It’s time to grow pumpkins in Wisconsin! If you’re new to gardening, this guide will help you grow the perfect pumpkin. Whether you have questions about seeds, soil, or location, we have all the answers. Get started now so that your pumpkins are ready for Halloween! Keep reading to learn how to be one of the great Wisconsin giant pumpkin growers!
A Guide for Beginners: How to Grow Pumpkins in Wisconsin
According to PBS, archaeologists discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago! It’s a lot of fun and relatively easy to grow pumpkins in Wisconsin. However, it is important to know that pumpkins have a long growing season (usually 75 to 120 frost-free days) so you need to plant them by late May in northern Wisconsin to early July in Southern Wisconsin. Pumpkins are easy to grow and maintain if you have the space and time!
Where to buy pumpkin seeds?
There are several places to buy pumpkin seeds in Wisconsin. Your local garden center will probably have them available, as well as many hardware stores and even some larger grocery stores. If you know anyone who has planted pumpkins before, ask if they would share their extra seeds with you.
Amazon is a great place to buy a ton of different varieties of pumpkin seeds. I have a handful of pumpkin seeds listed and linked below.
What type of pumpkin can I grow in Wisconsin?
There are several pumpkins growing in Wisconsin. I will list the most popular below, along with some helpful tips for growing them successfully. Remember that your local garden center is an excellent resource if you have questions about which pumpkin seeds would grow best in your area.
Small Pumpkin Varieties
Small pumpkins are frequently used in baking. The following are the most common varieties in this category:
- Baby Boo: 95 days to harvest
- Baby Bear: 105 days to harvest
- Small Sugar: 100 days to harvest
- New England Pie: 110 days to harvest
Medium Pumpkin Varieties
Pumpkins in the medium-size category range are great for baking, decorating, and making jack-o’-lanterns. The following are the most common types in this category:
- Autumn Gold: 100 days to harvest
- Jack-o’-lantern: 75-115 days to harvest
- Casper: 90-100 days to harvest
- Blue Jarrahdale: 90-100 days to harvest
Large pumpkins are an excellent source of food such as pumpkin pie, seeds, and Halloween decor! The most common varieties are:
- Big Max: 120 days to harvest
- Cinderella: 84-100 days to harvest
- Atlantic Giant: 120 days to harvest
- Prize Winner: 100 days to harvest
Planting Your Pumpkin Seeds in Wisconsin
When Should I Plant My Pumpkin Seeds? There is different information for different growing zones, but the main factor with pumpkins is that they need 100 days to mature.
When to Plant for a Halloween Harvest:
Having your pumpkins harvest-ready in October is great because then you can use your pumpkins for decor, carving jack-o’-lanterns, and prepping and freeze the pumpkin for your Thanksgiving pies! You can start direct sowing your seeds in May or when the temperature is between 68°F to 90°F. Waiting until May is important because pumpkin plants do not like frost. If you are starting seeds indoors, you can start your seeds in February and March and then transplant them outdoors in May.
When to Plant for a Thanksgiving Harvest:
To make sure you have pumpkins ready to harvest in mid-November, you need to plant your pumpkins between the second week of July and the first week of August for a Thanksgiving harvest. Again, you can start the seeds inside if you need to!
Pumpkin Soil Requirements
What soil- type is best for growing pumpkins? Pumpkins grow and yield high-quality fruit in fertile, well-drained soils. They grow in sandy loam or well-drained loamy fertile soils with a depth of over 1000 mm.
The ideal pH for soil is between 6.0 to 6.8, and a ten percent organic matter concentration is perfect. You can get this information by doing soil tests, which are highly recommended yearly. In fact, it is a must-have for a beginner.
Watering Requirements for Pumpkins
Pumpkins are thirsty plants that need plenty of water to thrive. An inch of water weekly is ideal. (620 gallons are equal to one inch of water per thousand square feet). During the fruit set, deep watering is highly crucial.
When watering, aim to keep the foliage and fruit dry unless it’s a hot day. When there is a lot of moisture, rot and other diseases are more likely. To minimize excess moisture on the foliage, water your plants first thing in the morning. Water pumpkins slowly and thoroughly until the soil is wet to a depth of eight to twelve inches.
Mulch the area surrounding your pumpkins to keep moisture in, weeds, and pests out.
Maintenance and Caring for Your Pumpkin Plants
Keep in mind that pumpkins are delicate from the time you plant to the time you harvest them. Using mulching is an excellent weed suppressor. You risk injuring their relatively shallow roots if you over-cultivate them.
