Plant a Pumpkin Patch: Your Step-by-Step Guide

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Pumpkin patch

Something I’ve always wanted – since I was a young boy in fact – is a pumpkin patch. There’s something rather wonderful about the idea of it, sort of like a fairytale: those big, lush leaves creeping and sprawling all over the place, and the wonderfully eccentric fruits hidden among it all like lost treasures just waiting to be found!

Today’s the day to make those dreams come true, because I’m going convert a weedy area of lawn into a productive pumpkin patch. Want to make one too? Let’s do it!

Replace Your Lawn With a Fabulous Fairytale Pumpkin Patch

Do you ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? I sowed my pumpkins maybe six weeks or so ago and thought I’d be able to squeeze them into my existing vegetable garden. But the problem I’ve got is that every bed is already accounted for. Truth is, I got a bit carried away planting new crops, and now I’ve simply run out of space!

So, I’ve decided to create a totally new growing area on my lawn, and I’ve a hunch that it's going to be a total winner. Squashes and pumpkins love warm, sunny and moist conditions, and the spot I‘ve chosen has all that in spades. It faces the afternoon sun, it’s sheltered from the wind, and while the soil there can be saturated in winter, it’s perfect for drier summers because it holds on to valuable moisture for longer. The area hasn’t been dug before, and the grass is cut very infrequently, so I know the soil will be chock-full of organic matter from the grass roots. It’s the ideal spot!

Making a no-till bed
Make a vegetable bed the easy way with cardboard and compost

How to Make a No-Till Bed

The first job is to prepare the ground, but I’m not going to dig it – that’s far too much like hard work! Instead, I’m going to smother the grass and weeds with a few layers of plain brown cardboard.

First I’ll mow the area as close as I can. This should make it easier to lay the cardboard and will weaken the grass ready to be covered. Luckily for me there are no really problematic weeds in my lawn aside from the grass and a few nettles, both of which are easily subdued by cardboard. However if you have bigger weeds with deeper roots, like docks or brambles, do what you can do dig them out before starting work.

Remove any staples and remnants of tape from the cardboard before laying it. Overlap the sheets of cardboard so there are no gaps through which weeds could creep. Once it’s all laid, thoroughly water the cardboard to soften it up.

The cardboard will rot down over the course of the summer, by which time the grass beneath will have died off. A few weeds might snake up through, but just pull them out when you see them – there won’t be many.

The next job is to cover the cardboard with compost or well-rotted manure to a depth of around 4in (10cm). This will bury the weeds still further, and give the plants more nutrition to power all of that luxuriant growth. Adding organic matter like this makes a raised bed of sorts, but you don’t need to add sides to the bed unless you prefer how it looks.

Climbing squash
By training pumpkins up a support you can grow plants a little closer together

How to Sow Pumpkins

If you haven’t sown your pumpkins yet, there’s still time. I always prefer to sow into pots of multi-purpose potting mix, grow them on away from the slugs and birds, then plant them when they’re a bit bigger and more robust.

Alternatively, you can sow pumpkins direct into their final positions. Push in two seeds then, if they both germinate, remove the weaker seedling.

I like to nick the seeds at the edges with some nail clippers or scissors before sowing them. Though not essential, this does seem to dramatically speed up germination.

Some pumpkin varieties are quite well-behaved but the varieties I’m growing are all sprawlers, so they need space – a lot of space! We’re talking 5ft (1.5m) between plants. However, I’m packing them in closer at around 3.5ft or a metre apart. Now, spacing close together isn’t something I’d normally recommend for most plants, but in this case I can afford to do that because I’ll be letting them burst out onto the surrounding lawn and training some of them up onto supports.

Hardening off
Harden off pumpkin seedlings to outdoor conditions gradually

How to Plant Pumpkins

To accustom indoor-sown pumpkins to outside conditions they’ll need to be gradually ‘hardened off’ over the course of 10 days or so, bringing them out during the day for gradually longer periods and returning them to the greenhouse or house on fresher nights.

To plant, just remove the squash from its pot, pull away some of the compost or well-rotted manure where you want it to grow, then place the plant in the hole you’ve made. Tuck the mulch back in around the plant, then water well.

To retain moisture more effectively you can mound up soil to create a basin around each plant. When you water into it, the water will be contained and will percolate straight down to the roots without washing away across the surface.

Plant a pumpkin patch and you could be enjoying beauties like this in just a few short months!

Because of the rich compost or manure they’ve been planted into, the plants shouldn’t need much additional feeding. This is almost a plant-and-forget kind of crop! Pumpkins also sometimes root into the soil along their stems as they sprawl, drawing on more resources to keep them powering on. That said, it can be beneficial to give them a high potassium fertiliser such as an organic liquid tomato feed later in the summer if the fruits still look quite small.

Some gardeners like to cover the planting area with weed fabric before planting, cutting holes into the fabric then planting into those to reduce weed competition. But because pumpkins are so vigorous at covering the ground, they leave little room for weeds and I don’t reckon it’s worth it.

Instead, I add a liberal scattering of dried grass clippings around the entire area, reapplying the clippings from time to time as needed. This light mulch will help to shade the ground until the pumpkin foliage closes over it, and it will reduce evaporation so it stays cool and moist down at the roots.

Plants Related to this Article

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments



Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)

By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions