Last Fall, the kids and I bought some pumpkins at our local grocery store to carve for Halloween. As we were carving them into jack-o-lanterns we decided to save some of the seeds and store them through the Winter to plant our own pumpkin patch in the spring.
Storing the Seeds. First we saved approximately 50 of the biggest seeds from the pumpkins. We then washed them really good to get all the gunk off of them. Once they were all clean I placed a layer of paper towels on a metal cookie sheet and spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on the paper towels. Then I placed the cookie sheet in a storage room in our basement that is cool and dry. After 5 days of the cookie sheet of pumpkin seeds sitting in the basement I place all the seeds in a white number ten envelope and place the envelope unopened in the back of our fridge.
Preparing the Seeds. I kind of forgot that we placed the pumpkin seeds in the fridge back in October and when Spring was starting we were talking about getting ready to plant our garden and we remembered the pumpkin seeds. We took the envelope out of the fridge and placed the seeds in a plastic cup filled with room temperature water. You are supposed to let the seeds soak for 24 hours I believe but being as impatient as we are the seeds only soaked for about an hour in the cup.
Planting the seeds. It was May 5th when the seeds were planted in the ground. We had some dirt already tilled up in our back yard that is in a good sunny area so we choose that spot which happened to be outside of our already planned fenced in garden, unprotected from the deer. After doing a small amount of research it sounded like deer didn’t really bother pumpkin plants because of the prickly leaves so we went to work. To plant the seeds the first thing we did was mounded six hills of dirt about three feet away from each other. The hills were about two feet in diameter. After we created the hills, we dug a trench around each mound. In each mound we dug 5 small holes only about two inches deep and we placed two seeds in each hole. The kids had so much fun placing the seeds in the holes.
Caring for the Pumpkins. It was several weeks before anything started springing from the ground. I was starting to wonder if we stored the seeds correctly through the winter but finally we had some action in our garden. The kids were so excited and we went back and checked on the pumpkins almost everyday to see how they were doing. We didn’t have a lot of rain this spring/summer so we setup and rotating sprinkler on a short bucket and watered the pumpkins almost every day for about 20 minutes. On really hot days I tried to make sure and water them either early morning or evening to not shock them with the cold water from the sprinkler. Around June 26th, the plants coming out of the ground were big enough for me to weed out the weaker sprout of each hole. Not each hole we planted had a sprout from each of the two seeds we planted in them but if it did, I pulled out the weakest, smallest looking one of the two. If you don’t weed or thin them both of them won’t have enough room or energy to grow. We made sure to keep as many of the weeds away from the pumpkins as possible and also tried not to touch the pumpkins or leaves unless necessary.
Flowering Pumpkins. On July 11th we started to notice orange flowers starting to bloom on the pumpkins and by this time the vines are really starting to spread out.
Forming Pumpkins. August 14th is when we noticed the first pumpkin forming. The deer had started to eat the leaves which we didn’t think they would so by this point I wasn’t 100% sure we would get any good pumpkins growing but they started coming! We continued watering really well and watching almost daily. This got the kids really excited!
Turning Orange. After we noticed the first pumpkins, more and more started forming and we were up to about 20 pumpkins. They started turning orange by the end of August. We were getting excited planning on the things we were going to do with the pumpkins like having our own fall backyard party and letting our friends pick their own pumpkins.
Deer Damage. It didn’t take long for the deer to find our pumpkins. They ate several of the plants and flowers already but now were starting to get to the actual pumpkins too. It was like they were waiting just long enough to tease us into thinking they would leave them alone and then WAM, let’s eat them! By then it was too late to really do anything so we just took our chances. I picked most of the uneaten pumpkins which turned out to be about eight pumpkins in total. Not all of the pumpkins that I picked were orange yet but after sitting outside for a few days they started turning orange on their own which was nice.
Enjoying our Pumpkins. We used the pumpkins we did save for decorations around the house and we plan on carving and painting them as it gets closer to Halloween. The kids had such a great experience with the pumpkins from the start of saving the seeds to seeing the finished pumpkins.
We are already planning a FENCED in pumpkin patch for next year, we can’t wait!!
Growing pumpkins is a great activity to do as a family and don’t need too much room if you want to have a small patch, we look forward to doing this each year.