You can train most tiny kinds using a trellis. Though you can also train large varieties on a trellis, sustaining the fruit using netting or old stockings is tricky.
Remember that pumpkins require bees for pollination. So be careful when using insecticides to control pests. If you must use it, do so only in the late afternoon or early evening when the flowers fold up. You could also try putting a bee home in your garden to attract more bees.
If active bees aren’t present in your garden, you can aid pollination by spreading pollen by hand. You can self-pollinate by using an artist’s brush to transfer pollen from the male flower to female flowers. Always touch the delicate flowers with care. Each flower only blooms for a half-day in the mornings. Then they fold up and don’t open again until the following day.
Pumpkin vines are very delicate. Take excellent care not to damage the vines, as this will lower the quality of fruit.
Fertilizer for Pumpkins
Pumpkins are aggressive feeders. So, the use of manure or compost combined with water regularly will help to maintain good growth.
Fertilize regularly. In the early stages of plant growth, use a high-nitrogen formulation. Fertilize when the plants are approximately a foot tall, and the vines are just running.
Then, just before the blooming time, switch to a phosphorous-rich fertilizer. One week after the blossoms emerge, side-dress the vines with fertilizer. Side-dressing is applying the fertilizer close to the plants so that their roots can absorb it.
Be Aware of these Pests & Insects
A few insects that sometimes feed on pumpkin plants:
- Squash bugs live in large groups and feed on leaves.
- Squash vine borers can kill plants as they tunnel through the vines. This insect may cause a sudden wilting of the vines which can reduce the number of flowers your plants will produce.
- Striped cucumber beetles will damage plants by eating leaves as well as flowers, stems, and fruit.
- You can use an insecticidal spray on your pumpkin plants to reduce the chance of these insects killing your pumpkins.
When is it time to harvest my pumpkins? For the best results, harvest pumpkins when they are fully ripe.
When a pumpkin’s skin gets a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties), it’s ready to harvest.
The skin of the pumpkin will feel rigid and hollow when you thump it with your finger. Puncture the pumpkin’s skin with your nail; if it resists, it’s ready for harvest.
You may harvest your pumpkins on a dry day when the plants have died and the skins have hardened.
When harvesting pumpkins, leave an extra inch of stem on them to slow decay. A generous amount of stem (three to four inches) can extend the pumpkin’s shelf life.
Handle pumpkins with care to avoid scratches.
Pumpkin Growing FAQS
How apart should I plant my pumpkins?
You will want to leave about three feet between each pumpkin seed when planting them so that they grow to their full potential.
How deep should I plant my pumpkin seeds?
Because pumpkins grow so large, you need to be careful when planting them! Make sure that you bury the seed at least three inches in the soil to grow correctly.
What type of soil is best for pumpkins in Wisconsin?
Various types of soil grow pumpkins successfully. If you’re planting your pumpkin in the ground, it’s best to grow it in loose, slightly acidic soil. You can buy this type of soil at local garden centers or even hardware stores!
How do I know if my pumpkin plants are healthy?
A couple of signs of a healthy plant include dark green leaves and a strong stem. If the leaves are yellow or pale, they may not be getting enough water.
What problems could my pumpkins have when they are growing?
The most common problem that growers face with their pumpkin plants is fungal infections and powdery mildew. These both occur when there’s too much moisture on the plant leaves themselves!
When should I harvest my pumpkins?
You will want to wait until the pumpkin has turned entirely orange before you harvest it!
Where should I store my pumpkins after I harvest them?
You will want to ensure that you store your pumpkins in a cool and dry place. You don’t want them sitting near any heat sources or moisture! It could cause the pumpkin to rot instead of staying fresh until it’s time for Halloween festivities, fall soups, and pies!
What are other squashes I can grow in Wisconsin?
Summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, and zucchini
What types of pumpkins are best for cooking?
People usually do not bake with the same pumpkins grown for jack-o’-lanterns because the flesh is bland and stringy. Pie pumpkins often have smaller, sweeter fruit. The best pumpkins for soup are Baby Bear, Casper, Sugar, Butterkin, and Long Island Cheese are the best pumpkins to cook with. These pumpkins have flesh like butternut squash, which helps keep the soup from being watery.
More Pumpkin Posts:
- The Best Pumpkin Patches Near Milwaukee Wisconsin
With these pumpkin growing guidelines, you should have a much greater chance of growing all the pumpkin varieties you could want. Keep in mind that not only is growing pumpkins exciting, but they also make an excellent addition to your compost heap after Halloween festivities.