Pumpkins can grow to amazing sizes, but don’t be deceived. They need the right conditions to grow to their full potential.
Here is a guide on the best time to plant pumpkin seeds in Australia.
When should pumpkin seeds be planted in Australia?
It’s best to plant pumpkin seeds in spring or early summer depending on where you live. They need soil temperatures of at least 20°C, which may not occur until early summer in some areas.
For most regions of Australia, pumpkins should be planted from mid-September through December.
Pumpkins grow best in areas that experience warm weather throughout the growing season. If you live in a climate with cool summers, choose a site that receives full sun all day long.
Sow your pumpkin seeds either directly outdoors into rich well-drained soil or start them indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost date in Spring (depending on your region).
How to care for pumpkin seeds
Caring for pumpkin seedlings is relatively hands-off, though there are some key points to keep in mind:
- Watering. Pumpkins need regular watering of 2-5cm of water per week. You can test how dry the soil is by sticking a finger about an inch into the ground—if it feels dry, give it some water.
- Fertilising. Feed your plant early in the growing season with a nitrogen-heavy fertiliser (applied weekly). Keep applying a potassium-rich fertiliser when the pumpkins appear to encourage strong growth.
- Mulching. This will help retain moisture and nutrients; use chopped straw or shredded bark for best results.
What are pumpkin companion plants?
The idea of companion planting is to plant two or more species together for their mutual benefit.
Here are a few plants that can be planted as pumpkin companions:
- Beans: Not only are beans great companion plants for pumpkins, but also when you grow beans with pumpkins, the pumpkin plants can act as a living trellis for your bean plants.
- Corn: Corn provides some afternoon shade for pumpkins and also a stalk for smaller pumpkins to grow. On the other hand, pumpkin provides ground cover which serves to keep weeds away while also retaining soil moisture. And just think how pretty it will look when you have both.
When grown together, corn, beans, and pumpkin are known as “the three sisters”.
Pumpkin pests and diseases
Regardless of the size or shape of your pumpkin patch, you’re likely to encounter a few pests and diseases.
Here are some common ones:
Mildew – Pumpkins can be vulnerable to fungal diseases such as rust and powdery mildew. To avoid these issues, pumpkin vines should be grown in full sun and watered only in the mornings.
Aphids – Some aphid species attack pumpkins, excreting honeydew that fosters sooty mould growth. Aphids can also spread the mosaic virus.
Leaf-eating ladybird – The leaf-eating ladybug is a common pest of cucurbits such as pumpkins. Both adults and larvae feed on leaves, especially smaller plants.
How long does pumpkin take to grow?
Different varieties of pumpkin grow at different speeds depending on the climate, soil conditions, and the time of year.
Pumpkin plants can take anywhere between 100 to 120 days to mature enough for harvest.
If you want to speed up growth, be sure to plant in warm soil (at least 20 degrees Celsius) and keep your pumpkin patch moist throughout the growing season.
When should you harvest pumpkin?
The best time to harvest pumpkins is when the skin is dull and hard. If you can pierce the skin of the fruit with your fingernail, it’s not ready yet.
You may also observe the following to indicate its time to harvest:
- The vine dies back
- A stem that’s dry and woody
What types of pumpkin grow well in Australia?
There are several pumpkin varieties that grow well in Australia.
Here are some of the most common:
- Queensland Blue Pumpkin
- Golden nuggets Pumpkin
- Jap Pumpkin
- Butternut Pumpkin
- Red Kuri Pumpkin
- Jarrahdale Pumpkin
- Turk’s Turban Pumpkin
Queensland Blue is a large pumpkin with thick orange fleshy pulp and grey skin. They’re perfect for roasting and eating as a vegetable. They can also be used to make soups, casseroles and bread.
Jap pumpkins have a firm flesh, which makes them perfect for roasting, steaming or making soup.