There is nothing quiet as comforting as home-grown pumpkin soup on a crisp autumn day. Pumpkin is a staple for many Australian households and it’s easy to see why. Pumpkin is one of those versatile ingredients that can be delicious on its own, as the star of a dish, or even as a dessert. I love to use pumpkins in soups, risottos, on the barbecue, with roasts, or in even in scones. What a lot of people don’t realise is just how easy it is to grow your own pumpkins at home in Western Australia.
Here in Australia, pumpkins are consistently ranked in our top 10 most popular vegetables. Technically however, a botanist’s would argue a pumpkin is a fruit because it’s a product of the seed-bearing structure of flowering plants. Pumpkins first landed on Australian shores with the First Fleet in 1788 and we’re still loving them today. This versatile vegetable is even good for us. What’s not to love?
If you have ever wondered how to grow pumpkins in Perth then look no further. A relatively simple fruit to grow there are a few tricks to successfully growing pumpkins in Perth, Western Australia but get these right and you will be laughing.
When to plant pumpkin seeds in Perth:
Wondering when to plant pumpkins? The best time to sow pumpkin seeds in September – December. Pumpkin seeds need warmth to germinate, so it’s best to wait until the weather is properly warm to plant them. In Western Australia the pumpkin growing season will be different depending on whether you are in the cooler southern region or warmer northern parts of the state.
Sow your pumpkin seeds into mounds about one meter apart. Pumpkins are best planted from seed, because they don’t like to have their roots disturbed. So once they are up and running it is unwise to move your pumpkins.
Types of pumpkins in Western Australia:
There are a wide range of pumpkin varieties in Australia. Because the pumpkin growing window is relatively short it can be a good idea to plant a few different pumpkin varieties at once.
- Butternut pumpkin: This is a light brownish pumpkin shaped like a pear. It has drier and sweeter flesh and is a favourite for soups or to be cooked on the barbeque.
- Ironbark pumpkins – Ironbark pumpkin is an heirloom variety that has a reputation for its excellent keeping qualities. The fruit has a dry texture & sweet taste. Australian Ironbark flesh is a rich orange under a dark green skin.
- Queensland blue pumpkin: This is a big blue-grey pumpkin that usually weighs 5-7kg. Its little brother, the baby blue, weighs in at 2kg. This pumpkin is a favourite for using in scones.
- Jarrahdale pumpkin: Similar in looks to the Queensland blue, the Jarrahdale is greyer and has orange, sweet flesh. It is the best for making pumpkin pie.
- Dumpling pumpkin: This cute pumpkin comes with yellow and orange stripes and is commonly stuffed with filling and then cooked.
- Jap pumpkin: Known as kabocha in Japan, this is a soft, green/grey pumpkin with yellow and brown mottling. The Kent pumpkin is a variety of Jap pumpkin which is great for roasting, boiling, char grilling or steaming.
- Golden nugget pumpkin: This small, bright pumpkin is best cooked with the skin left on.
- Field pumpkin: Field pumpkins are generally the kind of round pumpkins used to create jack-o-lanterns (among other things!).
How to grow pumpkins at home:
Try these easy to follow steps for growing pumpkins in WA.
- Choose a sunny spot with well drained soil to plant your pumpkins. Ensure it is at least 1sqm to give the vines room to spread. Enrich the soil with soil improve an plant fertiliser.
- Form small mounds of soil and space 1m apart. Sow 3-4 pumpkin seeds into each mound and water well.
- As seedlings grow, thin to the two strongest plants in each mound. Feed weekly with liquid plant food.
- Water when the soil is dry, particularly in hot or windy weather. Mulch with pea straw to help retain soil moisture.
- Pinch out ends of rambling stems to help contain growth.
- Harvest pumpkins as the vine dies off and the stalk turns brown.
When to harvest pumpkins:
Pumpkin season is one of my favourite times of year because of the delicious comfort food which pumpkin is associated with. Typically pumpkins will be ready for harvest 15 -20 weeks after planting. This means most pumpkins are ready for harvesting in autumn but as many of them don’t change colour and they don’t soften, it is difficult to tell if they are ripe. Use a sharp knife to cut them away from the vine. Be sure to leave a piece of stem attached to each pumpkin.
How to store pumpkins in Australia:
Storing pumpkins after harvest is easy. Check your home-grown pumpkin for damage as only unblemished pumpkins should be stored. Cure pumpkins by leaving them in the sun for a week to harden before storing in a cool, dry place. Always store pumpkins on their side, to prevent moisture collecting.
Pumpkins care and common problems:
Make sure your pumpkins get enough sun and enough space to grow. It is important not to have pumpkins planted too close together. Powdery mildew is usually a problem with pumpkins, so take care to keep the leaves as dry as possible when watering.
Once you have a good number of fruit on your vine, you can start to also pinch out any new side shoots. This will encourage the plant to put more energy into growing the fruit and less into expanding.
Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides: