Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, since 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Pumpkin, though a vegetable, is actually a fruit, but with the nutrition of a vegetable. Although it is believed that pumkin originated in Mexico and South America, China is the leading producer of pumpkin followed by India.

Pumpkin is the name given to a group of plant species in the genus Cucurbita, including Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata. Pumpkin belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae and is grown primarily as a vegetable or ornamental plant.

Pumpkin plants are usually grown as annuals, surviving one growing season and the vines with branching tendrils and broad lobed leaves.  The vines are capable of reaching 15 m (50 ft) in length if vines are allowed to root. Pumpkin may also be referred to as squash or marrow. The plant produces large yellow or orange flowers and a pepo fruit (berry with a thick rind) known as a pumpkin. A fully grown pumpkin fruit can range greatly in size, from miniature pumpkins weighing a few grams to giant pumpkins which can reach over 30kg. The skin of the pumpkin is usually ribbed and is usually orange on color although some varieties are green, grey, yellow or red in color.

Pumpkins are served in most meals as a compliment serving the same purposes as potatoes. The leaves are cooked as a vegetable just like spinach and many cultures, with the seeds being considered as a super food, due to their high nutritious properties. The Pumpkin itself is used as a breakfast snack and can be cooked with other ingredients and consumed with any meal. They are used to make pumpkin flour that addresses health issues such as diabetes and obesity. They are a nutritional and delicious fruits.

Pumkins take about 3-5 months to grow to maturity depending on the variety. If harvested and stored well, a pumpkin fruit can last up to 3 months and in some cases 7 months. This gives the farmer ample time to sell their produce, without the fear that it will go bad.

The Market for Pumpkins

Pumpkins have a vast market, both locally and internationally. In Kenya, pumpkins go for between Ksh 50-80 per kg or about Ksh. 20, 000 per ton at wholesale prices. The  NGOs who participate in feeding programs also form a major market 

There is a wider market for value added pumkin. For example, doing seed multiplication to sell to other farmers for planting or sell them as roasted pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin pulp can be cooked, dried and milled to be sold as flour such as flour for baby food and additives in baking bread and cakes

Health benefits of Pumpkins

Pumpkins have a multitude of nutrients ranging from vitamins and minerals found in the pulp, seeds and the leaves. The benefits include:

  • It has a low-calorie count with no saturated fats or cholesterol, thus suitable for cardiac health.
  • It contains antioxidants such as vitamins C, A, and E that helps maintain the integrity of the skin and the mucous membranes. Vitamin A is also good to maintain good vision.
  • In addition to the vitamins, pumpkins also contain minerals such as copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, which is essential for bone formation and cardiovascular integrity.

Varieties of Pumpkin

There are different varieties of pumpkins growing in Kenya. They are categorized according to shape, colour, ridges, spots and stripes. The types that are most popular in Kenya include;

  1. White giant from South Africa
  • Israel giant,
  • Egyptian giant
  • Uganda Giant.

The following are some of the available certified pumkin seeds from seed companies in Kenya:

  1. From Simlaw Seeds: Pumpkin Elgon Cream:
  • From Royal Seed Company: Arjuna F1

These varieties are easy to grow and manage and are rarely attacked by pests compared to normal pumpkins. Normal pumpkins weigh between one to seven kilograms.

Ecological requirements for Growing Pumpkins

Pumpkin is a warm-season crop, requiring lots of sun and good drainage to develop optimally and growing best at temperatures between 18 and 27°C. They are grown from the lowlands up to altitudes of about 2500 meters above sea level.

Pumpkin will yield best if grown in a fertile, well-draining soil, rich in organic matter and with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. They do well in places where medium to heavy applications of compost or well-decomposed manure is done. They can be planted on almost any well-drained fertile soil with a neutral pH. Pumpkins are drought-tolerant and are sensitive to water logging since it encourages the development of leaf diseases.

It is best to plant pumpkin on land where no members of the pumpkin family (cucurbit family) has been planted on before. This will minimize the risk of the spread of diseases from the previous crop.

Pumpkin should be planted in full sun and provided with ample soil moisture due to their shallow root system. Vining varieties can grow to very large sizes and require a good deal of space. Smaller bush varieties are available for more modest spaces


The land should be prepared and finely tilled to ensure proper penetration of roots. Once the soil is ready, mounds of soil is prepared to help improve drainage and allow the sun’s heat to penetrate the soil in order to encourage germination. 

In order to ensure soil fertility, it is advisabble to prepare holes that measures 2 by 2 feet by 1 foot deep. Mix matured well treated organic manure on a ratio of 1:1 with the soil in the hole at least two weeks before planting. This will help to increase soil fertility for maximum production and contribute to formation of a good sized fruit.

Pumpkin can be direct seeded or sown indoors and transplanted. If direct seeding is done, the seeds should be sown after end of the long rains and when the soil has warmed to at least 15.6°C

On the prepared hole, make a smaller hole and sow the seeds at the rate of 1–2 seeds at a depth of 1.3–2.5 cm and at least 1m between holes for the bush varieties and 1.5 to 3m for the vining varieties. The spacing between rows ranges from 1–3m depending on the variety. This is required due to the vegetative nature of the pumpkin.

