A pumpkin plant should get around 0.5″ of water a week for the first 2-3 weeks after it sprouts and 1″ water a week after that during vegetative growth until flowering begins. After flowering a pumpkin plant should get 1.5″-2″ of water a week until the pumpkins reach full size.
Once pumpkins start to reach near their full size watering slows down and stops completely 7-10 days before harvesting pumpkins.
The amount of water a pumpkin plant gets at any given time should look like the chart below. If you’re growing a variety of pumpkin that matures faster the time table is shorter but the pattern is the same.
This is in line with the irrigation schedule of commercial pumpkin growers according to University of Georgia Extension.
It’s also in line with most garden plants needs. Most vegetable and fruit plants in the garden require the most nutrients and soil at flowering and fruit growing time.
The best way to know if you need to water or not is to feel the soil 3-4 inches down. If it’s almost dry then it’s time to water, if it’s still moist let it be, and if it’s bone dry it’s past time to water.
Get a feel for your soil, literally, by rubbing it between your fingers to feel the texture. This way you’ll learn a better feel for when the soil needs more moisture.
Should I Water My Pumpkins Every Day?
Pumpkin plants will do better if they’re watered less frequently with deeper waterings. The exception is during hot weather with temperatures over 90 degrees where water evaporation is high and keeping plants cool is a good idea to avoid heat stress.
More watering during hot weather is a must if you don’t have mulch on your soil. Mulch will keep soil temperatures down and help the soil retain moisture. It’s a great idea if you’re growing in a warm climate or season.
When growing pumpkins a lot of growers want to time their harvest to be in October and November. You might also be interested in “How Long Do Pumpkins Take To Grow?“.
Less frequent, heavier waterings get water deeper into the soil. This keeps the top roots from constantly being wet and makes roots dig deeper for water which creates a healthier plant.
Pumpkin roots are most prevalent in the first foot of soil but there are still plenty of roots at 2′-3′ deep.
Pumpkin Watering Tips
- Monitor Rainfall – Use a rain gauge with a wide mouth to get accurate readings on rainfall in your garden. Wunderground is a weather provider that we use to get an idea of when and how much rainfall is expected during the week.
- What Time To Water – Watering pumpkin plants in the early morning is the best time. This way the water can sink in and be absorbed some. The midday is not a good time to water because water evaporation rates are the highest. Late afternoon or evening is the second best time to water. Watering late in the evening is not ideal because foliage will not dry off completely and wet foliage overnight invites disease like powdery mildew.
- Wilting Pumpkin Leaves – If leaves are starting to droop this can be a sign the plant needs water but it can also be a sign of heat stress. If the weather is hot and leaves bounce back at evening or morning time it was heat stress. Either way it’s a good sign that plants need water and time to check the soil and see if it’s dry.
- Drip Irrigation – Drip irrigation is great once it’s set up. It delivers water to the plant more efficiently than a sprinkler or hose and avoids getting the foliage wet.
You might also be interested in “Pumpkin Growing Tips & Plant Care“.
What Happens If You Overwater Pumpkins
Overwatering can kill any plant in the garden. The roots of plants need to breathe to stay healthy. They cannot take up water if they’re not healthy. Eventually the roots will begin to rot if they’re constantly in moisture.
In container nurseries, water is the most important, and perhaps the most dangerous, chemical used.– Kasten Dumroese
If a plant is wilting but the soil is wet that’s a sign of overwatering. Wilting normally happens when the plant needs water or during heat stress at the hottest times of the day. If it’s heat stress the plant should bounce back at night or morning time. Overwatering may also cause the plant to start to yellow and brown.
Do Pumpkins Need a Lot of Water?
Pumpkins are large fruits and pumpkin plants have lots of green growth and foliage so they do require lots of water. At least 1″ of water a week after four weeks of growth.
Some pumpkin plants need more water than others. Giant pumpkin growers grow a single pumpkin plant that covers a space of 400-1,000 square feet. To water 1,000 square feet of gardening space with 1″ of water it takes 623 gallons of water. I’d say that’s a lot of water.
There is an old wives tale that feeding pumpkins milk will make them grow big. Check out “Milk Fed Pumpkins” to learn more about that.
When Should I Stop Watering Pumpkins?
Once pumpkins are close to their expected harvest date and are near their full size you can cut back on watering. Stop watering pumpkins 7-10 days before you harvest them to help them increase their flavor and cure to store longer.
Stopping watering before harvesting increases flavor by not diluting the pumpkins flesh with water. During this period the pumpkins soluble solids count, primarily sugar but also nutrients, will increase.
You might also be interested in “How To Cure Pumpkins?“
Please comment below with your own thoughts on watering pumpkins correctly.