Pumpkin crop sheet

Activity

Pumpkins come in a wide variety of colour and size. Remember that looking after any crop is an on-going process and pumpkins take roughly six months from sowing to harvest.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: Early Autumn, Late Autumn, Early Summer, Late Summer
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, PSHE

Learning objectives

  • Learn how to sow large seeds
  • Growth requirements of seeds and plants
  • Learn that plants need specified space to grow and how to measure this
  • Learn when and how to harvest vegetables

Preparation

Organic matter or fertilizer should be incorporated into the soil at least six weeks before planting. The soil, raised bed or planter should be dug over and made weed-free with a fine, crumbly texture.

Equipment needed

  • To plant in pots: small pots, compost, label, pencil and seeds
  • To plant out: rake or hand cultivator, trowel, measuring stick, watering can with a rose, larger plant pot

Step by step

  1. Sow pumpkin seeds individually, in 9cm pots from April-May. As they need a minimum temperature of 13oC to germinate, keep the pots indoors. The best temperatures for germination are 18-21oC.
  2. Remember to plant the seed pointy end down, about 1-2.5cm deep. Cover with compost. Depending on the  variety of pumpkin the depth will vary, so remember to read the seed packet carefully. When the seedlings appear, water only when the compost starts to dry out. Be careful not to give too much water as this can cause the seedlings to rot.
  3. In May-June your seedlings should have grown enough to be moved outside during the day and brought in at night. This is known as 'hardening off' and  prepares a tender plant for growing outdoors. Alternatively place your plant in a cold frame.
  4. After the danger of frost has passed, the young plant can be positioned in a hole, up to its first two leaves. Plants need to be 1-1.8m apart to allow for maximum growth. You could use a measuring stick to check the spacing - make sure you leave enough room. Follow the seed packet guidelines for your chosen variety, as plant spacing will vary depending on the expected final size of the pumpkin.
  5. Pumpkins are very thirsty plants. To keep them well watered you could make a watering device. Cut the base off an empty drink bottle (remove the lid) and bury it in a hole next to your plant. Water can be poured into the cut off end and the bottle will act as a reservoir, making water available as the pumpkin needs it. This will also make watering easier once the plant has grown larger. 
  6. Fruits (pumpkins) will develop from the flowers.
  7. Harvest the fruits at the size you would like to cook with (from late September onwards). If you are growing pumpkins for decoration, wait until late autumn for the leaves to go yellow before cutting and storing in a cool, dark and dry place.

Hints & tips

  • Once harvested you could turn your pumpkins into a delicious soup, curry or even humus. Why not try baking a stuffed pumpkin or making a tasty pumpkin pie. 
  • Oven toasted pumpkin seeds make a tasty snack.
  • Most pumpkins are trailing plants that take up a lot of room in your school garden. If you want to grow just one large pumpkin, cut back the stem just after your chosen fruit, to conserve the plants energy.

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