Growing pumpkins is a pleasing experience and something your family and friends can both enjoy! But, there are strategies you can use to maximize the benefits of your pumpkin-growing efforts. One of the most important strategies is companion planting.
This is the practice of strategically planting certain crops side by side or in close proximity to each other.
This practice has been used for centuries and has many potential benefits, including soil improvement and pest control. But it’s also important to be mindful of which plants are good companions for your pumpkins, and which plants are bad picks.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best and worst companion plants for this fruit.
Good Companion Plants for Pumpkins
If you’ve ever grown pumpkins, you know that the vines spread wide and far.
To encourage optimal growth and get the maximum yields from your pumpkin patch, companion planting is a great method.
Sure, you can get away with just planting pumpkins, but companion plants can help in many ways — including deterring pests and enriching the soil.
So what grows well around pumpkins? Here are some of the best:
- Legumes. Peas, beans, and clover all fit the bill when it comes to nitrogen-fixing companions that can help boost your pumpkin patch’s growth rate.
- Herbs. Plant oregano, chives, basil, sage, hyssop, and dill near your pumpkins. Some will attract good insects, while others will deter certain insects and even enhance flavor.
- Marigolds. We all know marigolds fend off many common garden pests. Plus they add a pleasing pop of color to your otherwise green bed of vines.
- Radish. Will keep away squash borers.
- Petunias, tansy, as well as nasturtiums. Deterrent for many pests.
- Sunflowers. Can attract pollinators.
- Corn. These grow tall and slender, so they will not affect the pumpkin’s growing space. Small pumpkin varieties may even climb on the corn plants.
These are just some of the plants you can use when gardening with pumpkins. Remembering these guidelines can help you get a successful harvest.
What NOT to Plant Next to Pumpkins
You certainly don’t want to be too hasty in your companion planting, especially when it comes to pumpkins. While some plants work together quite happily as companions, others are downright incompatible!
Here are some bad companions to avoid:
- Onions, potatoes, beets, and other large root crops. Pumpkins don’t play well with these. Come harvest time, they may disturb your pumpkin’s sensitive roots. They may also encourage insects and fungal diseases.
- Cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli, and kale. These brassicas and pumpkins need a lot of nutrients from the soil and will end up fighting for them.
- Fennel. A “bully” companion plant for a lot of crops, including pumpkins.
As long as you remember these no-no’s, you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful harvest.
How to Grow Pumpkins
If the idea of growing pumpkins appeals to you, here are some things you need to know about how to get started.
It all starts with planting your pumpkins in full sun—they need at least 8 hours of sunlight each day.
When it comes to soil, look for something that has good drainage and plenty of organic matter like compost, so your pumpkin plants can thrive.
Also, make sure you plant your seeds at the recommended depth and water them regularly, as dry soil can cause the seedlings to die off quickly.
In general, they need nitrogen in the early stage, so apply nitrogen-heavy fertilizer then. However, as they start to flower, the plants will need a lot of phosphorus, so switch to a phosphorus-heavy fertilizer.
Finally, for healthy fruits, pumpkin plants need lots of potassium. So, switch again, but this time, switch to a potassium-rich fertilizer.
Pumpkins can also be affected by certain garden pests.
Therefore, if you want to maximize your pumpkin growing yields, it’s important to be aware of these pesky critters and take steps to protect your crop.
Some of these pests include snails, slugs, squash bugs, squash vine borer, aphids, and cucumber beetles.
Some common plant diseases you should watch out for when growing pumpkins include Fusarium wilt, downy mildew, black rot, and powdery mildew .
How to Harvest
Harvesting pumpkins is an exciting part of growing them! Here are some tips on how to tell when they’re ready:
- Look for the stems to start turning brown. When you see this, it’s almost time to harvest.
- Check the weight of the pumpkin. If it’s heavy for its size and fully colored, it means it’s ready for picking.
- Thump it. If the rind feels hard and has a hollow sound when you give it a thump, then it’s time.
- Look at the color of the pumpkin—it should be a nice, deep orange color, but if you’re growing certain heirloom varieties they might not be orange and may have other colors like green or white.
- Finally, use a knife or pruning shear to clip the pumpkin off its vine, leaving some stem attached if possible as this will help prolong its storage time.
So there you have it — the key tips on harvesting pumpkins! Now you can enjoy your own home-grown pumpkins this season!
How to Store
When it comes to storing pumpkins, temperature is key.
The optimal temperature for pumpkin storage is room temperature. This temperature leads to a longer shelf life, as long as the pumpkins were properly cured.
To cure, place your pumpkins in the sun for seven to fourteen days after they are removed from their vine. This will allow them to cure and harden.
You can also keep them in the refrigerator if you plan on eating them within a month. This method does not require curing.
Where to Buy Seeds
There are lots of places where you can find the best seed varieties and purchase them.
Many garden centers will carry a variety of organic seeds, so it’s worth seeing if there’s one near you.
There are also plenty of online retailers that specialize in selling organic seeds and will have a wide range of varieties available. Many seed banks or catalogs will also offer a wide range of seeds.
No matter which option you choose, make sure to buy only certified quality seeds from reputable sources.
So, if you’re looking for neighbor plants for your pumpkin crops, look for ones that will help them thrive.
Choose plants that will attract beneficial insects and pollinators, boost soil fertility, and improve yields. But also be aware of plants that could later cause problems for your pumpkins.