Among the orange-yellow fruits, perhaps the most beautiful one is the ‘fall-star’ pumpkin. Indeed, apart from the very decorative sunny flowers, the pumpkin plant bears very tasty and nutritious fruits!
Farmers grow pumpkins in fields on a large scale, but urban people can adorn their gardens, balconies, patios, verandas, or even driveways with a few pumpkin pots. It shouldn’t deter you because pumpkins are easier to grow in pots as potted plants are not so susceptible to mildew – the most common plant disease.
The potted plant does not have a direct exposure to the overly humid soil or rainy weather conditions, so it does not need any special care or climate.
The pumpkin is usually an annual plant when planted in temperate U.S. zones, but if planted in tropical zones it is perennial one.
How To Grow Pumpkins In Containers
The best way to start growing a pumpkin veggie is to use quality, disease-free seeds, or alternatively, to plant pumpkin seedlings, bought from a local farm or nursery. The pumpkin initial growth is not as season-dependent as it is temperature-dependent – their planting timing requires temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius (65 F) or higher.
For planting it in a colder climate, consider the month of April through late May as the best warm months to start a container-born pumpkin vegetable. This timing does not apply at all if your place enjoys a subtropical or tropical weather, so you can start a pumpkin vine whenever you feel like it.
2. How to choose a planting pot for a pumpkin vine plant
If you prefer small pumpkin varieties, then 10-gallon pots are the perfect size choice. As for large-sized cultivars they thrive best in pots of 15-25 gallons. In general, you should stick to the rule of the thumb – your pot should be between 20 and 24 inches in depth and width. As with all potted plants, the most important point for a bountiful plant growth is the good drainage.
3. ‘Jack be little,’ Baby boo,’ ‘Mini-jack,’ Wee be little, ‘Lil pump ke mon’…
The above, song-like names are examples of small or dwarf varieties of pumpkin plants that cultivars readily choose for their container plantings. But if you do have spacious gardens or verandas, there is a giant variety of the pumpkin plant that will literally ‘pump’ your place with vegetation.
Potted pumpkins have certain growing needs that must be met. Here they are:
- The right placement of the pumpkin plant
The yellowish-orange color of the pumpkin is a like a reflection of the sunlight it needs. The more sunshine your pumpkin receives, the better its flavor and nutritional content. Shady corners of your (roof) garden or balcony [especially next to or beneath a concrete wall or even tree shade)] will not be good for these gentle sun-loving vines. Instead, you must find a sunny spot for them that will shower them with sunlight for at least 6 hours daily.
When the pumpkin is provided with a lot of room to grow and is sunshine-satiated, it develops majestic foliage and flowers. However, if the place allocated to it is rather limited, then you must try to provide it with a good air circulation, that is a moderate draft. You can also artificially create this environment for the potted plants if you install an air conditioning device in the room, or other types of plant ventilation.
The soil requirements of the pumpkin plant
If planted in a cold climate, the pumpkin will need soil that is quick to heat. Also, the potting soil ought to have a well-draining consistency, with good humus portion and should retain water only slightly. All pumpkin varieties (be they small or giant ones) need quality organic composting, from their start and all through their growing and fruiting time. Pumpkins do not want acidic soils either. It is known that they easily accommodate in a pH-balanced soil of 6.0-7.2 points.
The watering routine of the pumpkin plant
Since pumpkins are ‘kindred souls’ with (water)melons and all types of gourds, they need to be “fountained” with water to reach their maximum size and quality.
Caution is advised when watering so as not to wet the foliage [plant’s leaves] and thus make it prone to the awful mildew.
The trellis support of the pumpkin plant
As already mentioned, a pumpkin is a vine-like plant, so it needs a trellis support to detach its leaves from the soil dirtiness and enhance a vertical growth. Cultivars say that a strong ‘A-shaped’ trellis have worked best for their pumpkins. You can ‘train’ your pumpkin vine to climb the trellis if you move carefully the young stems around the trellis supportive structure.
Taking additional care of your pumpkin plant
- Mulching the pumpkin plant
Mulching is needed when the pumpkin plant reaches several inches in height. It is a must because it does not allow for water evaporation nor for soil dryness and cracknels.
- Fertilizing the pumpkin plant
Since pumpkins tend to grow large, meaty and heavy, they do need frequent feeding. It is done with rich compost or manure that is with a 10:10:10-balanced fertilizer. When pumpkins turn to a good growth, you can reduce the nitrogen content of your fertilizer. At the account of low nitrogen content, you can enrich the phosphorus and potassium content that is you can apply a 5-15-15 balanced-fertilizer in every second week. The moment for this reduced fertilizing is the flowering of the plant.
- Pest-and-disease control of the pumpkin plant
The pumpkin plant may look like a “ruffian” plant, but in fact it is not sturdy at all. If neglected, it easily comes down with the disease known as powdery mildew. This disease is not difficult to spot, and if it is not treated, it can ruin your harvest very fast. As for pests, the pumpkin vines are not immune to flea beetles or aphids or soil worms either.
- About harvesting the pumpkin plant
Your lovable sweet pumpkins are ready to ‘leave’ their pots in about 3 to 4 months. However, the pumpkin harvest time may vary depending on several factors: the variety, the climate, etc.
The characteristics of ripe pumpkins are easy to learn: when they are harvest-ready their skin hardens ‘like a rock,’ their skin color becomes even and orange-intense for the most common pumpkins. You can do this ripeness check: “knock” on the pumpkin’s skin with your forefinger nail – if you hear a hollow sound, you know that it is happy pumpkin harvest time!
Note: If your nail pressure ruptures the pumpkin’s skin, you should let some more time to pass before you pick up your delicious plump pumpkins. All in all, a time span of hundred days is needed from the planting till the harvest time.
When picking up, just detach the pumpkin from the stem with a pair of scissors or a kitchen knife. You must not cut close to the stem in order to extend the pumpkin’s freshness and shelf life. After the harvest, mature pumpkins should be stored in a dark, dry and cool pantry or basement.
Read these few more hints…
- If you sow pumpkin seeds directly in pots, it is best to opt for biodegradable containers. When they gradually fall apart, you can transplant the plant, causing no harm to its roots.
- The pumpkin plant is a hybrid one: it has both ‘male’ and ‘female’ flowers. The male ones are the first to bloom, and live only for a day with a mission to attract insect pollinators. The female flowers are differentiated by a small swelling right at the base of their bloom bulb.
- The interesting thing about these plants is that their female blooms can also be hand-pollinated if there are no bees or butterflies to do the pollination job.
- It may sound strange, but if you allow the potted plant to produce too many pumpkins it may not last for another year! Bearing too many fruits is difficult for the plants as well!
- As pumpkins grow heavy and sizable, they need additional support with appropriate netting. Your wife’s old runner-ridden stockings will perfectly do the job too!
If you like these decorative ‘ballooned’ fruits, try to cultivate them in pots for a change. Grow your Halloween pumpkin lanterns at home and …
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