As we approach Halloween, pumpkins become more and more prevalent. And for good reason – they’re amazing! Most climates can support pumpkin growth, and they are usually grown for their fruit, seeds, leaves, and even decoration during the spooky season. However, you’re not here to read about spooky pumpkins, you want to find out about the growth stages of pumpkins and this is what I’m going to talk about in the article below:
Table of Contents
Pumpkin growth stages
When it comes to the growth of a pumpkin, each plant starts its journey as a seed. Once the seed has germinated, the young seedling will develop into a small pumpkin plant. The process from seed to harvesting takes anywhere from 90-120 days in total. Allow me to break down the process below in bullet points:
- Sowing the pumpkin seeds
- Growing of vines
- Pollination of flowers
- Fruit develops
A little about pumpkins
So first of all I thought I would be clear on something… the word pumpkin doesn’t actually have a botanical meaning. Technically, pumpkins are a fruit and they belong to the Cucurbita family which includes all winter and summer squash from butternut to zucchini. When you think about it, there aren’t many other crops that come in such a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.
Pumpkins are actually thought to have originated in the Americas. In the 1600s American Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow pumpkins, which, at the time, was a food they had never seen before! As the years went by, the pumpkin became a staple food that the pilgrims came to rely on for their survival.
China is currently the largest producer of pumpkins, followed by India, Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. It’s amazing to think that such a tiny seed can grow into something as large and impressive as a pumpkin. Incredibly, the world record for a pumpkin weighed in at over 3,000 pounds!
Sowing the seeds
So every great pumpkin begins its journey as a tiny little seed. Now in my experience, I tend to sow my seeds in late spring. The reason I do this is to ensure my pumpkins are ready to be harvested in time for the fall.
You first want to make a tiny hole in the dirt that is approximately 1 inch deep (3cm).
You may be familiar with this process already but it’s essentially called overseeding which increases the chances of germination taking place. Once you’ve made your hole, add your seeds to the soil and cover it back up.
Now the outside temperatures can oftentimes be a little hit-and-miss which is why I tend to start the process off inside where it’s slightly warmer and the temperature is more consistent – this way, you give yourself more of a head start. All you need is a soil-filled container which then will need to be watered heavily. If you want your seeds to sprout within 5 to 10 days I would recommend placing them in a dark and warm place like a boiler cupboard.
Something to remember
Be mindful that before placing your seeds into the ground, you need to make sure that you have a designated plot which essentially will give you enough space to grow the pumpkins. Pumpkins require a lot of room to grow so it’s essential you get this right.
The next phase in growing pumpkins is seed germination. Depending on whether or not the soil temperature is ideal, this could take 5 to 10 days. After this time has passed, you will see seedlings sprout from the ground. The leaves will be oval-shaped, similar in appearance to cucumber or squash seedlings.
In the next weeks that follow, you will see the first set of true leaves start to emerge. These leaves are usually more circular in shape and larger in size. You will also notice that the new leaves are slightly brighter in color.
Growing of vines
Two weeks after pumpkin seed germination, you will see vines protruding from the plant stem. The vines will then grow quickly and produce other vines at a faster rate. Did you know that there are actually many different kinds of pumpkins? The pumpkin vines can grow incredibly long too- anywhere from 10 to 20 feet!
When I have grown pumpkins and raised flowerbeds in the past, as the pumpkin plant begins to mature, the vines will grow over the edge and often cover up nearby pathways.
Something to remember
When the main vine of your pumpkin has reached a length of 10-15 feet I often think it is a good idea to trim it back so that it doesn’t start to interfere with other plants you have growing in your garden. Once you have done this, you can then have a look at the secondary runners which can be pruned at the ends. I usually do this when they are about 8 to 10 feet long. If you can see vines growing out of the secondary runners, then don’t hesitate to remove them.
After 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll notice flowers starting to develop between the plant stem and vines. These pumpkin plant flowers are usually big with yellow petals, and they resemble cucumber flowers but are much larger in size. One thing to point out is there are two different kinds of blooms… Females (which have fruit behind them) and males (which do not).
Once I notice this, I then add a little fertilizer which can be anything from compost to manure. I find this gives the plant that extra push it needs to produce fruit. However, if you don’t have access to any fertilizer, then no need to worry as pumpkin plants are known for being pretty resilient.
Pollination of flowers
After the flowers have bloomed, you will need to start thinking about pollination. Pollination is simply the transferring of pollen from the male flower to the female flower. This process is essential as it allows pumpkins to grow. The male pumpkin flowers will form first followed by the female. Once the female pumpkin flowers come out, the pollination process has began.
The pollination process will attract bees which will then transfer pollen as they move from flower to flower. Once the pollination process is complete, the female flowers will close and start forming the fruit that you and I know as pumpkins! Pretty cool eh?
If there is a lack of pollinators in your area, you can actually do this yourself using a small paintbrush. Simply transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. This method can actually be a little tedious so it’s always best to leave it to the professionals… i.e. the bees!
Something to remember
When your flowers reach the pollination stage, you may find that some of them start to fall off. Don’t worry—this is expected! As long as there are still male flowers blooming, it’s totally normal. The male pumpkin flowers will typically drop off some of the other female flowers when they finish their job.
Approximately 2 to 3 weeks after pollination, you will start to notice the fruits (pumpkins) beginning to develop. At this stage, they are still quite small and green in color. As they mature, they will begin to turn orange and increase in size. One thing to remember is that pumpkins can actually grow quite quickly – anywhere from 1 to 2 inches per day! So make sure you keep an eye on them.
As the pumpkin fruit starts to develop it will start to become more rounded in shape. Usually, within 45 to 55 days, the pumpkin will start to fully mature after the pollination phase. As the fruit develops, its skin will start to harden and thicken. Whilst this is happening (usually after a few months) the vines of the pumpkins will start to brown and die off.
Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that pumpkins are orange in color, however, the color depends on the variety in which you are growing. The colors can be anything from orange, yellow, white, green, blue, black, or even a mixture of colors.
Now that the growth stages of the pumpkin are complete it’s time for the best part of the show… Harvesting pumpkins! The following bullet points will indicate when your pumpkin fruit is ready to be harvested:
- Depending on the variety your pumpkin fruit is the correct color
- The vines of the plant have died back, turned brown, and withered
- After feeling the pumpkin skin you can tell that it is hard
- You should be able to hear a hollow sound after knocking the outside of the pumpkin
- The stem of the pumpkin is hard
If your pumpkin plant shows the same signs as the above, then it is most likely ready to be harvested!
Pumpkins are a type of fruit that is typically orange in color and grows on vines. They are harvested when they are mature and their vines have died back. Pumpkins can be used for a variety of purposes, such as decorations, food, or decoration. Let’s summarise what we’ve learnt:
- The growth stages of a pumpkin are seed, germination, vine growth, flowering, pollination fruit development and harvesting
- It takes a pumpkin 90-120 days to grow from seed to harvestable fruit
- Pumpkins originally grew in the Americas and were introduced to the pilgrims which became part of their diet