Pumpkins are a great plant to grow in the garden.
They’re fun, they’re easy and there are lots of things you can do with them once they’re all wrinkly and gross (which takes about 4 weeks).
They take up a lot of room though; not ideal for small gardens; and if you don’t have the best hand for growing plants, pumpkins can be pretty temperamental.
Growing pumpkins in 5-gallon buckets. This way you get your pumpkin fix without having to deal with all that extra space or high-maintenance nature.
Growing pumpkins in 5-gallon buckets produce larger and more plentiful fruits than traditional methods. It’s a popular method that was made popular by Mel Bartholomew, author of The Square Foot Gardening Book when he wrote about it in the late 1980s.
Large containers require less frequent watering than smaller pots because there’s more soil for roots to explore. It also takes longer for the plant to dry out, so it can be helpful if your schedule is limited during hot weather or if you live in an arid climate.
Pumpkins are great climbers, so they enjoy ample height even when growing indoors next to a sunny window. Buckets from 5 to 15 gallons (20-60 liters) are convenient for growing pumpkins, although any container around 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter will do.
Choose an opaque container if possible, like white or pale-colored plastic buckets, as light tends to encourage early pumpkin ripening.
If you want your bucket more decorative than functional, you can paint it with bright white exterior latex paint and let the vines climb up the sides of the bucket.
Be sure to remove any stickers that may remain on the outside of your bucket before painting it.
With this method, you’re growing your garden vertically to save space and grow large amounts of fruit/vegetables quickly with much less wasted space than the traditional row system.
This is helpful for city dwellers who don’t have a lot of room or anyone who wants to make their vegetables grow as rapidly and prolifically as possible.
First Things First: What You Need
You need three things to grow your pumpkins:
1). Pumpkin seeds (obviously) – these should ideally be from something small and sweety, like a Sugar Pie or a 10 lbs pumpkin that you bought from the supermarket. If they’re bigger than your hand or too stringy to be worth eating, it’s probably best to toss them out.
2). A 5-gallon bucket – and not one of those cheap ones with an indentation at the bottom. Make sure the bit around the top is flat so that it can support your pumpkin as it grows.
3). Potting soil – go for something that has good drainage properties because pumpkins tend to rot if you don’t help their roots breathe.
Pumpkin plants need lots of sunlight, so someplace where they won’t get shaded by anything (like – say – another plant) is ideal. They also need water, so it’s probably best not to put them somewhere too far away from the kitchen sink or the hose.
How long does it take?
Pumpkins take about 90 days or so before they’re ready for you to harvest them. We’ll cover how long it takes your plant to mature at a later date – hopefully, by then, you’ll know whether this whole thing was just a passing fad or something that gets passed down generation after generation.
Planting Your Pumpkin Seeds in a 5 Gallon Bucket
Step 1: Drill some holes in your bucket
This lets the soil breathe and leaves room for drainage. How big should these holes be? Well, pumpkin seeds tend to grow roots pretty quickly, so you don’t want too many.
A good number is about 16 – 20 holes, but it’s best to start with 4 or 5 and see how your pumpkin plants are behaving before deciding how many more holes they need.
Step 2: Drill some more holes in your bucket
These ones should be smaller than the others – small enough to fit the seeds in snugly, which means that when they grow into vines, they’ll have something to grab onto as they climb up the sides of the bucket.
Here’s where I cheated a bit by using a drill press (I got impatient) – if you’re not so lucky, though, just go slow and carefully, so you don’t crack your buckets open.
Step 3: Put one pumpkin seed in each one of the holes you made
Cover it up with some soil and leave about an inch between each seed. Next, put your bucket somewhere that gets sunlight throughout the day.
Step 4: Water your pumpkin plants regularly.
Not just when they start to wilt (that’s what my mother always told me, but I think it’s a lie). Keep them moist until they sprout leaves.
