How to Plant Pumpkins: Rows vs. Hills
Many people have raised pumpkins, gourds, and other vining plants in hills for centuries. However, for years I used row crop techniques to raise pumpkins and gourds to great success. Increased numbers of plants make for higher yields, better ground cover which conserves water and edges out weeds in your garden. It's easier to plant, and maintain row crop pumpkins and gourds than conventional hills.
Before planting any pumpkins or gourds, know your soil. Soil preparation will go a long way with vining crops, which take a lot of nutrients from your soil. Pumpkins and decorative gourds alike prefer well drained soil, such as a sandy loam type. Too much moisture being trapped in the topsoil will create problems with mold and mildew on your vines. If you have heavier soil, like clay, you can use organic material, like lawn clippings, leaves, compost, and peat moss to loosen the soil and allow it to hold more nutrients. Doing this will build up the soil and thin it out enough that root systems can penetrate and your plants can grow uninhibited.
The row-crop method
Once you've got your garden bed prepped, you can plant. Normally with hills, you would plant 4-5 seeds per hill with each hill being 4-6 feet apart. This works well, always has. However, row cropping your pumpkins and gourds is more efficient. Spacing rows 6 feet apart, you can plant gourds and miniature pumpkin vines 5 inches apart in your rows. Regular size "carving" pumpkins will need more space, 12 inches or so between seeds in a row. This is because these pumpkins have larger vines and root systems that will choke each other off if they are too close. Vining plants will cover the ground quickly, making it hard for weeds to grow. As vines start to mature, you will notice that they will climb existing weeds and eventually overtake them. By using row cropping, you are harnessing the vine's natural defense mechanisms to your advantage more so than in conventional hill methods.
Now, as good as row cropping can be for your vining plants, there is one drawback. Because the ground cover is so dense, pests are more concealed and can become more prevalent. This can be remedied by keeping an eye on your vines. Check under leaves, near the stem, and at the base of the vine. If you notice small red bumps at the base of the leaf where it meets the stem, you probably have squash bugs. It is easiest to get rid of them while in egg or larval form. There are organic and inorganic pesticides that will take care of these pests. If you don't need organic, anything with Diazinon in it will work well on squash bugs. Also, checking the base of the vine is important. If you notice a small, almost pin sized hole, you have vine borers. This is the larval stage of the insect, which in adult stage, looks similar to bee. They will do exactly what their name implies, they bore through the middle of you vine, making the transport of nutrient impossible and subsequently killing your vines. Insecticides do not do much, once the vine borer is in your vine, which is why keeping an eye out for the adult insect is key. If you do see you have one in your vine, chances are you can cut them out. Using a razor blade, you can slice into the vine the direct of the hole until you find the borer. Removing the borer can save part or all of the vine, but not always. If caught too late, the vine will either loose major sections or die all together.
Harvesting your row-cropped gourds and pumpkins is a joyous experience. As the vines die off, your mature gourds and pumpkins become visible through the foliage. Now you have a bountiful harvest for home use or for selling at your local produce markets. Now that you're aware of the benefits of this planting method, try it out!