To grow pumpkins in a raised bed, first, choose a smaller variety of pumpkin. Then, select a location for your raised bed that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Plant your pumpkin seeds 24 inches (60 cm) apart from each other in spring when the soil temperature rises above 70°F (21°C). Each plant needs 1 inch (25 mm) of water per week and it is best to water early in the morning. Pumpkins are ready for harvest when they are fully colored, have super tough rinds, and their leaves start to shrivel.
8 Steps to Growing Pumpkins in Raised Beds
Our guide will walk you through the process of designing a raised bed, sowing seeds, caring for, and ultimately harvesting your pumpkins. Learn what pumpkins require for growing in a raised bed including space, soil, water, sun, protection, and physical support.
Choose a Pumpkin
For a raised bed, we recommend choosing a variety of pumpkin that is fairly small. Large pumpkin varieties require a lot of area per plant, which makes them less suitable for a raised bed. If you have a standard-size raised bed, you will have the most success growing pumpkins no larger than a Jack-O-Lantern, which can reach up to 16 inches (40 cm). Some popular smaller varieties include:
- New England pie
- Baby pam
- Cherokee bush
- Winter luxury
Choosing a smaller pumpkin will allow you to plant more of them, since they require less area for growth than large pumpkins. Pumpkins of a smaller stature are not just ornamental; many of them can be used for baking in addition to making vibrant fall decor.
Choose a Location
Pumpkin vines require full sun and trellising, so the location of the bed is important to consider. If you want to construct a bed near your home, it should be on either the east or south side to ensure the pumpkins get enough sunlight.
- Your raised bed should have as little shade cover as possible for your pumpkins to thrive.
- Your raised bed should receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily and have open space above it for trellises.
- The minimum sunlight requirement for pumpkins is 6 hours per day. However, pumpkins do best when they get 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- To maximize sun exposure, a bed should be east- or south-facing.
While pumpkin seedlings need protection from the sun, all-day direct sunlight is necessary for adult plants to grow strong. If your bed does not receive enough sun, pumpkin plants will not produce pumpkins and may not flower properly. You also cannot start pumpkin plants in the shade because their seedlings require the warmth and energy that the sun provides.
Determine Your Raised Bed Dimensions
The area of a raised bed limits how many plants you can grow, so keep this in mind when assessing the dimensions of your bed. Pumpkins require a lot of space and even the smallest varieties need to be planted at least 2 feet (60 cm) apart.
- For a single row of 4 small pumpkin plants, a bed should be at least 3 feet by 8 feet (1 by 2.4 meters).
- You can check the recommended space requirements for the type of pumpkin you intend to grow and design your bed based on how many plants you want.
- Large pumpkin varieties can require over 10 square feet (3 square meters) of space to grow per plant, which is why we recommend using smaller pumpkin varieties for a raised bed.
- Don’t forget that the raised bed also needs room for trellises if you want to maximize yield at harvest.
While larger raised beds will allow you to grow more pumpkins, you can use smaller ones when space is limited. In a smaller bed, you may not have room for a trellis and that’s alright. If you plant your pumpkin seeds near the edges of the bed, you can train their vines over the edge of the bed and onto the ground.
Use Appropriate Soil
To properly grow, pumpkins need very warm, fertile, and loamy soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5. Mix a generous amount of this compost into the soil to fertilize your bed sufficiently. You can continue to fertilize the soil with a water-soluble fertilizer once every two weeks. If your soil has any weeds, you should remove them. We do not recommend the use of pesticides or chemicals to eliminate weeds in the soil, but rather removing them by hand so that the soil will remain healthy for growing pumpkin plants.
- Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5.
- Pumpkins require a soil temperature above 70℉ (21℃).
- You can use plastic to warm the soil for early planting.
- Use compost to fertilize soil prior to planting.
- Boost growth by using this water-soluble fertilizer every 10-14 days.
- Remove any weeds by hand prior to planting seeds.
