Eaten mostly as a winter food, pumpkins should be planted in the summer months. Seeds need to be sown into warm soil in order to germinate and December or January is the ideal time to get started for an autumn harvest.
With a sprawling habit, pumpkins can take up a lot of space, so in small gardens train the vines up the side of a shed then use a ladder to harvest them from the roof. Or choose bush varieties like Golden Nugget that can be grown in large containers.
SOW SEEDS in saucer-shaped troughs on mounded soil. Space the mounds one to two metres apart, sow five seeds into each and cover with mulch. The mounds keep roots cool and improve drainage while the troughs direct water to the roots.
WATER PLANTS regularly to stop the fruit splitting, and to protect their shallow roots in dry or windy weather. Harvest fruit from 14 to 20 weeks, depending on the variety. Leave as much stem as possible attached to help pumpkins last longer.
LOOK FOR powdery mildew, a disease common to vines, that spreads a white film on leaves. Treat with a fungicide.
TIP Damp soil can cause pumpkins to rot so put young fruit on boards raised off the ground to protect them.