by Carol .Siddall Master Gardener
I learned something this week that I did not know, and I wanted to share with you. Neil Sperry, horticulturist from McKinney, Texas, and the Natural Gardener in Austin, Texas, say you can still plant pumpkin seeds July 4th. We will have missed that by the time you read this, but I bet you can still plant the seeds the first week of July. They need that warm soil to germinate so I feel you are safe. This will give you a harvest in October. Don't plan on planting the HUGE pumpkins as they won't have time to fully develop.
Daphne Richards, horticulture extension agent for Travis County, recommends not planting much right now, but pumpkins are the exception. Pumpkins thrive on heat and sun. Of course the down side of this is that you need to keep them watered through some of the hottest months.
Before you plant your seeds, consider these items:
Plant where they will receive a lot of SUN. They won't grow under trees or in the shade.
They like rich soil, so use lots of organic matter, working manure and compost into the soil.
Plant in mounds that are at least 4 feet apart to avoid crowding the plants when they start tospread. (Pumpkins take lots of room.) Sow 3 or 4 seeds per mound, spacing them 5 to 6 feetapart. Pumpkins get quite large so give them ample room.
They need 90 to 100 days to mature their fruit.
Neil Sperry says pumpkin seeds don't sprout well if the soil temperature is above 105. With our temperatures in the high 90s to low 100s, you need to prepare their planting space carefully.
Add and fold your organic matter generously into your garden soil. Apply mulch or compost over the plantings to help moderate the soil temperature and conserve moisture.
Things to watch for:
Squash bugs and their eggs as the plants grow. You will need to deal with them when you see them. Sevin dust works well. If you don't want to use that, (which I do not) you can hand pick the adults as you seen them and do away with them! Mash the eggs if you find them on backs of the leaves.
If you see that they are flowering but not setting fruit, watch for bee activity. If you do not see bees, you may have to do the pollinating yourself by taking a few of the male flowers (straight stem) and daub the pollen onto the female flowers (swollen stem that will eventually become the fruit). I have pollinated tomato plants before, and it works, but nature does it better! I hope this will help you get started on raising that special pumpkin for Halloween or for a Fall
Display. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and I love pumpkins. Wish I had the room to grown them. So, happy planting and growing. If you have success let us know by sending a picture to the Permian Basin Master Gardener's Face Book page. For upcoming classes, call either AgriLife Office at 432-498- 4071 or 432-686- 4700 or go to our Web Page, westtexasgardening.org. Either office will be glad to help you with gardening questions also.