We all associate pumpkins with jack-o-lanterns, fall decorations and pumpkin pies. Many varieties of pumpkins are great to grow for all things fall- but they tend to take up so much garden space. So if you don’t have a farm or huge garden, can you hope to grow pumpkins at home?
Growing pumpkins in small spaces requires as little as about 12 square feet of ground area, a 4 x 8-foot raised bed or a 5-25 gallon container. Mini or small pumpkin varieties take up the least amount of space and typically produce the best results, and they’re also ideal for growing on a trellis or another support structure to take advantage of vertical space.
In this article, you’ll learn about 6 ways to turn your small space into a thriving pumpkin patch.
How Much Space Do You Need for Growing Pumpkins in Small Gardens?
You have no shortage of options when it comes to pumpkin varieties and sizes, with fruits that weigh in at under a pound to those that can be over 1,000 pounds! Larger pumpkin varieties obviously require larger garden spaces while some small and mini varieties take up quite a bit less. Here are some of the space requirements for pumpkin plants by size:
- Vining and large varieties of pumpkin, like Jack-O-Lantern, need at least 50 to 60 square feet to grow.
- Semi-bush pumpkins like Jackpot and Spirit need about 32 square feet.
- Bush varieties, like Autumn Gold, need at least 18 square feet.
And the University of Illinois Extension advises that small and mini pumpkin varieties, like Baby Bear, Munchkin and Jack Be Little, need about 12-18 square feet.
Even 12-18 square feet probably sounds pretty large if you don’t have a lot of garden space. But you’re not limited to planting your pumpkins in a traditional garden- you can grow them vertically or in a variety of containers.
So how about an apartment balcony? We asked Joanna VonBergen, blogger and gardener at Gingham Gardens, for her opinion. “With a little creativity, apartment balconies may be large enough to grow pumpkins, depending on the size of the patio or balcony,” Joanna says.
Sticking with a mini or small variety is the best idea here, and you’ll want to plant your pumpkins in a large container. If you have enough overhead room, growing vertically is a perfect option. And be sure that your balcony gets at least 6 hours of bright sunlight each day.
But Joanna adds, “Be sure to check with management to be certain of the rules of growing outdoor plants.”
Ideas for Growing Pumpkins in Small Spaces
Whether you’ve got a small backyard, a tiny garden or you just don’t want to dedicate a bunch of your yard space, there are several creative ways to grow pumpkins. We’ll break down a few methods here and include the best ways to use these methods to help you be successful!
1. Choose the Right Pumpkin Variety (Smaller is Better!)
The most important consideration for growing pumpkins in small gardens is choosing the right variety. We’ve already covered some square foot requirements for various pumpkins, and you don’t want to unknowingly choose a variety that forms massive vines for your small space.
Here are some small and mini pumpkin varieties that are great for growing in small gardens:
- Jack Be Little: Mini variety perfect for fall decorations (these are the ones I’m growing in my small backyard corner!)
- Hooligan: Mini variety that’s great for decorating and snacking.
- Cannon Ball: Small pumpkin perfect for fall crafts.
- Black Kat: Unique nearly-black small pumpkin for crafts, dinner recipes, or pumpkin pie.
- Bushkin: Semi-bush small pumpkins for recipes and pies.
- Spirit: Semi-bush medium pumpkin that’s great for cooking and carving.
2. Use a Trellis or Arbor
Growing pumpkins vertically with a trellis or arbor is a fantastic way to maximize scarce ground area. Vertical growing also improves airflow for the plant and keeps the pumpkins away from the soil and potential pest invasions, which makes for healthier plants and pumpkins.
One last benefit of growing pumpkins vertically is that it makes it easier to access your pumpkins for harvesting. Honestly, growing your pumpkins vertically is a great idea even if you have a large garden!
Mini and small pumpkin varieties are typically better for growing vertically since the smaller fruits don’t put too much weight on the vine or trellis. Growing larger varieties vertically can work, but it involves more steps and requires more area than you may have to work with.
There are lots of DIY trellises or arbors you could build to suit your particular needs. If you’d prefer to buy a pre-built one, these are some good options online or in local retail stores.
If you’re using a trellis or arbor, be sure to place it when you plant your pumpkin seeds or seedling to prevent disturbing roots.
3. An A-Frame Tower Support
Another great option for growing pumpkins vertically is with an A-frame tower support. This offers the same benefits for pumpkin plants as a trellis or arbor, only with two sides to grow on.
