Tips for Growing Big Pumpkins in Your Garden

Pumpkin 'big max', orange fruit on plant. West Dean gardens, august, Sussex
Brian Carter/Photolibrary/Getty Images

While the sight of a pumpkin is wonderful in the fall, it's the big pumpkins that really capture our attention. 

If you grow pumpkins primarily to use them for fall decorations or to be able to say you grew your own jack-o-lantern, you will want to grow at least a few big ones. Here are a few tips for growing big pumpkins in your garden.

How to Grow Big Pumpkins

1. Select the Right Variety

You can’t make a huge pumpkin out of one that is destined to be small, no matter how hard you try, so the first thing to do is select the right variety of pumpkin when you want to grow a huge one.

For big pumpkins look for Connecticut Field, Howden, Big Max, or Mammoth Gold varieties. Once you have a pumpkin that is known to grow large, you stand to win that big pumpkin-growing contest--or at least contend.

2. Give Them Plenty of Room

Big pumpkins need room to grow--and lots of it. Give each pumpkin plant at least five square feet in your garden to allow plenty of room for the vines to spread and a good open area to allow you to check to see how your pumpkin is coming along. You'll also want to turn the pumpkin (gently!) every couple of weeks so it doesn't get flat on one side. The extra space will make that much easier.

3. Feed the Pumpkin Regularly

To grow a big, fat pumpkin, you've got to feed it--and often. Side dress your pumpkin vines every other week with a good, one-inch layer of compost. In addition, look for any places along the vine where it may have rooted into the soil and give those spots a bit of compost as well.

4. Sunbathe the Pumpkin

Pumpkins need a lot of sun in order to grow, so plant them in a sunny spot. Remember to protect them from frost and wind, and cover them during heavy rain storms. You may also want to shade them from hot days.

5. Pinch Back New Growth

Once you have one or two nice pumpkins forming on a vine, it's time to prune that pumpkin.

Pinch back the growing tip. This will direct the plant's energy into growing larger fruit rather than trying to put on more green growth and blossoms.

6. Remove Late Blossoms

Remove any blossoms that appear after you've got a couple of good pumpkins on your vine to ensure that the plant puts its energy toward the fruit that is already growing, rather than trying to form new fruit.