Plant pumpkins for halloween

Planting Tips:

  • Space is a consideration. The typical hill needs 50-100 square feet. If space is an issue, get creative with smaller pumpkins by using containers or training up trellises, or allow vines to grow over the sides of the garden beds.
  • Full, direct sunlight is needed. That 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. direct, overhead sunlight is best.
  • Pumpkins are heavy feeders. They prefer fertile soil that drains well. Mix lots of compost (2-4 inches) or soil amendment (1-2 inches) into beds before planting.
  • Plant seeds directly into the soil. For Western North Carolina, May 10-June 15 (after soil has warmed up to 70 degrees) is the time for planting pumpkin seeds.
  • Plant seeds in rows or “pumpkin hills” allowing for the soil to warm up faster and drain better.
  • For hills: Plant seeds 48″ inches apart and 1.5″ deep. (This is for the larger varieties, double check your package of seeds for instructions.) Plant 4-5 seeds per hill.
  • For rows: Plant seeds 6″-12″ apart in rows 6′-10′ apart.
  • Seeds germinate quickly. When seedlings reach 2-3″ tall, thin to 2-3 plants per hill. In rows, thin to 1 plant every 18″-38″.
  • Mulch well to retain moisture and give pumpkins a dry, better draining area to avoid rot as the fruit forms. Using a mesh under the fruit helps with rotting.

From a Charlotte-area farmer, 5 things to know about pumpkins this season | Charlotte Observer

Extra pumpkins are brought out for the next day’s rush for Halloween pumpkins. Carrigan Farms is a family-owned fifth-generation farm located in Mooresville on over 100 acres. T. Ortega Gaines [email protected]

There are two things farmer Doug Carrigan wants you to know before you make a pilgrimage to the nearest pumpkin patch this fall:

1) Pumpkins are like people: They come in different shapes and sizes. Some are big and wide; others are small and scrawny. Some are beautiful and attractive; others are homely and “plug-ugly.”

2) You can eat them: You can toss them in a stew or soup or mix up your own pumpkin glaze, sauce or gravy. If you’re looking for a gluten-free meal, pumpkins qualify. And they’re chock-full of vitamins and fibers and low in calories.

With fall in full swing – bringing with it much-needed rainfall in the Charlotte area – the Observer asked Carrigan, owner of the Mooresville-based Carrigan Farms, five questions about pumpkin planting. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity:

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Q: How has the drought and now rain affected pumpkin-growing?

A: Well, it makes us work harder. We irrigate our pumpkins if we need to. If we’re not irrigated, it would be a disaster. We would not have any. But, because we irrigate, we have a pretty good pumpkin crop. We had plenty of rain earlier this year, and then it stopped. If we did not irrigate pumpkins, I would not plant them at all. This year, we would’ve had zero crop at all.

If you can get 1,500 to 2,000 pumpkins per acre, that’s a good crop.

Q: When do you start planting your pumpkins?

A: We plant after the Fourth of July, between the 7th and the 15th. That’s our window of opportunity to get the biggest and best (pumpkins). People want pumpkins in October, and we plant them so they get ripe in October. Some varieties of pumpkin, you can produce for 80 days. Some are 120-day pumpkins. It’s a science. You never get perfect. Mother Nature is our business partner, and she gives some and she takes away some, too.

It has to do with the genetics behind it, too. We plant certain varieties that will have the potential to get so-big. If you’ve got enough water and keep all your insects and diseases off, they can grow up and maximize their genetic potential.

Q: How do you safeguard your pumpkins from wildlife?

A: You plant enough so they get all they want to eat and you take what’s left. You can’t stop them (deer, especially). They’ve got to eat, too. It doesn’t happen too often.

Q: What’s some of your best pumpkin-planting advice?

A: Timing is key. I see a lot of people planting them too early. I see backyard gardeners (say) it’s warm, spring, maybe they’re ready to plant a pumpkin. I get phone calls every year: “My pumpkin’s getting ripe, what do I do?” You planted them too early. Plant them a little later.

Q: How do I find the perfect pumpkin?

A: Pumpkins are just like people. They come in all sizes and shapes. Each one is suited for somebody. Some like the ugly ones. I’ve had some kids come out (to the farm) and they’ve got a pumpkin and it looks plug-ugly. That’s what they like.

Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, they’re so ugly, they’re pretty. You’ll see some – the vine will go in the middle of the pumpkins and it will look like two butt-cheeks. Some double-blossom (two on a vine): We call them Dolly Parton pumpkins. You never know what you’re going to get out there.

(When shopping around) make sure they don’t have any rotten spots (soft and squishy areas) on them. They’re not meant to last forever. They have a shelf life. There is no perfection. You just get the one you like.

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov

Pumpkin Growing Tips For Halloween Pumpkins

Growing pumpkins in the garden can be a lot of fun, especially for children who may use them for carving their jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. But, as many gardeners know, successfully growing pumpkins in the garden for Halloween pumpkins can be difficult to do. With a few pumpkin growing tips, you can grow perfect Halloween pumpkins in your garden.

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #1 – Plant at the right time

Many gardeners will tell you that growing pumpkins is easy; it’s keeping the pumpkins from rotting before Halloween that is hard. Mature pumpkins will rot quickly, so it’s important that your pumpkin is ripe right at Halloween. The best time for planting pumpkins depends on the variety and your climate. Normally, in the North, you should be planting pumpkins in mid to late May. In warmer, southern climates (where pumpkins grow rapidly), you should probably be planting pumpkins in June.

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #2 – Give your pumpkin lots of room

Growing pumpkins requires a lot of room. Many pumpkin plants can grow to be 30 to 40 feet long. If you don’t provide enough room for your pumpkin plant, you may cause it to shade and weaken itself, which makes the plant more susceptible to disease and pests.

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #3 – Pumpkins love sunshine

Plant your pumpkins where they will get lots of sun. The more the better.

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #4 – Pumpkins love water

While growing pumpkins will tolerate some drought, it is best to make sure that they get regular watering. Make sure your pumpkin plants get 2 – 4 inches of water a week. Supplement with the hose if you are not getting this much rainfall.

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #5 – Plant your Pumpkins with Companions

Squash bugs are the number 1 killers of pumpkin vines. To repel them from your pumpkin plant, plant some companion plants near your pumpkin plant. Plants that squash bugs don’t like and will keep squash bugs from the growing pumpkins include:

  • Catnip
  • Radishes
  • Nasturtiums
  • Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Mint

Halloween Pumpkin Growing Tip #6 – Keep the Stem

When you harvest your pumpkin plant, make sure you leave a good, long piece of the stem on the pumpkin. Once you cut potential Halloween pumpkins from the vine, a “handle” or stem will help slow the rotting process.

With these pumpkin growing tips, you should have a much better chance of growing all the Halloween pumpkins you could want. Remember also, not only is growing pumpkins fun, but after Halloween, they make a great addition for your compost pile.

How to Grow Pumpkins For Halloween This Year


It may seem a little early to be thinking about Halloween, but if you are hoping to grow your own pumpkins this year, it is actually already a bit late in the game.

This is a great project to do with your children and a fun way to introduce them to backyard gardening.

Growing pumpkins can help them begin to understand where food comes from, and they may find these fast-growing, expansive vines much more interesting than other plants in your garden that kids might find a bit mundane.

Pumpkins are also easy to grow, and the plants are easy to care for, which makes this gardening project a fun option for folks who were not born with a green thumb as well.

If you want to grow your own pumpkins for Halloween this year, the time to start is now, so read on (or print this post) for your guide to growing pumpkins, and then head to your local garden center to grab your supplies.

When to Plant Halloween Pumpkins

If you have some gardening experience, you might be thinking: Isn’t it a little late to be planting pumpkins for use in October?

In some parts of the country it would be, but they grow faster in warmer areas, and Southern California is definitely a warmer climate.

This is why you can still get away with planting pumpkins now in hopes of harvesting them in time to carve them for Halloween.

The ideal time to plant pumpkins in warmer areas, like Southern California, is around the end of May or the beginning of June.

If you live in the desert or mountains where frost is an issue, you will want to wait to plant your seeds until after the last frost.

If starting from seeds, you can actually start your seeds indoors as early as March, and then transplant them to your backyard garden once the weather warms up and the seeds have gotten a solid start.

However, I have never had a problem with sowing the seeds directly into the soil in the raised garden beds in my vegetable garden.

If you are planting your pumpkins in July, you might want to check your local garden center for starter plants that are already going strong and can be transplanted into your garden.

This will give you a nice head start, but you can also plant seeds and get some good pumpkins by October.

If you are planting late in the season, you will have the best chance of getting some good pumpkins by Halloween if you choose a smaller variety that will have time to mature before the big day.

Where to Plant Halloween Pumpkins

Where to plant your pumpkins is probably one of the most important things to consider, because this particular vine really likes to spread out and takes up quite a bit of room.

You may want to plant your seeds or starters along a fence, in an empty flower border, in a side yard or along your house where you do not have other things planted.

These fellows can easily grow to be about 30 feet long (or longer), so keep that in mind when you are picking the best spot in your backyard.

Picking a spot next to a fence or structure can also provide some wind protection for these wind-sensitive vines, so if you live in a particularly windy area, you will want to take that into consideration.

Pumpkins are sun lovers, so make sure the spot you pick gets plenty of sun.

How to Plant Halloween Pumpkins

Whether sowing seeds or transplanting from indoors or a nursery, you will want to prepare the soil first.

Regular potting soil for vegetable gardens is a good, simple start and will work just fine for most folks.

A humus-rich soil is a good choice, and pumpkins enjoy a little nitrogen, so if you test your soil and it is lacking, you may want to amend it before planting.

Pumpkin varieties vary greatly, particularly in size, so you will want to check your seed packet for the recommended distance to leave between plants.

You should plan to at least allow about three feet between plants, and it is best to make a single row to allow those vines to sprawl out and grow freely to their full length without crowding each other.

You can train the vines to encircle the plants, which allows you to better control the space each plant takes up, but this can make harvesting and watering a bit trickier once your plant is mature and, if done improperly, it can cause the plant to shade itself, which can cause problems.

If you are sowing seeds, push them about one inch into the soil.

Most Southern California homeowners are not going to need to worry too much about excessive rainfall, but you if you happen to live in an area where drainage could be an issue, then it is best to sow your seeds in mounds.

How to Care for Pumpkins

Once your pumpkins begin to sprout, you may want to add a bit more compost or potting soil around each plant to give them a little nutrient boost.

Pumpkins grown in wetter climates need little watering; however, those of us living in Southern California will have to water our plants regularly.

As long as we are experiencing drought conditions and managing our gardens under mandatory water restrictions, you will likely only be able to water your pumpkins two days each week.

This is actually just fine, since — like most plants — deep, infrequent watering is best.

Water your pumpkin plants deeply on your designated watering days, and your plants should do just fine.

Pumpkins, like other squash, are prone to fungal diseases, so you will need to keep an eye out for this.

If you begin to see a white, powdery substance on the leaves, fungus is likely setting in.

At this point, you may want to try spraying the leaves with a little neem oil or an anti-fungal solution from your local garden center.

You can help prevent this from happening by watering at the base of the plant, not getting the leaves wet and watering in the morning.

A little fertilizer every few weeks will help your plants thrive, but be sure to use a time-release formula to avoid burning your plants or giving them too much of particular nutrients, which could harm them.

You will need to pull weeds around your plants as they grow to keep the weeds from competing with your pumpkins for nutrients and water.

If you begin to notice aphids clinging to the bottom (or sometimes the top) of the leaves, your first line of defense is to spray the leaves with a strong steam of water to dislodge them.

There are lots of home remedies for aphids, including spraying the leaves with soapy water or spraying the leaves with neem oil.

You can also introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, that will snack on the aphids or try an organic pesticide from your local garden center.

To ward of some pests that like pumpkins, such as squash bugs, plant marigolds around the perimeter of your garden (or around where your pumpkin vines are going to grow).

An added benefit of planting marigolds is that you can cut the flowers to use for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, which take place right after Halloween.

Keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil beneath your pumpkins.

If they are sitting on soil that is too moist, they may rot.