Let them dry out slightly before you water them again; this helps their roots grow deeper into the soil, so they aren’t as likely to die.
Why grow in a 5-gallon bucket?
A 5 gallon (20 liters) bucket is roughly 16 inches (41 cm) across, which makes it big enough for about 3 plants depending on their root system, or alternatively, and you can grow 1 plant in a 15 gallon (60 liters) bucket.
If using smaller buckets, plan for one pumpkin plant per container or more if you want a greater yield.
Large 5-gallon buckets are the most common type found at hardware stores and home improvement retailers.
They usually cost less than 10 dollars each when purchased empty, but make sure to buy ones with no holes along the bottom where water may seep out after watering your plants.
You can either cut a few inches off of the bottom so that it sits flat on the ground without wobbling around or drill several small holes through the bucket so water can drain freely while still allowing air to get inside.
Remember that even though large containers work best for pumpkins, the soil must drain freely to prevent rot or other fungal diseases from forming inside the roots.
After cutting a few holes in your bucket, place it over a tray so any excess water can safely drain out without ruining your floor.
If you have large dogs like German Shepherds, Huskies, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinscher, etc.… keep in mind that they might try and get inside to eat your pumpkins if they can figure out how to open your front door when you’re not home (true story).
Not only that, but dogs often dig up newly planted seeds and disturb young seedlings, which is why it’s best to protect newly seeded soil by placing chicken wire fencing over the area or growing in containers that can be moved when necessary.
Pumpkins grow best in loose, rich soil with lots of compost and other organic ingredients. Avoid potting soils for planting pumpkins because they’re usually too dense and compact to give the roots much room to explore when growing vertically.
You can add some bagged topsoil or garden soil into your bucket if you want. Still, it’s not necessary unless you’re trying to save money rather than buying planters specifically designed for growing plants in containers.
Before placing any pumpkin seedlings inside your container, ensure it has enough nutrients and water retention capacity to support a large plant throughout the summer months without becoming overly saturated or runny.
Add some low nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 or even Miracle Grow if your soil lacks trace minerals or other nutrients.
When planting several seeds inside a container, it’s recommended to thin them out later, so you only have one plant growing inside. If you’re using large buckets, you can always start more than 1 seedling and keep the 2 most potent plants. Otherwise, just start with 1 seed per bucket right away.
To save time, skip thinning out weaker seedlings by placing larger seeds that are already well developed into the mix instead of tiny seeds that need weeks of growth before being strong enough to survive without competition from other seedlings around them.
When to transplant pumpkins?
Pumpkins are usually ready to be transplanted outside after they’ve reached 5-6 leaves during their early critical growth stages, but make sure there’s no chance of frost at night by doing a hardiness check first.
To avoid transplant shock or other complications, place your seedlings into their final container around the same time they would be ready to go outside anyway since they will grow much faster inside due to higher temperatures during the day and warmer soil conditions.
Once you’re done with transplanting, there’s not much else that needs to be done except watering regularly until your pumpkins are big enough for you to start harvesting some fresh fruit every few days.
Pumpkins take about 4 months from the seedling stage to pick fully grown fruit so try not to disturb the area too often if possible since disturbing roots can leave them more susceptible to fungal.
Make sure to pick off any yellow or damaged flowers right away, so more energy gets diverted towards growing healthy new fruit. If you didn’t already know, pumpkins are a type of berry that has their seeds inside rather than underneath the fruit where tomatoes come from.
This is pretty much all there is to growing pumpkins in 5-gallon buckets, other than keeping an eye on things like bugs (don’t use pesticides unless necessary, because pumpkins need bugs to eat to grow strong) and making sure the pumpkins are getting enough sunlight.
I hope this article has given you some insight into how to grow your delicious pumpkins around Halloween time every year.
This is without having to spend lots of money on overpriced decorative gourds. Or worry about bees pollinating by hand since they’re no longer available at grocery stores during the winter months either. Now get out there and start planting some seeds.