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Growing Pumpkins in Raised Beds
While we normally think of planting small garden favorites in a raised bed, there’s no reason not to use them for one of the biggest vegetables as well: pumpkins!
Growing pumpkins in raised beds isn’t hard, even if you don’t have much space. In fact, depending on the variety you choose, it can even be easier to care for them in a raised bed than it is in a pot or traditional garden plot. Let’s dig in!
Benefits of Growing Pumpkins in Raised Beds
They’re Easier to Care For – While pumpkins generally require little care to begin with, growing them in a raised bed makes them easier to weed, water, and harvest.
Longer Growing Season – Pumpkins can require anywhere between 75 and 120 frost-free days for growing, and most require at least 65° soil for germination. A raised bed warms up faster in the spring than the rest of the ground, so you’ll be able to plant sooner. (Just make sure you’re still past the frost date for your plants, or be prepared to frost protect them.)
Better Drainage – Raised beds offer better water drainage, which pumpkins rely on so they aren’t sitting in water all the time. They love lots of water, but they need it in their roots, not on their leaves!
Types of Pumpkins
When choosing a variety, keep in mind that you can grow carving, decorative, or cooking pumpkins. They also come in many sizes – from pumpkins that fit in your hand to ones weighing hundreds of pounds!
When you have a raised bed, smaller pumpkins are better than larger. That said, your typical Halloween pumpkin will probably be fine growing in a nice raised bed if it’s trained well. Just don’t go too much larger, or the frame of your raised bed could be crushed!
If you’d like to make delicious pumpkin dishes, a pie pumpkin is just what you’re looking for. Sugar Pie is an excellent variety with pumpkins small enough to grow happily in a raised bed.
If you’d also like to carve your pumpkin, a variety like the Jack O Lantern will fit your raised beds well. You can use them for making pies, too.
For nice fall decorations you can place around the house and yard, try a decorative miniature pumpkin mix – they have many colors and sometimes different shapes, and they’re all sized perfectly for a raised bed.
How to Grow Pumpkins in Raised Beds
From planting to harvesting, your raised bed pumpkins will need a few adjustments to grow well.
You can start your pumpkin seeds indoors a few weeks ahead of time, or just seed them directly into the soil in your raised bed once all danger of frost has passed. While it may surprise you considering their association with frosty fall days, pumpkin plants do NOT like cold – so waiting until warm, frost-free nights is a must!
Depending on the variety, your pumpkins will take about 3-4 months from starting to harvestable pumpkin. Planting them around Memorial Day is usually a good bet. If you’re looking for carving pumpkins rather than pie pumpkins, you can start as late as July for an October crop – just be sure to pick a fast-growing variety.
Before planting or transplanting, pick a raised bed that gets plenty of sunlight. Add compost or rotted manure and work it into the soil.
Pumpkins grow nicely in hills or in rows, but since you’re using a bed, you’ll need to follow the spacing requirements suggested by your seed packet. In most cases, you’ll only want one hill or row per bed, since even small pumpkin varieties will still require a great deal of space.
And whatever you do, don’t plant other vegetables in the same bed! Give your other vegetables plenty of distance from the pumpkins by putting them in a separate bed altogether.
If you have a small raised bed for your pumpkins, or if they’re growing out into your walking space, you may have to train them. If you’re growing a small variety, the easiest way to do this is providing a firm trellis for them to grow upward on.
For larger pumpkins, you can also move their runners back into the bed whenever it starts to get underfoot. Make sure you do this regularly, since runners left for too long can develop roots that would be harmed by moving. If possible, send them over mulch or bare ground, since grass and weeds can grow tall and hurt the pumpkin’s growth.
For easier weed control, mulch all around your pumpkin plants.
Pumpkins love water, but avoid watering them with a sprinkler hose or any other “water-from-above” method that can wet their leaves. Wet leaves and fruits can make them susceptible to rot. Use a watering can or other method near the base of the plant if possible. A good rule of thumb is to give them about 1 inch of water per week, with even more after blossoming while the fruits are actively growing.
Once the pumpkins start blooming, you’ll find there are male and female flowers. Female flowers have a little bulge underneath the flower, which is the baby pumpkin. Usually your local bees and butterflies will do a good job pollinating for you, but if the need arises you can always use a soft brush or a similar item to dust pollen from the male flower onto the female.
Pumpkins will turn completely orange (or whatever color other than green that the pumpkin is supposed to turn to) when they’re ready to harvest. Additionally, the stem should be hard and dry, and you should be able to dent the pumpkin’s skin with a fingernail without puncturing it.
To harvest the pumpkin, wait for a dry and sunny day. Using a knife, cut the stem, leaving as much attached to the pumpkin as possible. Leaving a longer stem will extend the life of the pumpkin.
You may also want to cure the pumpkin so it lasts even longer.
Happy Pumpkin Planting!
With these tips, you should be able to successfully grow pumpkins in your raised beds. It’s a lot of fun; pumpkins are all so unique!
Pumpkins aren’t the only fun squash to grow, though… and summer squashes allow you to harvest the fruits of your labor (literally) much sooner! Here are a few tips on how to grow summer squash.