Pumpkin cold tolerance is not good because they’re warm season produce. They stop growing when temperatures reach below 50°F (10°C). They can also become damaged and experience delayed maturity if temperatures stay below 40°F (5°C) for several days. If you love pumpkins as much as me, and not just when it’s Halloween, you’ll probably love the idea of growing these delicious fruits at home. But be careful about exposing them to extremely cold conditions. Today, I’ll give you more information about pumpkin cold tolerance and what you need to know about protecting pumpkins from low temperatures to help your plants grow and thrive.
How Cold Weather Affects Pumpkins
There are many ways in which cold temperatures negatively affect pumpkins and how they grow. The most important ones to consider are:
- Fruit is less likely to grow
- Bacteria are more prevalent
- Less pollination
To understand pumpkin cold tolerance better, let’s look at each of those in more detail.
Cold Temperatures Prevent Fruit Growth
Cold temperatures can damage plant growth. But, they can also impact pumpkin flowering and fruit yield. If temperatures are lower than 70°F (22°C), pumpkins will be encouraged to grow male flowers, which don’t produce any fruit.
Cold temperatures prevent the plant from growing both male and female flowers that bear fruit, therefore reducing or completely stopping your pumpkin yield.
The Cold Encourages Bacterial Growth
When pumpkins become cold, they are a target for bacteria and fungi that spoil the produce. Freezing temperatures damage pumpkin vines so that the fruit gets injured. This allows bacteria and fungi to set in. Pumpkins need a frost-free growing period that lasts between 75 and 100 days to grow correctly.
Cold Weather Decreases Bee Numbers
Bees pollinate pumpkins and fertilize flowers on the plant via pollination, a process that ensures the pumpkin vines will produce fruit. But, if temperatures become lower than 50°F (10°C), this reduces bee activity. So, you won’t get as much of a fruit yield. You might also see fruit that’s badly shaped.
How to Grow Pumpkins Successfully
Pumpkin cold tolerance can make it quite hard to grow these plants. Particularly if you’re eager to get large, well-shaped pumpkins from your plants. But, it is possible! You just need to give your pumpkin plants the best possible care, and a little extra attention. I’ve gathered some of my best tips for growing pumpkins below, despite their low cold tolerance.
Soak Your Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re growing pumpkins from seeds, soak them overnight before planting. This process will soften overly-hard seeds. The water can penetrate them to bring them out of dormancy to encourage germination.
Plant Them in Warm Temperatures
When planting seeds outside, do this two weeks after the last frost and ensure soil temperatures are at least 60 °F (15 °C). If you’d prefer to plant pumpkin seeds indoors, plant them 2-4 weeks before the last frost and keep them at temperatures of at least 60 °F (15°C) so that they’ll germinate. It’s equally important to make sure your vines won’t get too cold at the end of their life cycle, so check whether it’s too late to plant pumpkin seeds this year here.
Check Soil Temperature
Row covers are ideal for increasing soil temperatures when planting pumpkins outside, but avoid using plastic covers. These produce moisture that can freeze when the temperatures become cold.
When transplanting pumpkins, such as when moving them from inside the home to the garden, ensure the soil temperature is 65°F (18°C) or higher.
Water Your Pumpkins Correctly
Prevent too much dampness in the soil. You should water pumpkins with one inch (2.54cm) of water every week. Make sure you water them deeply, but avoid watering the fruit and leaves unless it’s a hot day. You want to avoid dampness that encourages disease and rot.
Insulate Your Pumpkins
Mulching your pumpkin plants is a great way to protect young pumpkin plants. It insulates their roots to reduce any harm from the cold. But, it can also help to prevent weeds! As well as mulching, cover your pumpkins on chilly nights, as light frost can damage them. Alternatively, you can bring them inside if they’re in containers or pots.
Provide Enough Light
Since pumpkin plants need a lot of light, make sure you keep their pots in sunny areas of the home. If you try to grow them in shady areas, they will be susceptible to diseases and won’t grow as large.
Tips for Growing Pumpkins in Cold Climates
If your region is prone to cold weather, don’t panic! You can still grow pumpkins, but you have to take some special precautions against the cold with a warm bed and good lighting. I’ve got two top tips for growing pumpkins if you live in cold climates.
Firstly, you can create a hot bed with goat, cow, or horse manure. Dig it into the soil and raise it above the ground so that it will give the plants enough nutrients. Goat manure is particularly beneficial because it contains higher amounts of nitrogen and potassium than cow and horse manure.
Grow lights can also be a great way to encourage pumpkin growth. This is an effective solution if you don’t have enough warmth and light indoors when growing pumpkins in cold regions. Remember, they need about eight hours of light every day to grow properly.
How to Keep Pumpkins Healthy After Harvesting Them
You should harvest your pumpkins before winter temperatures arrive to protect them from a hard freeze. Note that harvested pumpkins will have a shelf life of approximately two months, so make sure you enjoy them within that time. Then, remember to follow these tips:
- Handle fruits gently when picking them up. Rough handling can damage their skin.
- Harvest pumpkins when they’re dry. Wet pumpkins won’t last as long. This can also promote issues like mold.
- Harvest them when their skins harden, and before a frost.
- Cut the stem about 3 inches (7.62cm) above the fruit. Leave the stem intact so your pumpkin can be stored for longer.
- Cure your pumpkins for up to 10 days. This involves storing them at temperatures of between 80-85°F (26-29°C). This is important to help the pumpkin skin harden. It also encourages immature fruit to ripen.
- Check for signs your pumpkin is ripe. You can tell that your pumpkin is ripe and ready to be eaten if its stem has died off and it sounds hollow when tapped.
Are You Growing Pumpkins?
Have you used any of my tips for dealing with pumpkin cold tolerance? Growing healthy, happy pumpkins can be a challenge for a new gardener. But with the right care and attention, your plants are bound to grow large, strong pumpkins!
More Vegetable Growing Tips
- How Much Water Do Pumpkins Need?
- Can I Grow Pumpkins in Pots?
- Fixing Shrivelled Up Pumpkins
- Can Pumpkin Seedlings Cope With Frost?
- Will Tomato Plants Die in the Winter?