Pumpkins on a trellis

Garden Trellis Ideas

Maximize space in your garden with trellises. Some crop types—like cucumbers, tomatoes, and pole beans—need the extra support a trellis can provide, and others, like melons and squash, don’t require trellises but can benefit from being lifted off of the ground. When fruits are suspended from a trellis and kept from the soil surface, they are less prone to disease, and going vertical means that plants can grow vertically instead of sprawling, opening up some garden real estate on which to plant other crops. Trellises also have the benefit of making harvesting easier, as produce is at eye level and simpler to find and collect.

Here are some of the trellis solutions we have used at Seed Savers Exchange:

Chicken Wire A-Frame

Best for peas

To make a chicken wire A-frame trellis, create two frames with long legs out of untreated cedar. Staple chicken wire onto the frame, and use hinges to attach two frames together at the top. This construction allows flexibility of width in the garden and flat winter storage. This is a good trellis for peas, shorter pole beans, and vining flowers.

WHY GIVE UP garden room to growing pumpkins and hard-shell squashes, with their rambling vines and fat, rough leaves that yellow and die away before the squashes fully ripen?

It’s a good question, but one I’ve never stopped to ask myself when I’m tucking pumpkin seeds into rich soil in the sunniest spot I can find come late May. When plentifully watered, the vines tumble down the side of raised beds or escape the confines of the vegetable patch to spread out and pretty much take over the garden by September.

These fruits of autumn extend the season into November for decorating, and well into winter for eating. There’s no surer evocation of the magic of Cinderella’s coach and the spookiness of Halloweens past than a pile of pumpkins on the front porch. Even better if you’ve just picked them from your own backyard.

All squashes are annual, heat-loving plants in the cucurbits family. Most grow easily from seed. Butternuts, acorns and turbans with their hard shells are known as winter squashes. The name is left over from a time when seasons were more crucial to human survival than they are now, and these hard-shell squashes were stored away for winter eating. Summer types like zucchini, crooknecks and pattypans mature faster, and don’t last as long on the vine or in storage.

All grow obligingly from seed, and there’s such a tempting variety available. Which ones are most deserving of all the garden space they gobble up come autumn? Therein lies the question.

A good assortment of winter squashes are available at grocery stores and markets by this time of year. But ‘Climbing Honey Nut’ baby butternut squash is new, grows only 4 to 5 inches, and doesn’t take up much garden room because it’s clinging, twining vines are easy to grow vertically up a trellis. The fruits are “personally sized” with a sweet, nutty flavor (according to Renee’s Garden, which offers organic seed). Just cut in half and bake.

My favorite pumpkin, hands down, is the squishy-shaped, intensely orange French heirloom ‘Cinderella’s Carriage’. This antique fruit is deeply lobed, thick fleshed and stemmed, and said to look like the original in the fairy tale. It’s such a beautifully odd, even exotic thing to come across, plumping up out there in the back garden on a misty or gently frosty morning. Cut it from the vine when it’s fully oranged up, let it cure in the sun for 10 days and store in a cool, dry place where it’ll last for months. Its flesh is good in soups or casseroles, and you can imagine how fabulous it looks carved if you can get a knife through its thick skin.

‘Porcelain Doll’ is a big, fat oddball of a pumpkin that starts out beige and turns pink as it matures. Its oddly pale, pink, mottled skin is sure to be a conversation piece on the front porch. The flesh is orange like other pumpkins, and said to be particularly delicious.

At the other end of the spectrum is the palm-sized ‘Mini-Jack’ and other tiny pumpkins like ‘Jack Be Little’ or the similarly sized, bone-white ‘Baby Boo’. All these petite pumpkins mature more quickly and take up far less room than their larger cousins. You can bake them as a single serving, stuff them or hollow them out for individual, lidded soup bowls with their own convenient stem handles … or just pile them in a basket and your Halloween decorating is done.

Learn how to grow pumpkins in pots, growing pumpkins in containers and pots is not difficult though it requires large containers and space. Check out!

Pumpkin is valued for its flavor and decorative appearance. Growing pumpkin in pots is not so difficult and does not require special care and in fact, it is a less demanding vegetable that adapts to any climate. Basically, an annual plant in the temperate zones, perennial in tropical ones.

Must Read: Growing Cucumbers

Planting

You can grow pumpkins from seeds or else buy seedlings from a nursery. Best planting time for growing pumpkins is when the temperature exceeds above 65 F. In cooler climates it can be planted from April to late May. Whereas, in much warmer climates, it can be done until July. Moreover, if you live in a frost-free subtropical or tropical climate, you can grow it almost all the year.

