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By Whitney Wyatt/The Red River—
SunCHILDRESS – Even though pumpkin season is several months away, now is the time to plant them.
“It’s time to plant pumpkins and gourds for Halloween and Thanksgiving,” said Childress County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Community Health Agent Dawn Dockter, who has some tips and basic requirements for growing a pumpkin patch.
Sunlight hours and temperature play an important role in how well pumpkins grow in Texas. While too much sunlight and extremely hot weather can damage some plants, pumpkins thrive in early Texas summers.
Different varieties need various amounts of days to become completely ripe, Dockter explained. While summer is the best time of year to plant pumpkins, when, exactly to plant them depends on the variety. Some varieties mature in 75 days or less, while others will not mature for 120 days or more.
“Choose the kind of pumpkin based on when you plan to harvest them and how you plan to use them,” Dockter said. “Some varieties are better for eating, others for decoration or carving. The bigger pumpkins really need to be planted now.”
Childress County AgriLife Extension Agent for Ag/Natural Resources, Ryan Martin added a trick for increasing the size of your produce.
“As the vine grows, it will put on more fruit (pumpkin), further down the vine,” he said. “So if you’re going for size, you might remove some of the newer ones as they come on; that way, they won’t be taking nutrients away from the existing fruit. You’ll have fewer pumpkins, but they’ll usually be larger.”
Pumpkins require good drainage to thrive. Knowing the soil in the area is crucial, as pumpkins thrive in soils with good drainage.
In the High Plains, pumpkins are generally grown on sandy loams to clay loams. If grown on sandier soils they will require more irrigation. For soil in areas that do not drain water well, adding organic matter such as peat moss and compost to the soil will give it better drainage. This should allow the soil to become suitable for growing pumpkins and other plants that need good drainage.
Pumpkin water requirements may be higher than you think. With their growing season in the middle of Texas’s hot and dry summers, it’s important to keep in mind that pumpkins need a lot of water to thrive.
Pumpkins require about 25 to 30 inches of rain, plus irrigation. They need most of their water when the fruit is developing and maturing. If water is not uniformly applied while fruit is maturing, the ends of the pumpkins may not fully develop.
“Proper watering conditions will set your pumpkin plants up for successful ripening for harvest,” Martin explained. “Irrigation and good, draining soil will help your pumpkin patch thrive in Texas weather.”
Growing a pumpkin patch, whether for decorations, carving Jack-o-lanterns or using in recipes, can also be a fun way to introduce gardening to kiddos.
“They grow fairly rapidly,” Dockter said. “Gourds are also an option; many varieties of gourds are hardy, and tend to require less water and less maintenance.”
For those wanting to try their hand at growing some pumpkins, Ross Gardens and Tractor Supply have seeds for sale.