How to grow a pumpkin

Here’s how to plant pumpkin seeds and grow your very own patch.

One of the best things about Halloween is choosing the perfect pumpkin at the patch or store, then spending the afternoon deciding how to carve it, drinking apple cider, and pondering how you plan to craft your costume. But if you want to save yourself a trip (and test your green thumb), you can also opt to grow your very own pumpkins this year.

Caring for homegrown pumpkins when they're in the ground can be a time-intensive process, but as long as you set a routine, there will be big orange gourds in your garden in just a few months. Here, Danny Watson, a garden center associate at The Home Depot, shares his best tips when it comes to planting and growing pumpkins from seeds.

When to Plant Pumpkins

The best time to plant pumpkin seeds is by late May to early July, so you can enjoy them in the fall. You can choose from store-bought seeds that are ready for planting, or collect the seeds from a pumpkin you just carved—it's a pretty easy task. Before you plant pumpkin seeds, keep in mind that you'll need plenty of room in your backyard to space out the seeds, so aspiring pumpkin growers who lack substantial outdoor space might want to stick to the pumpkin patch or store.

How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

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Prep Your Seeds

There are two routes you can take when it comes to the seeds—you can either remove them from the inside of a fresh pumpkin or buy ready-to-plant seeds at your local garden store. If you’re going with the first option, there’s some prepping you’ll need to do before you plant them in the ground.

First, you’ll need to clean off the pulp. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse them with cold water. “Once you’ve rinsed all the seeds, separate and select the biggest seeds,” Watson says. “They have a better chance to grow and flower. Space them out on a paper towel, so they can air-dry.”

If you’re not ready to plant them just yet, you can store the seeds by putting them in an envelope and placing them in the back of your refrigerator.

For store-bought seeds, Watson suggests choosing between these three varieties: Autumn Gold if you’re looking to grow pumpkins you can carve; Dill’s Atlantic Giant if you want to grow giant pumpkins upwards to 200 pounds; and Casper if you like all-white versions.

Pick a Planting Site

“Pick a planting site with full sun to light shade,” Watson says. “Keep in mind that the soil should be able to drain because pumpkins prefer soil that is not too soggy.”

The pumpkins will need some room to grow, so you’ll need to clear a big spot in your backyard. “Due to large vines, it is best to plant your pumpkin seeds five feet apart,” Watson says. “If you are growing a smaller variety of pumpkins, the spacing changes—instead, space them three feet apart.”

Check the pH of your soil (which you can do with a kit)—it should read between a 6 and 6.8. Make sure the area is clear of any pests, insects, and weeds: “You can use weed block two weeks ahead of planting, which will allow the weeds to die naturally,” Watson suggests. Another option? All-natural weed killers.

Sow Pumpkin Seeds in the Soil

When it’s time to put the seeds in the ground, be sure to do it properly. “Pumpkins grow best when you plant the seeds directly into the ground about one inch deep,” Watson says.