Jaipi Sixbear is an established author of hundreds of helpful online articles. Jaipi learned to garden at an early age. She has old and new tips and tricks for growing your best garden ever.
Perfect jack-o-lanterns start in the spring with perfect seed selection. The traditional pumpkin variety used for growing Halloween jack-o-lanterns is the Connecticut Field Pumpkin. The Connecticut Field Pumpkin is nicely rounded and grows to the perfect size for jack-o-lanterns. This pumpkin seed packet is not always labeled as such. Sometimes it simply says Jack-o-lantern pumpkin.
Pumpkins require at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Choose a sunny location for planting. When choosing a spot, remember that pumpkins also need plenty of water. Your future jack-o-lanterns are best watered from the bottom, so consider using drip irrigation.
Preparing the field to grow pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns is extremely important. Pumpkin plants need a lot of spreading room and a lot of fertilizer to grow properly. Till the soil at least 12 inches deep where the pumpkins are to be planted.
Pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns will need plenty of organic matter to feed them as they grow. The best fertilizer choice for pumpkins is compost. Till plenty of organic compost right into the soil where the future jack-o-lanterns will grow.
Pumpkins are planted when all danger of frost is over. They have a growing season of about 120 days. In some climates, pumpkins can be planted as early as May, in others it may be as late as July. Check the seed packet for recommendations in your area.
Soak seeds overnight prior to planting.
Pumpkins are grown using a mound method. Plant four or five seeds in a circle in the center of a three foot diameter mound. Each mound should be surrounded by a small trench or moat, about four to five inches wide and deep. Mounds should be about ten feet apart.
Cover the seeds with an inch or so of dirt. Hand water from the top to keep them moist but not saturated while sprouting. Water gently and keep covered so as not to disturb the seeds. Sprouts for pumpkins should begin to show in seven to ten days.
The seeds can be thinned after sprouting and becoming sturdy. Keep only two to three healthy sprouts per mound. No mulch is needed for growing jack-o-lanterns or other pumpkins. These vining plants will spread out as ground cover and block weed growth.
Fertilize your growing jack-o-lanterns about once a month with compost tea. If bottom leaves turn yellow, they may need fertilizer sooner. Be sure your compost has a good amount of calcium mixed in. Pumpkins thrive on it and may develop rot, like tomatoes do, if they don’t get enough.
Pumpkin vines can be quite intrusive but luckily, hold up quite well to gentle pruning. For a crop of larger pumpkins, simply remove the smallest of the pumpkins as they begin to develop. This leaves more nutrition for the other jack-o-lanterns to grow on.
To insure that perfect round shape for the Halloween jack-o-lanterns it may be necessary to position the growing pumpkins. Gently slip a flat piece of board under each growing pumpkin and stand it upright.
When pumpkins have achieved their true color, cut from the vine and let them cure in the sun for seven to ten days. Pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns should then be stored in a cool dry place until it’s time to carve them and place them on the porch.
Jack-o-lanterns should be carved no more than a couple days prior to Halloween. Don’t forget to save the seeds to make delicious salty pumpkin seeds for fall snacking. Sure, the best are made from pie pumpkins, but why waste your Jack-o-lantern seeds?