Choosing a pot

Choose a large pot that is 10 gallons in size (for small pumpkin varieties), if you’re growing pumpkins in pots. For large cultivars, the bigger the pot the better, a 15-25-gallon pot that is 20-24 inches deep and wide is required. Also, ensure there is adequate drainage available to your pumpkin plants.

Small Pumpkin Varieties

Small pumpkin varieties like ‘Jack be little’, ‘Wee be little’, ‘Baby boo’, ‘Munchkin’, Pumpkin Hooligan’, ‘Mini-jack’, ‘Lil pump ke mon’ are most suitable for container gardening. However, you can also grow giant pumpkin varieties.

Requirements for Growing Pumpkins in Pots

Position

Place it in the sunniest location possible; remember that even the smallest pumpkin varieties need lots of sunlight to grow. Your plant should receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. The shadow will slow their growth and moisture will remain on the plant, thus resulting the mildew.

Also, pumpkin needs a warm climate and plenty of room for growth. Still, you can even try growing dwarf pumpkins on a balcony or roof garden. Even if growing in a limited space, provide proper air circulation around the plant.

Soil

In cold climates, pumpkins grow best in a soil that heats up easily. Potting mix you use must be well-draining, have high humus content and slight water retaining capacity, too. Also, pumpkins require a lot of compost or manure, so additionally at the time of planting, you can add a lot of organic content. The ideal soil pH for growing pumpkins should be around 6 – 7.2.

Watering

Like all the gourds and melons, pumpkins require plenty of water and moist soil, so deep and regular watering is essential. Always, at the time of watering, avoid wetting the foliage.

Must Read: How to Grow Watermelon in Pot

Support

You’ll need to install a strong and big trellis to support pumpkins vines. An A-shape trellis is good one. Make sure to keep the trellis away from the wall to avoid diseases. As the pumpkin vine begins to grow, train it to climb on the structure by carefully moving it through it.

Pumpkin Plant Care

Mulching

Do mulching, once your plants are grown a few inches tall. Mulching will reduce the amount of water evaporate and helps in retaining the soil moisture.

Fertilizer

Pumpkin plants are heavy feeders, they require a lot of fertilization. First of all, it’s important to have rich and fertile soil to get bigger and more meaty pumpkins. Best to use 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer in the early stage of growth. Later, the amount of nitrogen to be applied must be reduced. Switching to a low nitrogen fertilizer that is rich in potassium and phosphorus like 5-15-15 fertilizer in every other week (when the plant has grown and big enough to produce flowers) is a good idea.

Pests and Diseases

Pumpkin is a robust plant still it suffers from a few diseases, especially powdery mildew. In pests, you should keep eyes on common garden pests like aphids, flea beetles, and worms.

Harvesting

Pumpkins are ready for harvest within 90-120 days after planting (depending on the varieties and growing conditions). Green and unripe pumpkins are also picked to use in recipes and in many cuisines. But to pick matured pumpkins, see if it hardens and takes on a uniform and intense color (orange for most common varieties). Press the pumpkin with your thumb; If the bark is hard and it sounds hollow, it is the time to pick the fruit. The bark should also resist the nail pressure. Roughly speaking, one must count about 100 days between planting pumpkin and harvest at full maturity.

To pick the pumpkin, remove it carefully from the branch using pruning shears or a sharp knife. Do not cut too close to the fruit, however; to extend the shelf life, leave a long stem (about 10 cm). Store your pumpkin in a dry, cool and dark area.

A Few Tips

  • It is better if you’ll plant pumpkins directly in pots. If sowing seeds indoors, choose biodegradable pots, this way you’ll be able to transplant the seedlings without disturbing the roots.
  • Male flowers start to bloom first, they attract pollinators and last one day. After that female flowers open, these have a small swelling at the base of the bloom.
  • If there are no bees or other pollinators, to allow the plant to set fruits and to get the ample harvest, you may need to hand pollinate the male and female flowers.
  • Don’t allow the plant to set too many fruits.
  • As the fruits are heavy you’ll need to support them from netting or old stockings.

Pumpkin Growing Tips: How To Grow Pumpkin Seeds For Your Garden

When do you start growing a pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) is a question that many gardeners have. These spectacular squash are not only a fun fall decoration, but they can make several tasty treats as well. Pumpkin growing isn’t hard and is even a popular garden activity for a child in the garden. Let’s take a few minutes to learn a few pumpkin growing tips for starting pumpkins from seed.

When to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Before you can grow pumpkin seeds, you need to know when to plant pumpkin seeds. When you plant your pumpkins depends on what you plan on using them for.