If the soil is still a little too cold for starting pumpkins, you can warm it the week prior to planting by covering it with black plastic covering. When it’s time to plant, make holes in the plastic to plant the seeds. Remove the plastic as soon as possible, when the soil maintains a warm temperature on its own. Alternatively, you can start growing the plants indoors and transfer them to your raised bed when it is warmer outside.
Planting Your Pumpkins
Pumpkin seeds need appropriate heat and moisture to germinate. We recommend planting seeds in spring or whenever it begins warming up where you live. Pumpkins do not do well in the cold, so planting in spring gives pumpkins the entire warm season to mature.
- Sow your pumpkin seeds in spring, a few weeks after the last frost.
- Soak your pumpkin seeds in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting to help the seeds germinate faster.
- Space plants 24–36 inches apart (60–92 cm).
- Plant seeds ½ –1 inch deep (13–25 mm).
- Keep seeds moist for about a week after planting by misting the top layer of soil with water.
- Seedlings and young pumpkins can become sun-scorched, so you should use these row covers while your pumpkins are first starting out.
Sow your pumpkin seeds 1 inch deep (25 mm) and at least two feet (60 cm) apart from each other alongside a trellis. This way your plants will have both the space and structural support necessary to grow long vines and healthy pumpkins. Your seedlings will need to be protected from harsh UV rays using row covers so they can still get the energy they need without being scorched.
- Winter protection for your plants and crops.
- Lightweight and breathable material.
- Can also be used to encourage rapid seedling growth.
Use a Trellis
Trellises are great for growing pumpkins in a raised bed since they keep those long vines tidy. Trellises also allow the pumpkins to grow off the ground and away from pests. Since pumpkins get heavy as they mature, you should build or purchase a sturdy trellis made of wood or metal. Pumpkins tend to grow well on A-frame trellises, but you can use tall tomato cages and other trellis types depending on what fits your raised bed.
- Be sure the trellis you use is made of a strong material that can support the weight of pumpkins.
- We recommend using an A-frame trellis, like this one, for growing pumpkins, since it will make harvesting easier for heavier varieties.
- Each plant should have 1 to 2 square feet (30 to 60 square cm) of trellis space to grow.
- Once a few leaves and vines have sprouted you can loosely tie the main vine to a trellis using soft garden twine, shoelaces, or thin strips of fabric.
- Check your vines every day, not only to catch pests early but to make sure the vines stay securely on the trellis.
- To support the growing pumpkins, you will need to anchor them to the trellis with a soft material that can expand as they grow, such as pantyhose or hammock netting.
When the first several leaves and vines appear, you can start training vines by loosely tying them to the trellis with soft twine. Continue this method of attaching vines to the trellis as vines multiply and lengthen. Later on, when pumpkins are growing, you will need to create cradles and attach them to the trellis to support the pumpkins’ weight. Don’t forget to check your plants daily.
Water Your Pumpkins
Water your pumpkin plants every 2 to 3 days when the top inch (25 mm) of soil is dry. Pumpkin plants benefit from being watered deeply in the early morning. This gives water-splashed leaves enough time to dry in the sun and prevents the water from drying up before it gets to the roots. You can also water your pumpkins later in the day, so long as it is not during the hours when the sun is at its peak.
- The best time of day to water pumpkin plants is in the early morning
- Pumpkin plants need around 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week.
- Smaller pumpkin varieties require 8.5 cups (2 liters) of water per plant to thoroughly saturate the soil.
- Do not allow the soil to become dry at a depth greater than one inch (25 mm) between waterings.
- It is important to avoid getting foliage and fruit wet when watering, since this can cause fungal infections and rot.
Soil can dry out much faster when it is hot, so it is important to check your plants every day and increase the watering frequency if necessary. If the temperature is above 95°F (35°C) you will likely need to water every other day. When growing smaller types of pumpkins, you will need less water than is required for large varieties. For more information on pumpkin care, check out our complete pumpkin watering guide.
Pumpkins are typically ready to harvest when the seasons start to change. However, you can look for signs that they are ready based on the type of pumpkin you’re growing. For varieties such as a Wee-B-Little, the pumpkins are ready for harvesting when they are fully colored orange.