If you would like to personalize your pumpkins with your children’s names or Halloween sayings, you can carve your message into the shell of the pumpkin as it is growing.

A scar will form, and your message will be etched into the pumpkin as a fun surprise for your kids or guests after they are harvested.

How to Harvest Halloween Pumpkins

Different varieties take different lengths of time to mature, but most pumpkin varieties fall somewhere between about three and four months.

The most important thing to look for is a hardening of the shell, because without this, your pumpkins will rot quickly.

Once the shell has hardened, you can use kitchen shears or a knife to cut the stems.

It is best to keep the stem as long as possible; at least six inches is best.

A good stem is key to keeping your pumpkins from rotting prematurely, so do not pick your pumpkins up by the stem and try to keep the stem intact.

How to Keep Pumpkins for Rotting Before Halloween

As mentioned above, keeping a long stem on your pumpkins is one of the best things you can do to help ensure longevity.

It is best to display your pumpkins whole for the first part of the month in order to avoid rotting, and then carve them just before Halloween.

Keep them out of the sun and away from moisture, and avoid placing them directly on surfaces that will allow moisture to gather beneath the pumpkin.

While it might be tempting to keep them inside until it is time to carve them, they will stay fresh longer if you keep them outdoors out of the sun.

How to Use Halloween Pumpkins

Most folks who grow pumpkins for this holiday are probably planning on carving them, but creating unique jack-o-lanterns is not the only thing you can do with them.

If you display them whole, they can last you throughout the fall and into winter as a colorful outdoor decoration.

This does not mean that you cannot decorate them for the holidays; you can paint a jack-o-lantern face or Halloween message on a whole pumpkin for a display that lasts much longer then their carved counterparts.

If you do carve them, be sure to save the seeds, which can be roasted for eating or dried to save for next year’s planting.

If you want to save your seeds for next year, you will need to wash them well, spread them in a thin layer on some paper towels and allow them to completely dry.

Once they are completely dry (this is important to avoid mold), you can store them for use next year.

Once you are finished displaying your pumpkins, they make a great addition to your compost bin.

Your Turn…

What are your favorite tips for successfully growing pumpkins for Halloween?

In the U.S., pumpkins are a beloved fall and winter staple. Native to Central and South America, pumpkins are a key ingredient for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as pies, soups, and breads. They are also widely used to carve jack-o’lanterns for Halloween, a tradition that originated in Ireland, where locals carved jack-o’lanterns out of turnips and potatoes.

In Central Texas, pumpkin patches are typically planted in early summer, as they require warm soils to germinate. Although June is prime planting time, pumpkin patches require advance planning because of the way they grow. Before you plant your seeds, make sure you know what kind of pumpkins you want to harvest. Do you want to use them to carve or decorate, eat, or both? Varieties that are best for carving are Dill’s Atlantic Giant, Big Max, Mammoth Gold and Lumina. Jack-B-Little is a smaller variety that is very good for decorating. For roasting or making a pie, Small Sugar is a good choice. Jackpot and Spirit Hybrid are good multi-purpose varieties that can be both carved and eaten. Of course, any of the varieties could be eaten, but with the tradition of Halloween, the pumpkins that are bred for carving pumpkins often lack the flavor of some of the smaller varieties that are better-suited for eating.

Pumpkins are members of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, melons, cantaloupe, watermelons, and zucchini. What do these vegetables have in common? They grow on vines and need plenty of space! Pumpkins can easily take over your entire garden patch before you know it. Generally, you will need 10 ft. by 20 ft. for several pumpkin plants, but you can also plant these to grow around the base of other crops, such as corn. Alternatively, plant pumpkins around the perimeter of your garden or build a sturdy shade structure from bamboo for pumpkin vines to grown on. Just make sure to place your trellis on the north or west sides of your beds so as not to shade out other parts of your garden.

Pumpkins require at least eight hours of direct sun each day, so choose a sunny spot in your garden accordingly. Plant your pumpkin seeds in mounds and place four to five seeds in each hole, one to one and a half inches deep, spacing the mounds about four to six feet apart. Add a thin layer of compost to the top of the soil. Once the seeds germinate – usually in a week – wait seven to ten days and then carefully thin the seedlings with scissors, leaving only the strongest two plants. Don’t pull the seedlings out by hand so as not to damage the roots of the remaining plants! After thinning the plants, add a layer of organic mulch to conserve water and suppress weeds.

