How to Grow {White Mini} Pumpkins and All Kinds of Squashes

October 05, 2017

Is there anything that screams October and Halloween more than pumpkins do? And is there anything more instagrammable for those autumnal few weeks of the year more than the mini white variety? If you know anything at all about me it's probably that I'm pretty mad on this time of year {one of the reasons we're flying to New York tomorrow is for their fall celebrations and pumpkin farms} and in particular growing pumpkins ourself at our allotment. I've been posting photos of our harvest recently and been getting so many messages asking if I'll write a blog post about how to grow them. So here are my tips, talking every stage of the growing process along with all of our favourite types, which incidentally have super cute names, from Baby Boo to Jack be Little to Crown Prince.

First up - around the very end of April/early May you'll need to plant your seeds. Isn't it amazing when you think about it that from just one seed you can grow a huge plant that will produce lots more pumpkins {and hundreds more seeds}? We get our seeds from garden centre and online here. We like a mix of pumpkins and squashes in all different sizes and shapes. Mostly edibles like butternut squashes, spaghetti squashes which are amazing for roasting and then forking into strands of 'spaghetti', old fashioned orange pumpkins, winter festivals, crown prince and red kurie that are all really delicious, store well and keep us fed through the Winter. But it's also fun to grow some decorative like the white baby boos and jack be littles/munchkins. There are some beautiful varieties too, next year we're planning to grow these Turk's Turban! And if you're feeling adventurous you should try the really huge pumpkins {although bear in mind that these take up a lot of space for just one or two ridiculously big pumpkins which aren't as easy for cooking compared to the little ones.} 

Once you have your seeds and consequently the pumpkins, you can then save those seeds to go forward. So this year we didn't buy many at all - just saved all of our mini white seeds from those that we had grown last year, and next year we'll have all of this year's seeds etc etc. 

You'll find that huge pumpkins, the atlantic giants and 100 weights create huge seeds. Compared to the teeny minute baby boo pumpkins which are little specs of a seed. You'll need some pots to grow them in and potting compost. 

Plant 2 seeds in each pot as not all will germinate. Keep them in a warm sunny place {a greenhouse is ideal but a sunny windowsill will do at best} and keep the soil damp but not too wet. You don't want it to ever dry out completely. Some seeds will germinate within a week or two, others may take up to 3 weeks. Just be patient. You'll see their leaves start to shoot.

Leave them in a covered greenhouse - keeping them watered, away from chilly nights/frosts until you're confident the ground is warm enough. We normally leave ours until mid May, sometimes nearer the end of May depending on the weather.

At this stage they'll look like this and start to get all leggy, desperate to be planted in the ground. With the smaller varieties and squashes you should be ok to leave them in the original sized pots until the point of planting out. But with the giant varieties you may need to repot these as the scale is so much bigger. We then take our little pumpkin plants to our allotment {this year we grew over 50 individual plants!!}, it took about a week or even longer of evenings just to get them all in the ground. 

I'm going to be writing a 2017 update to our allotment soon but in the meantime you can see previous years and all the details/photos of our allotment here. We're very lucky to have that space as a means to grow all of our pumpkins and squashes and the soil is very good being near a river where the water table is high.

The biggest advice I can give you for squashes/pumpkins is that you can't overwater or overfeed them. They're seriously hungry and thirsty, using all the nutrients to grow their fruits. A lot of people ask me if you could grow them in pots, especially the tiny varieties - I think you probably could just about but the ground will give them a lot more water that they need. Maybe do an experiment? 

Before we plant ours in the ground, we've mixed in lots of organic matter and well rotted manure with top soil/compost over the top. My husband makes compost mounds on each bed over the Winter to plant the plants into which will give a good base for growing. 

You'll need to protect the young plants from slugs for the first few weeks until the leaves get thicker and aren't as attractive to pests. Cover them with slug pellets, we only use the organic blue type on our allotment as don't want to add any nasty stuff into the soil. For ease of watering you can sink a plastic pot into the soil next to the plant and maybe add a bamboo cane so that when the leaves have got so big, you'll still know where best to water to get to the roots of the plant.

After that, they may not start to do much immediately as they harden off and get used to life outside, setting down their roots etc but after a couple of weeks you'll see them take off. 

To maximise our growing at the allotment {squashes and pumpkins send huge runners off and can take up a lot of space} we grow some of ours vertically. Ben loves to make structures for them to grow up. This year he made a few wooden frames and has used rusty metal cages and even an old swing structure. 

Over the growing season {from the end of May when you plant them in the ground to around the end of August} they look after themselves fairly well. You just need to occasionally tie their runners in to whatever you're growing them up, or let them ramble along with making sure you give them a weekly feed. My husband makes an organic plant feed out of nettles and comfrey which is 100% natural to keep them pesticide/fertiliser free. And to start with you should keep them well watered. 

The fruit will come out of the flowers. So don't pick the flowers from these {you can from courgettes}.

Other than that, just let them grow! Some will produce and ripen quicker than others. By the end of the summer if you have lots of fruit which isn't ripening you can cut some of the leaves from the plant back if you're confident the fruits have grown enough. The baby boo pumpkins start producing early and you can start harvesting them from July onwards. The larger pumpkins will take a fair bit longer. By September most of the plant leaves will have died back, leaving the fruits to ripen in the sun. 

When picking, you need to cut some of the stalk with it leaving ideally a T shape {it's like an umbilical cord}. The teeny ones should be Ok without these, but the squashes/pumpkins you want to store for longer will last better with extra stalk left on.

We leave ours on the plants for as long as possible so that they're as ripe and with thick, sun ripened skins but equally you don't want to leave them on if there's any sign of rot on the rest of the plant.

Once picked you should leave them in a warm sunny spot for a couple of weeks {either outside on hard ground/paving slabs/a bench but bring in if there's lots of rain} or a sunny windowsill/greenhouse which will harden their skins off and make them last for a lot longer.

Then all that's left to do is display them somewhere pretty until you're ready to eat them/carve for Halloween!

Hope that's helped! 

Have you tried growing any pumpkins? You can follow along with our pumpkin adventures in New England over the next couple of weeks on my Instagram here. Back soon!

R <3 xx 

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  1. Hey Rebecca! I am revisiting this post because I am about to buy all my seeds and root trainers ready for the growing season. We have taken on another allotment plot now so more space to grow some beautiful pumpkins! Do you manage to eat a lot of the ones you grow or do you give them away to friends and family? I am also going to have a cut flower patch! So excited to get growing again! x


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