If transplanting, the seeds are sown 3–4 weeks before the end of the long rains and transplanted before the plants develop their second set of true leaves. Seeds are sown using lightly moist soil for ease in germination. Avoid overwatering during the nursery stage. Seeds should germinate in 5–10 days depending on the soil temperature. 

Fertilizer application

It is important to conduct a soil fertility test so that appropriate fertiliser is applied according to soil tests results. Ensure that you use adequate organic fertilizers such as well rotten cow dung and chicken droppings. They are not only a cheaper alternative but also produce better results. 

Irrigation requirements for Pumpkins

Irrigation of the plant should be done regularly to promotes nutrient uptake and proper fruit formation.  It is recommended that you irrigate at an interval of 3 days during dry weather. However, it should be done in a way that it reduces the chances of waterlogging and directs water to the roots and vines and away from  the leaves. Water logging the soil enables diseases like the powdery mildew to thrive and spread to other plants.

Irrigation should be increased during the flowering and fruiting stage with a lot of care to avoid water logging

General Care and Maintenance 

Pumpkin vines are sprawling and require plenty space to grow. Vines can be trained to grow on a trellis or fence. Pumpkin also require a continuous supply of water and where drip irrigation is not being used, plants should be watered deeply once per week, providing at least an inch of water. Shallow watering or watering less frequently encourages a shallow root system. Mulches can be used to conserve soil moisture and black polyethylene mulch has the advantage of warming the soil. All pumpkin varieties produce both male and female flowers (monoecious) and are pollinated by insects such as bees. 

Weed Control

Weeds can be controlled by carefully uprooting them or by using a hoe to carefully dig them out in order to prevent damage to the pumpkin vines. You can also

The use herbicides; either chemical or organic can also be used to control weeds in the farm, but it should be done with care as the use of herbicides on the farm may lock out farmers from specific markets, especially the export market, which is very strict on the use of chemicals.

Intercropping Pumpkins

Intercropping is an excellent way of maximizing the use of land and available water. It can also be used to contain the growth of weeds and improving soil fertility without the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals.

Crops that can be intercropped with pumpkins include okra, sunflower, Moringa and pawpaw. 

These crops complement each other as pumpkin leaves act as cover crops to control the growth of weeds. Sunflowers aid in attracting pollinators. 

Pawpaw, Maize, Moringa and okra leaves can be used to make extracts for organic disease and pest control. 

Harvesting Pumpkins and Post-Harvest Care

Pumpkins are harvested by hand when the fruit reaches full maturity. Pumpkin is harvested by plucking it from the vine leaving the stalk on the fruit to enhance the fruit shelf life. Depending on variety, the fruit is usually ready about 90 to 120 days after planting. The fruit is ripe when the color changes uniformly and the rind becomes hard.. 

Pumpkin should be washed to remove any dirt or bacteria that may cause the fruit to rot. Before storage, the fruit should be allowed to completely dry and should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably a dark place.

On optimum conditions, a farmers can get up to five tons per acre. Other factors affecting yield per acre include spacing during planting and the variety of the pumpkins. For example a single fruit of the giant Israel pumpkin can weigh between 20-30kg when planted under good farming practices, adequate water and manure.

Where to get Pumkin Seed

Kenyan farmers can get pumpkin seeds from almost any AGRO VET Shop. However, the Giant varieties such as Ugandan and Israel pumpkin are not yet well distributed across the country. The seeds were introduced to Kenya market by Damugi F.S Farm Produce in Kieni, Nyeri County. EMEDEN is now distributing the seeds in Rift Valley. Damugi Farm have tested these seeds on the farm for about two years now and confirmed that these seeds can do well in most regions in the country provided it is grown organically.

These giant varieties have the following attributes that make them more attractive:

  • it can weigh up to 30kg when mature.
  • can stay fresh for a period of one year after harvesting. This will give the farmers enough time to get a better market and price for their produce.
  • The farmer will need only 35seeds for a quarter of an acre on a spacing of 5m between the plants and 3m between rows to gives the crops enough space for aeration and weeding
  • The pumpkin fruit can be eaten fresh or turned into porridge powder that is best for expectant mothers and children because it is rich in calcium, zinc, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese.

The Agribusiness of Giant Pumpkins

In a quarter of an acre, a farmer will need to buy 35 seeds currently retailing at Sh600. Each seed has the potential to produce an average of 3 pumpkin fruit leading to a possible 100 fruits per quarter acre. One piece of pumpkin from the giant variety can weigh 30kg and each fruit can cost Sh70 per kilo in most markets in the country. This means only one giant pumpkin variety weighing 30kg can earn a farmer Sh2,100. A farmer stands the potential of earning over Kshs 200,000 per quarter acre.


  3. Anderson, C. R. Pumpkins. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Available at: [Accessed 02 April 15]. Free to access.
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  5. Strang, J. (2012). Pumpkins. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. Available at: [Accessed 02 April 15]. Free to access.
  6. Zitter, T. A., Hopkins, D. L. & Thomas, C. E. (1996). Compendium of Cucurbit diseases. American Phyto pathological Society Press. Available at: 




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