ground can be pegged down to encourage them to root down into the soil.

Pumpkins have separate male and female flowers. You can tell them apart as the female has a swelling behind it. To help the plant form fruit, insert the male flower into the female one to transfer pollen.

While plants are getting established, keep the ground weed free, but once they get going the large leaves will prevent any weeds from growing. Water plants regularly, especially in dry weather. As the pumpkins and squash develop, cut away any foliage that is shading the fruits to help them ripen.

Harvesting pumpkins and squash

Pumpkins and squash are ready to harvest when the stem begins to crack and the skin hardens. Pick before the first frosts in October or November, cutting to retain as long a stem as possible.

Storing pumpkins and squash

The fruits keep best if you place them in the sun for about 10 days before storing, as this toughens the skin and acts as a barrier to prevent them drying out in storage. Remember to cover them on frosty nights, then put them somewhere cool, dry and well ventilated, and they should keep for about six months.

Preparation and uses

Pumpkins and squash can be boiled, steamed or roasted. Ornamental varieties make an attractive autumnal display.

Troubleshooting

Powdery mildew can be a problem on leaves, especially if soil is dry. Water well and mulch to retain moisture at the roots and maintain good air circulation around leaves. If the infection hits early in the year, pick off infected parts promptly.

Other squashes to try

You could also try: 'Hawk', a quick-to-mature butternut squash with great-flavoured, compact fruits; 'Hunter', a relatively early-cropping squash, ideal for growing in more northerly gardens and 'Rolet', with tennis-ball sized, green fruits.

Pumpkin and squash varieties to try

  • ‘Baby Bear’ – a compact pumpkin, perfect for smaller gardens
  • ‘Sprinter’ – a fast-maturing butternut squash with sweet, firm flesh
  • ‘Crown Prince’ – a prolific cropper with delicious, blue-grey skinned fruits
  • ‘Hasta La Pasta’ – a yellow skinned squash with noodle-like flesh
  • ‘Sunshine’ – a winter squash with a deliciously sweet, nutty flavour
  • ‘Turk’s Turban’ – a decorative squash with orange and green flesh

Related content

How to grow potatoes for Christmas

Best potatoes for baking

How to grow cordon tomatoes

How to grow tomatoes outside

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