Although pumpkins are fairly hardy and drought tolerant, water them deeply a few times a week. Manage your pumpkin patch by looking out for any pests and diseases. Common pests and diseases for pumpkins include squash bugs, vine borers, aphids, cucumber beetles, powdery mildew, and downy mildew, but these can be managed using organic techniques – remove the bug casings by hand or try spraying the pumpkins with citrus oils or compost teas. Downy mildew can be prevented by watering directly onto the soil and not wetting the leaves.

Generally, pumpkins take 90-120 days to mature after seeds are planted, depending on the variety. Pumpkins are ripe when they are fully colored and have a hard rind and woody stem. Carefully cut off the stem with a knife, leaving several inches of stem on the pumpkin. Some pumpkins might fall off of the vine when they are ready to be harvested. Pumpkins can be stored for a long time in a cool, dark storage area and can be used for all your fun fall activities and delicious recipes long into the winter.

Once you harvest your pumpkin, don’t be shy to clean and roast the seeds to make a great treat—recipe below! Of course, if the pumpkin was a particularly nice one, you may want to also save some of the seeds to plant next year. Gourds were originally prized for their seeds as a source of protein, just as or even more so than the flesh. As a child, I have fond memories of snacking on freshly baked pumpkin seeds after an evening of carving pumpkins for with friends and family.

“Is it possible to grow really big pumpkins in our area?” I wondered. All of the media attention seems to go to those 1,200+ pounders from New England, Long Island, or Pennsylvania, but I knew there had to be some big pumpkin enthusiasts in our Mid-Atlantic region. After all, Maryland is known for its pumpkin fields as they are a mainstay of our local agricultural area. In 2007, Maryland farmers produced 14.8 million pounds of pumpkins on 2,000 acres valued at over $5 million. They grow almost effortlessly (especially for those of us with a sun-lit compost pile and discarded seeds from last years decomposing pumpkins).

My search for the great pumpkin led me to the message boards on and an appeal to the Mid-Atlantic hobby pumpkin growers who gather to exchange their tips and tricks there.

Andy Edger, who lives in St Mary’s County in Bushwood, MD, responded to my plea. He said, “I began trying to grow giant pumpkins three years ago. My first year, was a disaster, I grew one small pumpkin that weighed five pounds and the pumpkin split in half on the vein. The second year, I grew eight pumpkins, the largest was 300 pounds.” That years crop is pictured above. He is pictured with his 2009 biggest below.

Andy Edger with his biggest pumpkin in 2009

Andy says, “I start my soil preparation in the fall, by preparing the soil with compost and testing the soil condition in the spring. Soil samples are analyzed by a lab, after I receive the results; I amend the soil as needed per the results of the soil analysis. In mid-April, I germinate the pumpkin seeds that I plan to grow for the season. Once the plants are large enough (as least 3 leaves), I plant them in the patch. Next begins the need for a whole lot of luck! Every day, I inspect the plants for damage, insects, and growth. I begin a daily water regimen that includes fertilization and pesticide treatment.”

Mark Fowler of Farmville, VA, says to make sure you have an aggressive fungicide spray program to fight disease. “Here in Virginia we fight powdery mildew at a much larger rate than our fellow growers to the north,” comments Mark. “The reason is the huge amount of humidity we are often plagued with. For this reason I only water with soaker hoses, I never overhead water. Wet leaves and humidity breeds mildew. Once you have it, you will not get rid of it. Starting your spray program in mid-July will save you a lot of heartache in August and September when the mildew really gets rolling. Also, be sure to rotate the fungicide you are using. Diseases become immune to fungicide if use the same one every time. I rotate three different brands.”

Ed Robinette of Hayes, VA, co-founded the Virginia Giant Vegetables Growers Association. Ed advises, “When you set your pumpkin (at least 15 feet out and only one pumpkin per plant) make sure your vine grows away from your pumpkin. This is very important, your pumpkin will grow over the vine and snap off the stem.”

