Can Pumpkins Grow Vertically? Let’s Find Out About Climbing Pumpkins!

Once Christmas is out of the way, my thoughts usually turn to the garden in general, and to the vegetable garden in particular.  I love using these quieter days after the holiday to plan where everything is going to grow this year, and making shopping lists of things I need to buy or prepare, such as seeds, seed trays, potting soil, compost etc. And this year I’ve been thinking about climbing pumpkins!

pumpkins growing on a trellis

We love to raise a patch of pumpkins each year. They are fun to grow, and give a lot of pleasure to our grandchildren in the fall.

For most of us, space for growing vegetables is limited. And pumpkins in particular take up a lot of space.  Each pumpkin vine can grow to 25 feet long or more, and a single pumpkin plant can produce several vines. This year, our pumpkin patch covered around 100 square feet. 

In a small garden or yard that is valuable space that could be used for growing other nutritious vegetables. You may be able to find an unused corner for a pumpkin patch this year, but it’s not a good idea to grow pumpkins in the same ground year after year. So next year you’ll need to find another large area to work your pumpkin magic. 

With all this in mind, We’ve been thinking about taking a different approach to growing pumpkins this year.  Specifically we’ve been thinking about growing them vertically!

Pumpkins can be grown vertically, but like most things in life, there are upsides and downsides to this strategy.

Pros And Cons To Growing Pumpkins Vertically

We’ve talked about the most obvious, space saving aspect, of growing pumpkins vertically. But there are some other benefits too. Including better airflow around the plant. And reduced access to pests. 

Airflow Around Pumpkin Leaves

If you are anything like us, you may struggle to keep your pumpkins looking healthy once the vines begin to mature. 

Pumpkins are very prone to mildew, which makes unsightly white patches on the leaves. One way to help reduce those problems, is to improve the airflow around the vines. And growing them vertically can help to do that.

Bugs And Beasties

We are not the only ones that like pumpkins. Various other animals would also like a share of your crop. From slugs to voles and assorted insects. Raising your pumpkins aloft can help make them less vulnerable to an all out assault by the local wildlife. 

On the downside, climbing pumpkins are going to need some support. That means more input from you in the early preparation stages.

A Weighty Problem

Perhaps the biggest challenge in growing a pumpkin vertically is the weight of the pumpkins as they grow. We’re assuming that this is not an insurmountable problem. 

In fact we have some experience of successfully growing melons vertically so we know it can be done, it’s just a matter of scale!

How Much Do Pumpkins Weigh?

Our pumpkin crop this year was a good one. From half a dozen plants we produced over a dozen pumpkins weighing between 10 and 20 pounds each. Plus a few smaller ones that developed towards the tail end of the season. 

climbing pumpkins on trellis

A pumpkin vine may struggle to support a 20lb pumpkin. And there’s a risk that the weight of the vegetable is just going to break the vine, so we will need to think of a way to counter this problem.

A Strong Trellis For Pumpkins

A trellis needs to be pretty strong to support the kind of crop we have in mind. And our plan is to put a couple of large posts into the ground and run some thick gauge wire mesh between them. We have some old disused dog kennel panels that might do the trick. 

An alternative might be metal T posts with wire strands running between them. You can buy wooden posts from lumber merchants online and metal T posts from home diy stores.

You’ll need to borrow a pole thumper if you don’t have one, in order to get the posts deep enough into the ground. Remember that once it’s covered in leaves, your trellis will act a bit like a sail. A good 25% of the post needs to be underground to be fairly sure that the whole structure won’t blow over in the first high winds. 

As an added precaution we’ll probably put our trellis close to a south facing wall where there is some shelter from the wind. 

Supporting The Vines

If we use our dog kennel wire mesh panels, we’ll be able to lace the vines in and out of the mesh.

But if you use strands of wire running between your two poles, then you’ll need to tie the vines up to the strands with garden twine. 

Supporting Each Pumpkin

You can buy melon hammocks to support the individual pumpkins as they grow, and you’ll need to attach these to the trellis.

Mesh grocery bags are another alternative. The main thing is to use something that won’t rot before the end of the season from being alternatively soaked and sun dried.

You may be able to get away without this kind of support if you grow one of the smaller varieties

Best Varieties Of Pumpkins For Trellis

There are many different varieties of pumpkin, some of them grow into gigantic monsters! Atlantic Giant, or Big Moon for example, can reach 200lbs or more. These are probably not the best varieties to grow up your trellis.

On the other hand we don’t want to go too small as the children want something big enough to have fun with for Halloween. We’ll probably go for something like Jack O Lantern, or Tom Fox.

So that’s our plan in a nutshell. I’ll be updating this as we go, and let you know how we get on. If you are going to have a go at vertical pumpkin growing this year, we’d love to hear about it!

Whether you opt for a traditional pumpkin patch or join us in attempting to grow pumpkins vertically, I hope you enjoy planning your vegetable crops for the coming year! 

To be continued…..

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