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Stage I. Seed Germination
Pumpkin plants are very fragile and easily damaged or killed by frost. Wait until after the last frost date for your area, and for the soil to be adequately warmed by several days of warm weather in a row, before planting.

Plant the seeds approximately 1.5 inches below the top of the soil, with the pointed end facing down. (see photo 1) It will take from 8-10 days, depending on the temperature, for the seed to germinate and to emerge from the soil. You will see the whole seed emerge with the seed shell loosely attached to the tip of the leaves, (see photo 2) when the two seed leaves fully open the shell will fall off.

Stage II. Seedling Growth
From the junction of the two seed leaves, three new true leaves will sprout (see photo 2 & 3). It will take about 15-20 days for the true leaves to fully develope, marking the end of the seedling growth period. With the growth of the first true leaves a critical period in the plant's life begins. At this stage pumpkins are easily damaged by any disruption of their roots. For growers using the indirect seeding method,(seed germination takes place indoors and then transplanted to the growing area), transplanting the seedling requires very careful handling.
Fertilizer used during this stage should be one that promotes root growth, such as 15-30-15.

Stage III. Leaf and Root Growth
This stage is one of rapid growth of the plant's leaves, vines, secondary vines and roots. (see photo 4) It also marks a gradual change in fertilizer from a fertilzer that stresses phosphorous for root growth, to a more balanced one such as 20-20-20 which will provide more nitrogen to promote leaf growth. This period will see the main pumpkin vine
grow to a length of 15-20 feet, with its many huge leaves and secondary vines. Also, at the end of this period the first flowers begin to blossom (see photo 4). Photo 5 shows a female flower in full boom. Pumpkin vines require lots of water, and during the hot summer days you may have to water you plant every day. The appearance of the leaves will give you an indication of whether or not water is needer. If they are bright and firm they have sufficient water, if they appear wilted they need water.

Stage IV. Flower Pollination
The pumpkin plant produces both male and female flowers. The female flower is shown in photo 5 and 6. (Note the bumblebee in photo 6) The male flower grows on top of a tall slender stem, the female flower grows on a short stem, it is easily recognizable by the tiny fruit which is attached and located under it.
(That tiny fruit of course will grow into your giant pumpkin).

Select the female flower(s) that has blossomed at the same time as male flowers, this will ensure good pollination of the female flower. It should be located 8-10 feet from the main root, and with its stem angled as close to perpendicular to the vine as possible, this to ensure that the rapidly growing fruit will not cause damage to its stem and/or vine. Remember, by harvest time, your pumpkin could have a diameter of some 36-50 inches, it is important therefore, to plan ahead to assure that there is sufficient room for the fruit to grow to its full size. The tap root at the pumpkin should be clipped off and at least two more on either side of the pumpkin, to allow the vine to move off of the ground as the pumpkin grows. (A tap root grows from the vine beneath each leaf junction, and forms its individual root system). The vine should be allowed to continue growing to another 10-12 feet beyond the selected flower (see photo 7). clipping its end off at 20-22 feet from the main root. Remove all other flowers, and clip off the tips of all secondary vines when they reach 6-8 feet long.

The pumpkin vine and stem is easily damaged so great care must be taken when repositioning the vine or pumpkin. If you must move the vine or pumpkin do so in the early stage when the pumpkin is still small, and move it a little at a time. It pays to be patient, a split vine or stem can not be repaired, and will retard the pumpkin's growth.
The time from the date of the fully developed three true leaves to flower pollination (fruit set) should be from 55-65 days.

Stage V. Fruit Growth
This period starts with the pollination of the selected flower(s) (fruit set) and ends at harvest time (some 60-75 days). Fertilizer used at this stage should be one that
stresses potassium which promotes fruit growth, such as 15-10-30. During this period the pumpkin will rapidly increase in size and weight. Keep track of you pumpkin's growth by measuring it at least once weekly and two or more time weekly during its last stage of growth. (See below)

There are many factors involved in the growing of the giant pumpkin,and many of these are solely in the hands of Mother Nature. However, if you have supplied well prepared soil,good
seeds,and a good fertilizing and watering regime, then I'm sure that you will be successful in your very first attempt. One thing for sure, you are bound to grow a pumpkin that will make a bigger than the ordinary jack-o'-lantern for Halloween. Good luck!

Keep track of your pumpkin's growth by measuring it regularly. These measurements can also be used to estimate the pumpkin's weight. Click on
Calculator .

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