Jim Gerhardt is from Berks County, PA, grew up in Howard County, MD. He says the key is to set a good Atlantic Giant seed with a real pedigree. “We know the fathers and grandparents of our seeds back for generations,” explained Jim. “People can contact me at [email protected], if they wish to request seeds. Seeds in a generic packet from Home Depot will not cut it.”

“Be prepared to water a lot,” Jim continues. “During a good hot dry spell I could water as much as 75 gallons per plant per day. And limit chemical fertilizers. The salts from these chemicals will build up over time and limit your ability to create a balanced soil.” Jim suggests spraying a good systemic Fungicide like Eagle 20.
William K. Layton of Nelson County, VA, is the record holder for Virginia. “My biggest ever pumpkin was 1138 lbs. in 2007,” says William. “The last two years have been rough with a lot of bad weather. Giant pumpkins do not like a lot of rain or cold.”

Anthony D. Watson of Kensington, MD, who set the Maryland state record in 2008 with a 713.5 pound giant pumpkin says, “We have a great chance of growing big ones in our area. I’m sure we could compete easily with the more Northern growers. We just do not have enough growers trying in this region. I set aside half my yard to vines and I only have a 1/8-acre urban lot. I’d love the competition and am willing to help anybody who needs it.”

W. Bruce Clark of Dayton, VA, is a real inspiration. He told me, “2009 was my first year growing giant pumpkins. I bought a couple books and a video on the subject and the next thing I knew things were happening way to fast. When everything was all said and done my pumpkin weighed 954 pounds, was the second heaviest for 2009, and the largest ever grown in the Shenandoah Valley. Not bad for my first try.”

Finally, Tom Privitera of Poughkeepsie, NY, says, “Don’t try to break the world record, try to grow the biggest you can and have fun, you will learn new tricks every season. Find an experienced grower in your area, or on the net at and ask as many questions as you can. Growers will be happy to help you, anyone who spends 4-6 hours a day tending plants doesn’t have the energy to be mean!”

Author: Kathy’s own garden includes only mini-pumpkins; no prize-winning giants — yet. She is editor of Washington Gardener magazine ( and a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast.

Farm Fresh, Locally Grown Fruits and Vegetables

Enjoy a fun visit to the countryside, and buy fresh picked fruits and vegetables still bursting with flavor and nutrition.

At Queen Anne Farm, you are buying vegetables directly from the farmers that grow the food you provide to your family, and if you have questions, please feel free to ask!

We use no pesticides, and locally grown, fresh picked produce is proven to contain more vitamins and minerals than products picked early and shipped from other parts of the country. What’s more, you will definitely taste the difference! Your kids will love eating their vegetables!

The fruit we sell at the farm market is grown by farmers we know and trust: our watermelons, peaches and cantaloupe come from the Eastern shore of Maryland, and the apples from Western Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Our farm market offers a great variety of fresh produce:

  • Beautiful, ripe and tasty tomatoes (5 varieties)
  • Cherry tomatoes (3 varieties)
  • Pick Your Own Tomatoes (when available)
  • Delicious, juicy sweet corn (always fresh picked!)
  • Okra, squash, egg plant, onions
  • Italian roma beans, green beans
  • Fresh dug potatoes-red and white
  • Sweet peppers and Hot peppers
  • Watermelon, peaches, cantaloupe

Fall Potatoes, Squash, Pumpkins & Turnips

  • Red Sweet Potatoes
  • Georgia Candy Roaster Squash
  • Banana Squash
  • Butternut Squash
  • Green Acorn Squash
  • Golden Acorn Squash
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Okra
  • Fresh Kale, Collards, Fresh Turnips
  • Cooking Pumpkins

We grow 7 varieties of hybrid pumpkins, and an assortment of heirloom pumpkins including French and Italian varieties. (Don’t forget the Pumpkin Patch for family fun!)

We also sell delicious Apples, pasteurized Cider, a large selection of homemade jams and jellies, Gourmet popcorn and bakery goods.

Just what you expect from a great day on the farm! Be sure you also look at our fall decorations, including gourds, Indian Corn, straw bales, corn shocks, and mums.

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