When you think of pumpkins, you likely think of Jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving pie, though these tasty vegetables can be used year-round. They might not be the first plant you think of for indoor growing, but it’s not impossible. Many will start growing pumpkins indoors and then transplant them outdoors, but you can also permanently grow smaller varieties indoors. Either way, let’s take a look at how to start growing pumpkins indoors.
Choose Your Pumpkins
There are a few different sizes of pumpkins available, so you can choose the best option for the space you have available. There are smaller options, like the Mini-Jack, Sugar Pie, and Baby Boo. You can also try a medium-sized variety, like the Porcelain Doll or Jack-o-Lanterns, or even larger ones like New Moon or Lumina pumpkins. As well as varying in size, these also vary in color, so you can grow white, pink, or the normal orange pumpkins, depending on what you plan to use them for.
Unless you have a ton of space to dedicate it’s best to start with one of the smaller varieties. This will give you a better chance of successfully harvesting a pumpkin. Larger varieties can have vines that grow to over 20’ in length, so make sure you use a smaller variety if you lack this space.
Preparing the Seeds
Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin breed, it’s time to prepare the seeds. You can purchase seeds from any gardening store or online. You can also use fresh pumpkin seeds from previous plants. If you go this route, you’ll need to clean the seeds well after removing them from the pumpkin, wiping off any pulp and giving them a good rinse in water. The largest seeds will give you the best results for growing.
Once the seeds are clean, lay them on parchment or wax paper to dry for about 24 hours. Then lay them in a single layer on a paper plate and cover them with a paper towel. Place the plate in a cool, dry spot for about a month to dry the seeds. You can store them in a plastic bag until you’re ready to use them or plant them right away.
If you don’t want to fuss with seeds, you can also <a href=”https://amzn.to/3Evmbph” target=“_blank”purchase a starter plant that has already been tended for you. For these, you only need to transplant them into a larger container. This is the quickest and easiest way to grow your pumpkins.
When planting your seeds, you’ll need rich soil to provide the growing plant with the nutrients it needs. The best option is mixing loose, well-draining soil with some added compost. This maintains the moisture levels the plant needs without drowning it since the loose soil will release the excess. Plant your seeds 1 to 2 inches deep in the soil. An already established plant will need the same type of soil, though the container you’re planting it in will change.
How you’re starting your plant determines the container you need to use. If you’re beginning with seeds, plant each one in the proper soil mixture in a plastic cup. You can also use a small peat pot that can be planted straight into a larger container when the plant needs to be repotted. This prevents waste and reduces the risk of damaging the roots.
If you’ve purchased a starter plant you can place it right into a larger pot. The size depends on the size of the pumpkins you’ll be growing. Smaller varieties can be planted in a 10-gallon pot while larger pumpkins will need a 20-gallon pot for more room to grow.
Watering and Feeding
When your seeds are first planted, it is best to only water them with a spray bottle every other day until you see the first sprouts begin to poke through the surface. This could take 3 to 4 weeks, so don’t expect to see any changes a few days after planting. Don’t add too much water, ensuring that the soil is damp but not soaked to avoid drowning your seeds.
Once your plant is established, you can continue this watering schedule, adding water every few days. Pumpkins like to stay moist, though not soaked, and you should try to avoid the leaves when watering them. Don’t let the soil dry out completely since this could damage the plant.
Pumpkins are also heavy feeders, so you’ll want to fertilize them every 2-3 weeks. Use a balanced fertilizer, or a homemade compost for best results.
No matter what type of pumpkin you’ve planted, it needs plenty of sunlight, so be sure to place it somewhere that it will receive at least 6 hours of direct light every day. A south-facing window is best for pumpkin plants to ensure they are getting the light they need to thrive.
Of course, with this much light also comes heat, so be sure to check it often to ensure the soil isn’t drying out. Luckily, pumpkins like warmer soil, so this won’t be an issue for growth.
If you’re starting from seeds at some point you’ll need to repot your plant into a larger container. When your seeds grow to about an inch or two in height, it’s time to move them to a larger pot. This will be its permanent container, so be sure it is the right size.
A clay pot is best since it helps the soil maintain the perfect water content. The pot should have at least one drainage hole to release excess water. If there aren’t any in the pot that you’ve purchased you can and should add your own.
When you repot the pumpkin plant, be sure to place a dowel or other support into the soil next to the plant. This will give the vines the support they need as they grow since they can’t spread out the way they would if they were growing in a large garden space outside. Continue to add compost or fertilizer every other week, sticking with options that are low in nitrogen and rich in phosphorus and potassium.
The downside to growing plants indoors is that there are no insects to pollinate the flowers, so you’ll have to do this yourself. For this, you’ll need to distinguish male flowers from female ones. The males are the long, thin ones that contain the pollen and usually bloom first. The females are short and wide. To pollinate the flowers, use a clean paintbrush and brush the inside of the male flowers. Then place the brush into the center of the female flower. Repeat this process with all of the flowers that sprout to ensure a healthy harvest.
Once your pumpkins have grown to the perfect size and coloring, you can harvest them. This generally takes about 90-120 days after planting, depending on the variety. A ripe pumpkin has a deep bright color, is firm to the touch, and sounds almost hollow when tapped. However, certain recipes call for unripe pumpkins, so some people will choose to harvest them before fully ripening.
To harvest, cut the stem with a sharp knife to separate the pumpkin from the vine. Don’t cut too close to the fruit, leaving a long stem will help extend your pumpkin’s shelf life. Store it in a cool, dark place for maximum shelf time.
Growing Pumpkins Indoors
Pumpkins aren’t the first plant most indoor gardeners think of, but it’s possible to grow them indoors. Choosing the right variety is key as pumpkins can grow very large. With a little bit of work though, growing pumpkins indoors is certainly possible. Have you ever grown a pumpkin indoors? Let us know, and send us a picture on our social media!