Urban Gardening: How to Grow Pumpkins

Learn how to effectively grow large and healthy rooftop pumpkins by coaxing the vines to grow upwards rather than outwards.

  • Pumpkin
     Question: How do you grow spraddled-out pumpkin vines on a cramped suburban lot? Answer: Make them spraddle up, the way Patrick Fanning of Richmond, California does! 

  • Pumpkin

We've always wanted to grow pumpkins, but the small size of our yard (20-by-30 feet) made it seem impossible. Last summer, however, we raised pumpkins in spite of ourselves! And here's how:

It all started when the seeds from our Halloween jack-o'-lantern found their way into the compost pile. Naturally, we expected microbial action and the heat of decomposition to kill the seeds ... but instead, a series of cold winter rains kept the pile of wastes from heating up as it should have, and in the spring — after applying the soggy mulch/compost to our plants — we began to see little pumpkin vines popping up all over!

We pulled dozens of the seedlings out of the strawberry patch, from around the roses, and from the onions ... but one vine — hidden behind the peas — escaped our notice. When the peas finally gave out in June, we discovered the volunteer vine — which was some three feet long — thriving underneath.

Rather than uproot such a healthy specimen, we decided to see if we could coax the young vine into growing upwards rather than outwards. To do this, we drove a spike into the eave of our patio roof, looped an old hunk of manila rope over the nail, and tied the two longest pumpkin runners to the dangling ends of the rope with strips of rag.

Because pumpkins are ramblers — not climbers — by nature, we found it necessary every four or five days — after the vines had grown another foot or two — to tie the growing end of the vines to the rope with wide strips of rag to keep the plant from flopping over and heading for terra firma again. Still, there was no question that the vines were indeed making their way up the rope.

The higher the plants got, the more sunlight they saw and the faster they grew. By the Fourth of July, the two original vines had traveled three feet along the ground and eight feet straight up to the patio roof. (Two more vines had made it halfway up a nearby post.) Of the dozens of blossoms that appeared, five had become pollinated and started to grow. These five pumpkins — which were about the size of softballs — dangled from he vines at various heights, growing bigger and heavier by the hour.

9/27/2019 10:12:42 AM

I grew pie pumpkins on hog panels fastened to fence posts to make a 6' tall by 8' wide panel. One fine exceeded this panel and I had about 4'-6' that went over the top and hung over, but it still worked out great! The variety I chose from Seed Savers were supposed to average about 6 lbs but I ended up with 8-12 lbs and about 11 pumpkin! There were a few more that didn't mature and bugs found their way into one. I was concerned about the weight of the pumpkin pulling the vines down so I thought about making slings from plastic onion bags or some sort of netting so they could still get the sunlight but ended up just looping a piece of bailing wire under each stem, then hooking it over the panel wire and securing it. This worked out great! The stem and the vine was sturdy enough to support this. My pie pumpkins were great! I have back problems and fell in love with using panels in my garden! I use them for my tomato vines with one roma vine covering a 6' tall by 8' wide panel as well as my Italian Heirloom. Great for cucumbers. I space then every 6' apart so I can have shorter plants between them. In another bed I have 6 panels 3' apart for roma's. I trim the leaves at the bottom so there is about one foot clear for air flow. I grow pole beans rather then bush. I could share some pictures if interested. I also plant lots of basil and marigolds at the ends of each panel to keep most pests away. This year I forgot to plant radish under my cucumber vines and the cucumber beetles are terrible this year!

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