How to Grow and Harvest Pumpkin & Squash
Is it a pumpkin or a squash? It really does not matter. In South Africa the terms are used interchangeably.
There are a number of types of pumpkin available for the South African home gardener from Glen Seeds.
Two broad classifications are however relevant.
- Summer Squash which refers to squash with very limited storage ability such as patty pans. These mostly grow on bush like plants that yields plenty and quick.
- Winter Squash, which is still grown in summer however have a fair degree of storage ability for later use. The variation in types of winter squash that the home gardener can grow is vast.
Soil Preparation and feeding for Pumpkins
Pumpkins are heavy feeders and thrive in compost; in fact if you have a compost heap that gets enough sun you can plant pumpkins direct in the compost heap.
All veining type winter squash: For normal seed beds hill up some soil (at least 20cm, but go higher if you can), add plenty of compost and manure or anything else with a high nitrogen content. Space hills at least 3 meters apart.
Bush type winter squash and all summer squash types do not require hills as much as the veining types however they still want rich fertile soil.
Note: Many Veining types, especially the ones with smaller fruits such as small type butternuts and gem squash can be trellised. In such instance you will require a sturdy trellis.
Ensure your soil is well drained. Pumpkins need water but dislike soggy roots.
Planting times for pumpkins
All types: Aug to Dec
Please note: Planting times supplied are in a general South African sense and are based on typical South African Highveld conditions. Your particular area of South Africa might vary, for instance if you live in Tzaneen you have summer all year long and can grow summer crops January to December!
Full sun ideal, however pumpkins do tolerate a bit of shade
Seed Planting and Germination
2 to 4 pumpkin seeds should be planted in elevated mounds ('hills') with flattened crests. Space plants 2m by 2m apart. Mulch crests well after seeds sown
Pumpkin seeds germinate at between 20 and 35 degrees Celsius. At lower temperatures germination will be poor and delayed or will fail.
Germination takes approximately 3 to 12 days.
Pumpkin Plant Spacing
Bush types: 1 meter
Veining types: thin to three plants per hill and space hills at least 3 meters apart.
Trellised pumpkins: 40 to 50 cm apart
Days to harvest
Summer Squash: 60 - 90 days – pick bushes over regularly and they will keep on producing
Winter Squash: 70 - 120 days – highly variable by type
- Days to harvest is based on typical good growing conditions and can sometimes vary depending on climate, state of soil, and in some instances length of day and climate for the area in South Africa where you reside.
- The specific plant might have characteristic/s that fall outside of the typical type norm.
- Days to harvest are counted from germination or seedling transplant date whichever is the latest.
Timing is crucial when harvesting pumpkins. They do not get sweeter once they have been picked. Winter Squash is ripe when:
- The stems becomes woody
Summer Squash is mostly eaten in the immature stage, whenever the size looks right to your preference pick them. Note however some summer squash like marrows can be grown to full maturity which will add flavor and utility.
Storage of crop
Summer Squash has a short shelf life and must be used fresh.
Most winter Squash can be stored in a cool dry space and can last for months. Alternatively peel, cut into pieces and freeze. For dry storage it is important that as much as the stem as possible is still intact, it is recommended to have at least 5 cm of stem on pumpkins for storage.
- When storing winter squash wash the pumpkins off in a solution of 1part Jik to 10 Parts water. This kills of pathogens on the fruits, especially around the stem that might cause rot.
- Never allow stored pumpkins to touch each other.
Click to view which Pumpkin & Squash seeds available to you now