Pumpkins have a long growing season and need plenty of space to ramble, but paired with the right pumpkin fertilizers, a single plant can produce between two and five pumpkins. A favorite autumn crop, pumpkins inspire visions of rustling leaves in rich hues of scarlet and gold, hayrides at the pumpkin patch to pick the perfect specimen for the Halloween jack-o’-lantern, and another pumpkin for a pie to finish off the Thanksgiving feast.
Most pumpkins can take from 80 to 100 days from the time seeds are planted until they are ripe and ready to harvest. In addition to a bit of patience, choosing the best pumpkin fertilizer is essential for a healthy, plentiful yield.
- BEST OVERALL: Burpee Enhanced Organic All Purpose Plant Food
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Espoma Garden-tone 3-4-4 Natural & Organic Plant Food
- BEST BALANCED: Jobe’s Organics All Purpose Plant Food Fertilizer
- BEST NITROGEN-RICH: Espoma Blood Meal Organic Fertilizer
- BEST PHOSPHORUS-RICH: Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb
- BEST POTASSIUM-RICH: Lilly Miller Morcrop Tomato & Vegetable Food
- BEST LIQUID: Neptune’s Harvest Fish Fertilizer
- PREMIUM PICK: Organic Plant Magic – Super Premium Plant Food
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fertilizer for Pumpkins
Selecting the best pumpkin fertilizer depends on a few factors including your garden’s native soil condition and texture, organic matter content, pH level, your application preferences, and the specific nutrients necessary for each stage of growth.
Pumpkins are heavy feeders that need a lot of nourishment. It’s always a good idea to test the soil before adding any amendments for fertilizers. In general, it’s best to lay the foundation for healthy pumpkin plants by preparing the soil with an all-purpose vegetable garden fertilizer. When selecting the best pumpkin fertilizer, consider the fertilizer type as well as value and ease of application. With equal parts patience and care, pumpkins are relatively easy to grow.
Soil and pH Level
A warm-season crop, pumpkins need lots of sun and well-drained sandy soil with a minimum soil temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. An adequate soil pH level maximizes the availability and uptake of both major and minor nutrients.
The NPK ratio on fertilizer labels represents the percentage of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) the package contains by volume. A balanced fertilizer might have an NPK ratio of 10-10-10, and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer might have a ratio of 24-4-12 or 20-2-6.
- Nitrogen is important in the early phases of planting for vigorous leaf development and growth.
- Phosphorus helps establish strong root systems and promotes flowering and fruiting.
- Potassium maintains healthy roots, assists in resisting drought and disease, and bolsters fruiting.
An early-season soil test will tell you if your soil is lacking in any specific nutrients and how much nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium you might need to add to bring your soil up to optimal conditions.
Understanding how to fertilize pumpkins is essential as they require different nutrients for each stage of growth.
- Before seeding, give pumpkin plants a head start with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. In the early stages of plant growth before the flowers form, switch to a nitrogen-rich formula to promote the rapid growth of green vines and leaves. At this stage, fertilize pumpkins when the plants are about 1 foot tall, just before vines begin to run.
- Before the blooming period and just as the flowers begin to form, pumpkins benefit from a phosphorus-heavy fertilizer to stimulate blossoms.
- Once pumpkins appear, continue with a potassium-rich fertilizer to support healthy fruit production. While pumpkins may benefit from an additional side-dressing of nitrogen when the vines begin to run, it’s important to not overfertilize as that will encourage excess vine growth and suppress fruit production.
The giant pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) presents a slightly different approach. Cinderella likely rode to the ball in a coach carved from one of these, which can grow to the size of a small car. The colossal 2017 world champion pumpkin weighed in at 2,363 pounds. Giant pumpkin plants need giant amounts of nutrients. The best fertilizer for giant pumpkins will distribute 2 pounds nitrogen, 3 pounds phosphorus, and 6 pounds potassium per 1,000 square feet of growing space.
Granular vs. Liquid
Both organic and synthetic fertilizers are available in liquid or granular form. Liquid fertilizers are controlled and fast-acting, whereas granular fertilizers generally break down slowly over a period of months. As pumpkins and squash thrive in similar growing conditions, the best fertilizer for squash is the same one you use for pumpkins.
Organic vs. Inorganic
Inorganic fertilizers are manufactured from chemicals. In contrast to organic fertilizers, inorganic formulas contain higher concentrations of nutrients that are supplied directly to the plants but unlike organics, they do not improve soil health. These fertilizers are generally more fast-acting and may be less expensive, but are less eco-friendly as their runoff can pollute the water table.
Organic fertilizers are derived from plant or animal sources. They contain lower levels of nutrients that break down slowly to improve soil health and nourish plants for longer periods. As organic formulas are not as concentrated as inorganic ones, there is less danger of “fertilizer burn” from overfertilizing.
Our Top Picks
With so many available options, choosing the best fertilizer for pumpkins can make your head spin. We’ve researched and curated this list of the best pumpkin fertilizer choices for bolstering growth, flowering, and fruiting. We based our selections on brand reputation, quality of ingredients, performance, and value.
Produced by a well-known American seed company, this Burpee product instills confidence in novices as well as more advanced gardeners. The organic complete 5-5-5 fertilizer contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, as well as other essential micronutrients. It’s further enriched with BIOMIX, Burpee’s natural blend of beneficial microbes and fungi designed to enhance water uptake and nutrient absorption. This versatile formula can also feed herbs, trees, and shrubs, whether in flower beds or in container gardens.
- Feeds up to 3 months
- Secure resealable bag
- Organic formulation contains lesser amounts of nutrients than inorganic products.
Get the Burpee all-purpose plant food on Burpee.
Garden-tone is from Espoma, a company that has sustained a solid reputation since 1929 for producing organic fertilizers that break down slowly from the action of soil microorganisms.
This organic fertilizer comes in a generous 36-pound bag complete with six types of beneficial probiotics for growth and yield. It also offers pumpkins the benefits of Bio-tone, the brand’s proprietary ingredient that feeds microbes to enhance soil fertility, which is essential for plant health. The low salt content ensures adequate water and nutrient absorption in the soil, while the 3-4-4 ratio provides a potassium and phosphorus boost for robust fruiting.
- 36-pound bag
- Includes beneficial micronutrients and probiotics
- Long shelf life
- Low salt content
- Versatile—can be used for other plants
Get the Espoma Garden-tone plant food on Amazon, at Walmart, or at True Value.
A high-quality and reliable balanced fertilizer will prepare the soil for seeding to lay the foundation for healthy germination and plant growth. Jobe’s Organics All Purpose Plant Food Fertilizer improves soil conditions and helps plants resist disease, insects, and drought. The formula contains Biozome, a type of archaebacteria that quickly breaks down the fertilizer ingredients into basic nutrients for faster absorption. The certified organic fertilizer mixes in feather meal, a rich, natural source of nitrogen that’s critical at the first stages of plant life for producing verdant foliage and stimulating overall plant growth. In addition to organic matter for conditioning the soil, the product contains manure, which provides a high concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as calcium and sulfur.
- 16-pound bag
- Environmentally safe
- OMRI listed by USDA for organic gardening
- Improves long-term soil health
- Bad smell
- May attract pets
Get the Jobe’s Organics all-purpose fertilizer at The Home Depot.
Blood meal provides a safe, all-natural organic source of nitrogen that’s essential in the early stages of plant growth to promote the rapid development of green vines and leaves while also helping to adjust and maintain optimum soil pH. Apply approximately 55 days before flowering. Gardeners can also use this fertilizer for all annuals and perennials. As a bonus, there is anecdotal evidence that the blood scent repels deer, squirrels, and rabbits.
- 3-pound bag
- Single source of nitrogen
- Water-soluble granular
- Helps adjust soil pH
- Scent can deter wildlife
- Can burn plants if applied too heavily
Get the Espoma blood meal fertilizer on Amazon or at Walmart.
This phosphorus-rich 4-6-3 formula provides the energy pumpkin plants need during the blooming phase to form buds and fruit. It contains probiotics and seven strains of beneficial soil microbes in addition to ecto and endo mycorrhizae—fungi that grow along with the roots to enhance water and nutrient absorption. This fertilizer is 100 percent certified organic from OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute), OIM (Organic Input Material), CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), and NOP (National Organic Program), as well as Non-GMO Project Verified.
- Certified organic
- Contains probiotics and beneficial microbes
- Supplies mycorrhizae
Get the Dr. Earth organic fertilizer on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Lowe’s.
This slow-release complete fertilizer is just what pumpkins need once fruit appears, as it contains more potassium to support healthy fruit production. Fortified with essential plant minerals, it requires no mixing and is ready to use. The all-natural formula will not burn plants, and it doesn’t have the unpleasant smell common to many fertilizers.
- 4-pound bag
- Easy to use
- Slow-release formula
- Ready to use
- Low odor
- Excessive potassium can cause fruit to split
Get the Lilly Miller tomato and vegetable food on Amazon.
Neptune’s Harvest organic marine-based fertilizer provides a nutritious blend of nutrients made from North Atlantic fish, seaweed, and kelp. It offers a solid source of burn-free nitrogen, along with the other primary nutrients, phosphorus, and potassium. This formulation also contains the trace elements calcium, magnesium, and a variety of other minerals necessary for developing strong foliage and plentiful fruit yield. Easy to dilute and apply, the water-soluble liquid is fast-acting to provide a quick nutrient boost and is suitable for adding nutrients during regular watering.
- Easy to apply
- Cold processing protects heat-sensitive nutrients
- Is OMRI listed for organic use
- Somewhat pricey
- May be more diluted than some fish emulsions
Get Neptune’s Harvest fish fertilizer on Amazon.
A premium fertilizer, Organic Plant Magic’s soluble powder mixes with water to create a rich tea containing more than 55 trace minerals as well as the company’s proprietary mix of millions of beneficial microorganisms. The 6-5-5 mixture also contains calcium to protect pumpkins from heat stress. The formulation replicates the fungi and bacteria normally found in compost to strengthen the plants and make them more resistant to pests and disease. The ½-pound bag makes 32 gallons to cover up to 1,000 square feet of soil. Gardeners can broadcast it directly to soil and plant roots or mix it with water during normal irrigation.
- Mixes up into a tea
- Comes in a lightweight bucket
- Kid and pet safe
Get the Organic Plant Magic plant food on Amazon.
For all-around healthy pumpkin growth, we recommend the versatile Burpee Enhanced Organic All Purpose Plant Food for its complete 5-5-5 formula enhanced with essential micronutrients along with beneficial microbes and fungi. For gardeners on a budget, we suggest Espoma Garden-tone 3-4-4 for its quality organic ingredients at an affordable price point.
How We Chose the Best Fertilizer for Pumpkins
In making our selections, we relied on our considerable experience with gardening products and also conducted extensive research on the science behind fertilizing pumpkins and squash. We selected from a variety of fertilizers, both organic and inorganic, granular and liquid, quick-release and slow or controlled-release. We considered several factors including quality of ingredients, value for the quantity of product, brand reputation, and positive consumer reviews.
Take a look at some frequently asked questions below about how to grow pumpkins from planting to harvest.
Q. What nutrients do pumpkin plants need?
Pumpkins need different nutrients for each stage of growth. Before planting, prepare the soil with balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Right before flowers form, the plants benefit from more nitrogen, after which they’ll need phosphorus as the flowers emerge to stimulate blossoms. Once pumpkins appear, give them a potassium-rich fertilizer to support healthy fruit production.
Q. How often should I fertilize my pumpkins?
Every 2 weeks.
Q. Why do pumpkin leaves turn yellow?
Lack of or too much water, nutrient deficiency, diseases such as verticillium wilt, or pests can all cause yellow leaves.
Q. How many pumpkins will one plant produce?
One plant will generally produce between two and five pumpkins.
Q. How can I increase pumpkin yields?
Branching—pinching the tips out of the main vines when they reach about 2 feet long—will yield more pumpkins. Some gardeners find that removing female flowers for the first 3 weeks improves yield.
Q. Is Miracle-Gro fertilizer good for pumpkins?
Used over a sustained period, Miracle-Gro and other similar inorganic products can encourage salt buildup in the soil and decrease a plant’s ability to take up nutrients. Like other inorganic fertilizers, the ingredients do not come from sustainable resources and are less eco-friendly.
Q. How often should I water my pumpkins?
Pumpkins contain between 80 and 90 percent water, so these thirsty plants need a lot of water. When soil is dry, irrigate them deeply with a minimum of 1 inch of water each week, being careful to keep the fruit and foliage dry. To simplify the process, some gardeners opt for a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. Pumpkins require even more water during periods of extreme heat or drought.