If you want to grow pumpkins here in the Lowcountry but don’t have lots of space, mini-pumpkins are for you.
Story by Amy Robleski
Popular varieties include Sweetie Pie, Lil Ironsides, Jack-Be-Quick, Jack-Be-Little, Wee B Little, and the white Baby Boo, among others. All varieties do well in our subtropical climate, growing adorable mini-pumpkins about the size of a baseball, weighing around a pound. Kids love growing and picking these Halloween cuties! Many are orange and look like your classic pumpkin, just shrunken in size. They also have a multitude of culinary and decorative uses.
When to Plant
If you want your tiny pumpkins by Halloween, plant them in the spring as soon as the threat of frost has passed. Most people prefer to sow pumpkin seeds directly into the garden, but you can start them indoors two to three weeks before your last frost. Most varieties will mature in an average of 95 days.
Sunlight and Soil Requirements
Like all pumpkins, mini-pumpkins should be grown in full sunlight. Pumpkin plants are heavy feeders, meaning they need plenty of fertilization. Mix liberal amounts of compost or manure into your soil before planting mini-pumpkin seeds.
Plant Size and Spacing
Unlike standard pumpkin varieties, most mini-pumpkins are semi-bush. Their vines normally reach between 24 and 30 inches in length, and each plant can be expected to yield about eight mini-pumpkins. You can space the plants 24 to 60 inches apart. To save even more space, you can grow them vertically on a fence or trellis. You also can grow mini-pumpkins in a raised bed or several squares of a square-foot garden.
Pumpkins and squash are subject to powdery mildew. Avoid this by directly watering the stem and not the leaves. Watering in the morning can also help. To avoid mold, place straw or a piece of cardboard under the pumpkins as they grow. Vertically growing pumpkins can help stop mold as well. If your plants start to get powdery mildew, apply fungicide immediately.
Like their larger cousins, mini-pumpkins are subject to pests such as cucumber beetles, squash bugs and squash vine borers. Inspect the leaves of your plants frequently; if you see insect eggs, remove them. Insect sprays may be needed in some cases.
Some types of mini-pumpkins are perfect for pies. Rich in vitamins A and C, they are a fantastic fall treat. You can also roast their seeds for a crunchy snack. Due to their compact nature, mini-pumpkins might be difficult to carve as jack-o-lanterns. However, they are great for painting. Kids love their small size for crafts. Several mini-pumpkins in a basket makes a beautiful autumn centerpiece. Not only are mini-pumpkins easy and fun to grow, but they also are a great way to start growing pumpkins, especially for those with small gardens.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen: Baked miniature pumpkins
Miniature pumpkins are edible and can be tasty. The only problem with is that they will grow bitter as they age, so eat them when they’re small.
1 small pumpkin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter
2 pinches ground cinnamon
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scrape out all the seeds. Place the butter or margarine and brown sugar inside the pumpkin and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.  Put the pumpkin lid back on and place pumpkin in a baking pan with a little water in the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tender.