If you plan on making jack-o-lanterns with your pumpkins, plant your pumpkins outside after all chance of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 65 F. (18 C.). Take into account that pumpkin plants grow faster in hot climates than cold climates. This means that what month to plant pumpkin seeds changes depending on where you live. So, in cooler parts of the country, the best time when to plant pumpkin seeds is in late May and in warmer

parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins for Halloween.

If you plan on growing pumpkins as a food crop (or for a giant pumpkin contest), you can start your pumpkins indoors about two to three weeks before the last frost date for your area.

How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Starting Pumpkin Seeds Outside

When you plant pumpkin seeds outside, remember that pumpkins need an incredible amount of space to grow. It’s recommended that you plan on a minimum of 20 square feet being needed for each plant.

When the soil temperature is at least 65 F. (18 C.), you can plant your pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. Mound the soil in the center of the chosen location up a bit to help the sun heat the pumpkin seeds. The warmer the soil, the faster the pumpkin seeds will germinate. In the mound, plant three to five pumpkin seeds about 1 inch deep.

Once the pumpkin seeds germinate, select two of the healthiest and thin out the rest.

Starting Pumpkin Seeds Indoors

Loosely pack some potting soil in a cup or a container with holes for drainage. Plant two to four pumpkin seeds 1 inch deep in the soil. Water the pumpkin seeds just enough so that the soil is moist but not swamped. Place the cup on a heating pad. Once seeds have germinated, thin out all but the strongest seedling, then place the seeding and cup under a light source (bright window or fluorescent light bulb). Keeping the seedling on the heating pad will cause it to grow faster.

Once all danger of frost has passed in your area, move the pumpkin seedling to the garden. Carefully remove the pumpkin seedling from the cup, but don’t disturb the roots of the plant. Place in a hole 1-2 inches deeper and wider than the rootball of the pumpkin plant and backfill the hole. Tap down around the pumpkin seedling and water thoroughly.

Pumpkin growing can be rewarding and fun. Take some time this your to plant pumpkin seeds in your garden.

Pumpkins are everywhere in fall, and you may wish that you had included pumpkins on your spring seed list so that you’d have a few to enjoy now.

If you have a small garden, you might think you’re doomed to forever buy pumpkins instead of growing them yourself. Pumpkins are notorious for taking over a garden with their vines. Each plant can sprawl over 50 to 100 square feet, because each fruit needs runners that are at least 10 feet long for nourishment.

But it is possible to raise pumpkins on a small patch of land. Think vertical, and train your pumpkins to grow on a trellis with the fruit supported with netting or old pantyhose. This works best with varieties that bear smaller fruit, such as ‘Small Sugar,’ ‘Baby Pam’ and ‘Cotton Candy,’ but larger varieties can be grown vertically, too.

Here’s advice from Horticulture: The Art and Science of Smart Gardening, Organic Gardening, Ehow.com, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Clip and save this information to help you plan next year’s garden:

To grow pumpkins vertically, install a trellis on a prepared garden site. Place your trellis on the north side of the garden to avoid shading it.

Space sturdy posts along the planting area and attach 4-inch mesh to the posts. Tie vine tendrils to the trellis with garden twine.

Use old pantyhose, rags or mesh bags tied to the trellis to create hammocks to support the pumpkins as they grow and to keep them from breaking off too early. Be sure your “hammock” is made of material that will dry after a rain, or your fruit may rot.

Another option is to plant bush varieties instead of vining pumpkins. ‘Sugar Treat,’ the white hybrid ‘Casperita’ and the variety ‘Fall Splendor’ are in this category.

If you’re new to growing pumpkins, here are some general tips:

Start pumpkin seeds indoors about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Harden off seeds before transplanting outdoors.

Pick a site with full sun to light shade.

Pumpkins needs rich soil that is well-drained. Build up hills that are prepared with old manure dug 12 to 15 feet into the ground. Plant seeds 1 inch deep with four to five seeds per hill.

Water one inch per week and keep foliage and fruit dry; dampness leads to rot.

Beginner pumpkins

Kids, and beginner gardeners, don’t fear the Great Pumpkin! Pumpkins are a pretty easygoing crop. Provide for their basic needs and you can grow a few nice Halloween beauties with a minimum of effort.

Where can I plant them?

