Most winter squash have a vining growth habit, and can take up a lot of space. That’s great if you have the room, but we all don’t.
Fortunately that doesn’t mean you cannot grow fresh pumpkins. There are actually some varieties that grow with more of a bush habit than a long vine. Some of these are hybrids and some open-pollinated, and can be either the typical orange skin or a different color. Which you choose depends on why you want to grow pumpkins in the first place.
Jack-O’-Lanterns? If you are looking for fall decorations, check out a seed catalog such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds that gives you a pumpkin size chart, growth habit, and pics to help you decide which seeds to purchase. Some varieties, such as the white hybrid 'Casperita', weigh as little as a half-pound and are a semi-bush variety. Slightly larger with a short vining habit is 'Fall Splendor', a beautiful orange pumpkin weighing in at 5 to 7 lbs. Both are wonderful for decorating indoors and out in the fall.
Pumpkin pie? Not all pretty pumpkins make for good eating, so if you are looking for flavor check the descriptions the catalogs provide. The variety 'Baby Bear' weighs only about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, and is described as not only good for pies, but great for roasting the seeds as well. That’s a win–win in our books.
You might want to also try the heirloom route. Again there are numerous varieties to choose from. We planted an heirloom Japanese pumpkin this year called 'Kikuza' (pictured). This small pumpkin is tan colored with deep ribs when it is ripe. It is small enough to grow vertically, as you can see.
You can use a sling to help support the weight of your pumpkins that you choose to grow vertically. This helps take some of the pressure off the stem, making it less stressful for the plant. This 'Kikuza' pumpkin is nestled in an old plastic mesh bag, recycled from some oranges or lemons we bought previously. It is simply attached to the fence, in this case with a clothespin. You can use any number of ways to attach it—whatever you have on hand. Just be sure that it is something that will dry well after a rain; you don’t want to let your squash rot from being too damp.
This variety is described by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as having a "sweet and spicy flavor." We are really looking forward to sampling it. We have enough old corn stalks to decorate—pumpkins are for eating in this house!
Learn more from Gardening Jones at her website and blog.
The Three Sisters Seed Collection includes sweet 'Sugar Pie' pumpkins as well as Indian Corn and Rattlesnake Beans.
Prefer small vegetable plants? Check out the recommendations and growing advice in The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible.
Keep up with planting, pruning, watering, weeding, harvesting and more with The Vegetable Gardener's Week-By-Week Handbook.