Urban Gardening: How to Grow Pumpkins

Learn how to grow rooftop pumpkins by coaxing the vines to grow upwards rather than outwards.

| July/August 1977

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.

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