Tips for Starting a Pumpkin Patch

Fall is our favorite time of year around here.  The colors, the cooler weather, and the Pumpkins!!  Oh how we love the pumpkins.  From tiny little pumpkins to decorate the mantel or that the kids paint, to giant pumpkins that we need the tractor to help move.  We love having lots of pumpkins to choose from.

Want to start a pumpkin patch this year?  Here are some tips and tricks to get your started.
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    Since we have 10 acres, about 5 years ago we decided to create our own pumpkin patch.  Knowing that we garden all summer and can look after and care for just a little more.  Each year we plant about 15-20 rows of pumpkins.  It takes up probably a 30' square section of our garden area.  We try to plant new varieties of pumpkins and of course the traditional jack-o-lantern.

    We decided to do this for two reasons.  One, to save money on pumpkins.  We loved to go to our local pumpkin patch, but they were charging anywhere from .30-.60 a pound per pumpkin.  That means we paid an average of $5 a pumpkin.  That adds up!

    Second, we wanted to make a fun tradition with our family and friends.  They can look forward to coming out to pick a pumpkin.  We love sharing our crop with them.

    how to start a pumpkin patch

    At the end of September, we invite family and friends to come find the pick of the crop.  They bring their bags and boxes and can pick whatever they'd like.  We make it a little fundraiser for our children.  Each pumpkin is $1.  (Cheap right?!  Think of how much you might make if you charged even just a little bit more.)

    Last year, our family alone picked over 100 pumpkins from the patch.  That is before we opened it for neighbors, etc.  Think of if we charged per pound or even just a flat $2-3 a pumpkin.  That could really add up.

    Once family has picked, -we open it up for neighbors, church members, school friends, etc.  They can come pick whatever they'd like as well.  The patch is open all day and people add their money to the donation jug.  We go off of the honor system.

    start a pumpkin patch

    That being said, after all the prep, planting, care and upkeep, our kids made about $175 on their pumpkins.  That doesn't count the probably 30-40 pumpkins we picked for ourselves to decorate our porch and for carving.

    Now we enjoy gardening and sharing the fruits of our labor.  But it does take time, effort and money to plant and grow a pumpkin patch.  If you are thinking you might start one, here are some tips from our experience.

    start a pumpkin patch

    How do I start a pumpkin patch in my backyard?

    Start by deciding how much space you have to plant in.  Pumpkin plants vine out like crazy!  Even the tiny varieties.  Most plants should be spaced about 24-36" apart at the minimum.  If you over crowd your plants, they can end up choking each other out.

    You don't need acreage like we have to be successful with a pumpkin patch.  Just make sure you can space out your plants enough.  A 5' square garden could have as many as 10 pumpkin plants.  Most vines will grow at least 2-3 pumpkins.  That means you could have 20-30 pumpkins in your patch.   

    That being said, I wouldn't suggest planting giant pumpkins in the same pumpkin patch as your regular varieties, you'll need more space.  Their plants are much larger and need lots of space to grow.

    start a pumpkin patch

    Give yourself plenty of time to plant pumpkins

    Pumpkins typically take 90-120 days to maturity.  If you want people to start picking pumpkins at the end of September into early October, you'll need to have your plants starting by mid May.

    If you have a short growing season, you can start your plants indoors or you can try the winter sowing method, which is how we start our pumpkins each year.

    how to start a pumpkin patch

    Does a pumpkin patch need full sun?

    Pumpkins need full sun to be most successful.  That means between 6-8 hours of direct sun light.  If your patch is slightly shaded in the morning or in the evening, you should be fine.  But don't plant a pumpkin patch in a shaded area.  It won't do well.

    Make sure the soil drains well and doesn't stay wet.  Moist is okay but wet soil can rot your vines and your pumpkins.  

    start a pumpkin patch

    How do you keep weeds out of a pumpkin patch?

    There are lots of ways to prevent or keep weeds down in a pumpkin patch.  You can plant them through weed barrier.  There are lots of different types out there.  You can check your garden store.

    You can try using newspaper or cardboard to stomp down the weeds.  Just place it around the plant.

    For us, we use the tried and true method of wearing gloves and weeding our garden weekly.  It might not be fun, but it helps us see the progress our pumpkin patch is making.  It also helps us identify if we have any fungus or insects disturbing the crop.

    how to start a pumpkin patch

    Is a pumpkin patch profitable?

    Whether your pumpkin patch is profitable or not, depends on what your definition of profitable is.  Are you trying to break even?  Are you growing for just your family to use, eat and preserve?  Or are you hoping to make money of your pumpkin patch?

    Some things to think about are:  

    • How much is my time worth?  Planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, etc
    • What will I do with any pumpkins that don't sell?  Is that a waste of money to me?
    • Who will buy my pumpkins?  How much will I charge?
    • How much do I want to make from my pumpkin patch?
      • Cost of materials + Cost hours worked / # pumpkins to sell

    start a pumpkin patch

    Can starting a pumpkin patch be profitable?  For sure.  But how profitable is 100% up to you.  Are you willing to put in the money, time and care needed to grow pumpkins over a 4-5 month period?  Will those in your community be willing to pay for the pumpkins you grow?  

    All these things are important to take into account before you grow 5 acres of pumpkins.  Start small.  See what the interest is.  Remember you can grow from year to year.

    Want to start a pumpkin patch this year?  Here are some tips and tricks to get your started.


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