- Harvest once pumpkins are fully colored, or white if growing a white variety, and their rind cannot be easily opened with your fingernail.
- If leaves and or vines are drying and shriveling, it is definitely time to harvest your pumpkins.
- You will have the easiest time harvesting pumpkins on a dry, sunny day.
- We recommend using gardening gloves while harvesting since some pumpkin varieties have thorny vines.
- Use ratchet pruning shears, a lopper, or a pruning saw to separate the pumpkin from the vine about 1.5 to 2 inches (4 to 5 cm) above the fruit.
Another way to tell if your pumpkins are ready for harvest is by testing their rinds. Pumpkin rinds will be extremely tough when they are ready to be harvested. Check if the rind is hardened enough by pressing a fingernail or similarly thin object into the flesh in an inconspicuous area. If it easily breaks through, the pumpkins still have some maturing to do before harvest.
Do Pumpkins Grow Well in Raised Beds?
Pumpkins do really well in raised beds for a few reasons. The soil stays warmer in a raised bed, which is great for pumpkins who need the warmth to germinate and grow well. You can also control the moisture of a raised bed a bit easier than in the earth. As long as you fertilize and use well-draining soil, pumpkins will do great in a raised bed.
- You can more precisely control moisture levels in a raised bed
- Raised beds help keep soil warm enough for pumpkins.
- You can opt to train vines over the edge of a raised bed.
- Using a trellis in your raised bed will help keep pumpkins out of reach of certain pests and fungi in the soil.
We recommend using a trellis in addition to a raised bed to yield more pumpkins. However, pumpkins will do well in a raised bed without a trellis so long as you slip material such as newspaper beneath pumpkins as they grow to protect them from disease and microbes.
How Deep Should a Raised Bed Be for Pumpkins?
For growing pumpkins in a raised bed, a depth of at least 18 inches (45 cm) is needed for their roots. Ideally, the bed should be about 24 inches (60 cm) deep and bottomless so plant roots can grow into the soil below if necessary. A bottomless raised bed will also drain into the earth naturally.
- Pumpkins need a lot of space to grow, including beneath the soil.
- Some pumpkin varieties will grow taproots deep into the soil up to 6 feet (1.8 meters).
- A raised bed should be at least 18 inches (45 cm) deep to support the size of pumpkin plants.
- It is best to have a bottomless bed so plants can make use of ground soil if they need to.
- A bed that is too shallow will not drain quickly enough for pumpkin plants since they require a lot of water.
Pumpkins can flourish in the right raised bed environment when you provide enough surface area and depth. Keep in mind that while pumpkins have shallow roots compared to some plants, the taproot of a mature pumpkin plant can grow to be extremely deep in the soil.
Can You Grow Pumpkins in a Raised Bed?
Though they are known for growing in a pumpkin patch, pumpkins do very well when grown in raised beds. However, it is important to know how to raise them in a raised bed to do so successfully.
- Choose a pumpkin to grow. Keep in mind smaller varieties tend to be best for raised beds as they require less area to grow than large varieties.
- Find the best full-sun location to make your raised bed.
- Choose your raised bed dimensions to provide 2 square feet of soil per plant.
- Fill your bed with an appropriate mix of soil that is loamy and well-draining, then add compost to fertilize it. The soil should be over 70°F (21°C) before planting and its pH should be 6.0–6.5.
- Plant pumpkin seeds about an inch deep and at least 24 inches (61 cm) apart in the Spring after the last frost of the season.
- Keep seeds moist with daily misting for the first week after planting.
- Protect seedlings from harsh UV rays with row covers.
- We recommend installing A-frame trellises made of wood or metal sturdy enough to support the weight of pumpkins.
- Give pumpkin plants 2 liters of water each every 2–3 days, or when the top inch of soil feels dry.
- Harvest your pumpkins when they have full color, tough rinds, and their leaves or vines have started drying out.
Raised beds are ideal for growing pumpkins for cooking, personal projects, or just for fun. The yield may be less than a patch full of plants, but raised beds offer an ideal environment for the plants to thrive and produce healthy pumpkins.