Grow pumpkins in a nice, warm, sunny spot. Pumpkins grow from seeds you plant in late spring, on a vine that grows for the summer and dies when frost hits. (Even a “bush” pumpkin grows on an annual vine.) Planting guides might tell you how far apart to plant in rows, and how many feet between rows. That’s for real farmers! You just want to grow a few pumpkins for decoration and fun. That’ll take one “hill” of several vines. Imagine you lay down in the garden, wave your arms and legs, and make a compost angel*- that about how much space is needed for a hill of pumpkins. Small pumpkins and bush pumpkins might be squeezed into a little smaller spot. (Giant monster pumpkins need a lot more room and a lot more special care. I’d put them in the advanced category.) One decent pumpkin vine can be cultivated in a really big pot, with good care and room for the growing vine to sprawl. It’ll still need the basics of good soil, sun, and ample water.

Do I need special soil?

Most any dirt will do, but pumpkins do really like a rich soil. If you are planning this fall for next year’s pumpkin hill, you can pick a spot and prepare it early. Pumpkins like a lot of organic material in the soil. Any compost, old manure, rotten leaves or kitchen waste you can bury in the ground under where you’ll plant the pumpkins will be appreciated. You can even plant them right on the top of last year’s compost heap.

Where can I get seeds?

Seed packet displays are an “annual crop” in a lot of stores. They typically include at least one choice of pumpkin. You’ll probably find seeds for a medium size orange pumpkin and maybe one other unusual choice, like a miniature or a white-skinned pumpkin. or even a miniature AND white one. (Those white ones are just a different strain, selected for the skin color.) Seed companies sell lots more varieties of pumpkin seeds, if you want to choose the very best one for pie, or edible seeds, or a smooth, carve-able shape. Suppose you have a pile of mush out by the compost heap, where last year’s field-grown Halloween pumpkin disintegrated. Volunteer baby pumpkin vines will probably come up right there. Can you use those? Although variations can occur, it’s a fair bet that whatever grows there will make a fruit pretty similar to what it came from.

When will I plant them?

Plant when the dirt is warm. Seed packets often have a little chart to help you know when the time is right. Make pumpkins one of the last things you plant in the vegetable garden, even after tomatoes. Memorial Day through June is a good time for planting pumpkin seeds in the garden for most U.S. gardeners.

How do I plant and care for them?

Plant five or six seeds a good inch down in your chosen spot. Look for big juicy sprouts with oval fleshy green seed leaves in about a week. Keep the biggest three or four sprouts and cut off the weaklings. Soon, the vine starts growing with huge, sort of prickly, leaves. The first flowers you see will be males, without fruit. Later you’ll find female flowers with tiny green baby fruits at the base. If all goes well with “the birds and the bees”, a female flower will make big green pumpkin. It doesn’t turn orange (or white) until it’s reached full size.

Think of a good sized pumpkin as a big energy storehouse for the several hundred seeds it’ll have inside. The plant will do the work storing that energy if you provide its raw materials. While the vines are growing, give them fertilizer (unless you’ve really prepared well with organic matter beforehand) and plenty of water. The vines want to spread across the ground and will be happiest if you let them do that. Redirect the tips, if you must, but leave the vines on the ground. Covering them with extra soil or mulch can be a boost for the plant.

Will it get bugs?

There are some insects that like pumpkins as much as you do. If squash bugs find your pumpkin patch, they can be a real challenge. Cucumber beetles like to suck on pumpkin leaves too. Squash vine borers also bore pumpkin vines, but they prefer summer squash. Aphids can attack. (Now pumpkins are sounding like a problem plant!) While these things can attack, pumpkins have tough stems that help them resist insects. The best defense is… well, you know. Take a moment as you water, at least weekly, to look for bugs and remove them or spray them. Be sure to lift any sick leaves to look for critters hiding underneath.

When’s it ready?

When the pumpkin has fully colored, it’s ready. Carve, paint, cook, enter in the county fair–the choice is yours, but I expect you’ll have at least one nice pumpkin per vine that you’ve tended. Once you’ve picked your pumpkins, the vine is done. It can be composted, although if you’ve had any bug problems, it is wise to burn or bag and discard the old vines.

(Now you may want to go back and read the previous articles in this Pumpkin Week series)

Enjoy!

* Regional slang reference to snow angels. “Snow angels” are made by laying on your back in the snow and waving arms and legs to make wings and a skirt.

References and credits

Ambler, Wayne, et al. Treasury of Gardening. Lincolnwood, Publications International, 1998
Bradley, Fern Marshall and Barbara W. Ellis, eds. Rodale’s All-New Encylcopedia of Organic Gardening. Emmaus, Rodale Pres, 1997. Seedling photo used courtesy of “dave” and available in PlantFiles. Other photos taken by and property of the author.

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