So you could plant pumpkin vines on both sides of the A-frame or either end and train the vines over the top or across the side for more climbing room. You’re basically doubling your pumpkin-growing capacity without dedicating much more area to the plants.
4. Use Containers
Growing pumpkins in containers is a fantastic way to convert some otherwise unusable space into a pumpkin patch. A few of these spaces include:
- Awkward corners
But how big of a container do you need? Joanna chimes in here again: “For larger pumpkins, go with at least a 17 inch pot or larger. The bigger the better. The roots will need room to grow. Also if the container is too small, the plant will dry out much too quickly. For smaller pumpkins, the container can be smaller, but again think about room for the plant roots to grow and not become root bound.”
Did you ever think you could be growing pumpkins in 5-gallon buckets, tote bins or even a plastic kiddie pool? Gardening in buckets is very easy to do! As long as you’re planting the right size pumpkin plant in the right size pot, growing pumpkins in containers is easy and “fruitful”!
One thing to keep in mind for container gardening is drainage. Pumpkins need lots of moisture, but you also don’t want soil that’s saturated with water. Make your container has plenty of drainage holes to allow excess water to escape easily. Either purchase a pot with pre-made drainage holes or use a power drill to add your own to a DIY project.
A hard plastic kiddie pool is another good option if you have the ground space for it. But shipping these things is pretty difficult, so you’re probably better off buying a pool at a local store than trying to order one online!
5. Plant Pumpkins Around the Garden Edges
Maybe you have an in-ground garden but you don’t have enough space to grow pumpkins amongst your other crops. In this case, consider planting your pumpkins around the garden perimeter and training the pumpkin vines upward or outward to keep the central area open.
If you have some crops that prefer a bit of shade, use a trellis or A-frame support to create a plant “wall” as the pumpkin vines grow. Or if you don’t expect a lot of foot traffic in the area, you could allow the vines to grow out from the garden perimeter to the surrounding yard.
Perfect companion plants for pumpkins include green beans, marigold, radish, various herbs and corn. So if you’ve got plans for any of these plants in your garden, you’ll have plenty of helpful friends for your pumpkins!
6. Plant in Raised Beds
Another way to grow pumpkins in tight spaces is in raised garden beds.
For mini or small pumpkins, you should be able to fit 2 plants in a 4×8 foot raised bed. For medium or larger varieties, stick with just one healthy plant to avoid overcrowding the roots.
The vines can spill over the edges of the bed, and you can guide them around the perimeter to avoid sprawling all over your lawn.
If you’ve got raised beds next to fences, the pumpkin vines can grow vertically on the fence and create a lovely plant wall. Even if your raised beds aren’t near a fence or wall, you can always incorporate a trellis, arbor, or A-frame for pumpkin vine support and to save some yard space.
Caring for Pumpkins in Small Spaces
When caring for pumpkins growing in small spaces, there are a few factors to keep in mind for optimal growth. Follow these tips, and your pumpkins should grow and produce fruit successfully.
Give Plenty of Water
Aim to give your pumpkins 1 inch of water per week, and remember to account for rainfall in this total.
This video from MIGardener demonstrates an easy way to understand what 1 inch of water translates to in real life:
Plant at the Right Time of Year
Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop with no tolerance for the cold. So wait until soil temperatures are at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit and all danger of frost has passed before planting your pumpkin seeds or seedlings.
Ensure Plenty of Sunshine
Pumpkins love the sun! Make sure to choose a spot where they’ll get at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Avoid planting your pumpkins near shady trees or a wall that could block sunlight. If your pumpkin plant is in a container, you could move it throughout the day to follow the sun if needed.
Pumpkin plants are heavy feeders, meaning that they need lots of nutrients to produce their large, vibrant fruits.
Use rich soil and add compost when planting to give your plants a nutrient boost from the start. Fertilize at least two more times throughout the growing season, preferably more like every 3-4 weeks. Some people also swear by a targeted fertilizing program that gives higher levels of specific nutrients at different growing stages.
We’ve covered this topic in much more detail in our post on fertilizing pumpkins, so stop by to learn more and see our recommended fertilizers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Pumpkins in Small Spaces
From an apartment balcony to a raised garden, growing pumpkins in small spaces is very possible with a little creativity and knowledge to choose the right variety and supplies.
So don’t let a lack of space keep you from enjoying the pumpkin harvest of your dreams this fall!
We want to hear from you! Do you still have any other questions about growing pumpkins without a large garden? Have you discovered any other growing methods we don’t have here? We learn best as a community, so please share your thoughts in the comments!