When to Plant Pumpkins So They're Ready for Halloween

multiple orange pumpkins grow ripe in garden patch with big leaves

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Since pumpkins generally require around 75 to 100 frost-free days, it's a good idea to get a jumpstart on planting them.

Yes, it is June and I am writing about pumpkins. (Shudder.) But this isn't a put-up-the-Christmas-decorations-in-October kind of thing. It's that winter squash takes forever to grow and requires the long game – so now is actually the perfect time to start talking pumpkins.

People have been growing pumpkins in North America for almost 5,000 years ... and is it any wonder? They are bright, nutritious and completely delicious. Plus, jack-o'-lanterns, of course – so if you want pumpkins in time for Halloween, you need to get a jump on things.

When to plant pumpkins in time for Halloween

To have pumpkins ready for Halloween, they should be planted from late May in northern sites to early July in the southernmost states. If pumpkins are planted too early, they may become mush before Halloween. Too late, and they won't be ready in time. In general, they require 75 to 100 frost-free days. Some big gorgeous heirlooms like the Musquee de Provence pumpkin (seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) take 120 days or more; even little cutie-pies like the Jack Be Little squash (seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) can take 90 days or so. Also, make sure all threat of frost has passed and the soil is warm. When it comes time to harvest, The Old Farmer's Almanac shares tips to help extend the post-harvest life of your pumpkins:

  • To slow decay, leave an inch or two of stem on pumpkins and winter squash when harvesting them.
  • To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners; do not tear. Be sure not to cut too close to the pumpkin; a liberal amount of stem (3 to 4 inches) will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.
  • Handle pumpkins very gently or they may bruise.
  • Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and then stored in a cool, dry bedroom, cellar, or root cellar – anywhere around 55oF.