My seeds have sprouted. My sprouts are getting bigger. Perhaps yours are too. Here is Part 3 about growing the pumpkin vines with ideas about things you can study about them.
It’s time to start showing off our pumpkin plants. I will start a page of photo galleries of pumpkin plants. To get your own gallery so you can show everyone how well your pumpkins are doing, email me pictures of your pumpkin plant as it grows.
Growing Your Pumpkins
This is the hardest part of growing pumpkins for me. Maybe it is for you too. It only takes a few days to a week for the sprouts to appear but the time seems so long. One day there is that hook pushing soil aside or cotyledons open and pumpkin plants are growing.
The next step is keeping those plants growing and healthy.
Step 1: Only two miniature or sugar pie pumpkin plants can grow in one hill. Only one larger pumpkin plant can grow in a hill. More than two seeds should germinate so some have to go. Sometimes you can tell a sprout is very small or doesn’t grow very well. Pull these sprouts out. When they get their first true leaves, pull the smallest one. Do this again when the fourth true leaves appear until only three miniature or pie plants are left or two bigger pumpkin plants. Let the one grow to half a meter long, dig it out carefully and use it for Investigation 11. If the sun is very hot on your pumpkin plants almost all day, put up a shade to protect the plants from sunburn and dying. You can tell the sun is too hot if the edges of the cotyledons or leaves get dry and brown or they fade to light green.
Note: I hate to pull out a nice sturdy sprout and toss it away. It’s trying so hard to grow well. But it can’t stay where it is or none of the plants will do well later on. One solution is to transplant it someplace else. Pumpkins grow well with corn.
Step 2: While the plants are small, water them directly during the day. Once the plants start vining, water the vines by filling the moat and letting it soak in. While the vines are small, they may not need water every day unless it is hot. If the leaves wilt in the afternoon, you are not watering enough. Try not to get water on the leaves. Water your plants after the dew is gone but by early in the afternoon so the leaves get dry before sunset.
Step 3: Pumpkin vines grow extra or adventitious roots at every leaf node. The vines also grow in any direction. Before the roots grow, carefully move the vines to grow across your garden space. It’s best to do this while the vines are small and move them in the afternoon when the vines are softer. If the vine needs to be moved very far, do a little each day so you don’t break or bend the vine.
Step 4: The extra roots give you another way to feed the vines extra nutrients. This is very important for Halloween and giant pumpkins. For these vines, dig a little hole under the leaf node, put extra manure in it and cover it with dirt. Put dirt over the vines (not the leaves) to help protect them from borers and squash bugs. The dirt helps the adventitious roots grow faster.
Step 5: Especially for giant pumpkins, you may need to trim the vines and side vines when they get really long.
Step 6: Check your vines every day for insect pests and diseases. Pick off squash bugs and their eggs. Spray for cucumber beetles and flea beetles.
Measure your plants for several days to find out how fast they grow. Write down how the plants change as they grow. Look at your plants at different times of the day and in different weather and write down comparisons. Describe how a leaf changes as it gets bigger then gets old.
When and where do your plants make adventitious roots? These are extra roots from the stems.
Giant pumpkin growers put dirt over the stems so the plants make more adventitious roots. What is the advantage of doing this?
When does your main vine put out a branch?
Does a branch vine grow faster than the main vine? Do you have to measure the entire vine to find this out?
Plants need light to make food. A new sprout needs to start making its own food before it runs out of the food stored in the seed. How bright does this light need to be? What happens to a sprout if the light isn’t bright enough? Let’s find out.
Question: How does light affect a sprout?
Long grow light
5 Styrofoam cups
Books or blocks of wood to make steps for the cups
Step 1: Open your science journal and write the date. Put down Investigation 7. Copy Table 1 into your journal.
Step 2: Number the cups 1 to 5 and fill them with potting soil. The soil should be 1.5cm below the top after it is firmed down.
Step 3: Add water to each cup so the soil is damp but not soggy.
Step 3: Measure 2.5cm from the end of the pencil and make a mark. Use the pencil to make two holes 2.5cm deep in each cup.
Each pumpkin seed is planted at the same depth in the same type of cup and potting soil.
Step 4: Put a seed in each hole. All the seeds should be planted the same way. Add potting soil to fill each hole. Cover the cups with plastic wrap.
Step 5: Build steps under the grow light so the top of each cup is 5cm higher than the next one. The grow light should be over the tops of all the cups and only 2.5cm away from the top cup.
Step 6: Turn the grow light on for 12 hours every day. Check for sprouts every day. When sprouts appear, take the plastic wrap off the cup. Don’t let the soil dry out.
Step 7: Describe, draw and measure the length of the stems in centimeters of all the sprouts every day until the first true leaves appear. Write the measurement in Table 1.
As the pumpkin sprouts get farther from the light, they grow taller trying to get to it.
Table 1: Length of sprouts
Table 2: Describe the sprouts
Why do you make all the holes for the seeds the same depth?
Think back to other Investigations and explain why 2.5cm is a good depth to plant pumpkin seeds.
Why should all the seeds be planted the same way?
Is it important to have the light turned on for the first two or three days? Explain why you think this.
Does it matter how close to the light a sprout is? Explain why you think this.
A grow light isn’t really bright enough for a pumpkin sprout even when it is very close. But a sprout does its best to get close.
What happens to sprouts farther away from the light?
Think back to other Investigations you have done. Why is it important for the new sprout to have a short stem?