Growing pumpkins vertically – the space-saving way to grow your favorite fall crop

Growing pumpkins vertically is well worth considering in a small garden; here's how to get it right

Pumpkins grown vertically on a vegetable farm
(Image credit: Jeevan GB / Alamy Stock Photo)

Growing pumpkins vertically – a good idea, or a weird experiment destined to fail? We all know that pumpkins are a heavy crop, so can they really be grown up a trellis? 

Learning how to grow pumpkins usually involves assessing your garden for space. Pumpkins that grow on the ground need a lot of it, making them impractical to grow in smaller gardens...or so we thought. It turns out it's perfectly possible to grow your pumpkins vertically. Here's how.  

Close up of organic pumpkin grown on farm

(Image credit: Jeevan GB / Alamy Stock Photo)

Growing pumpkins vertically: does it work?

Those looking into small vegetable garden ideas will be pleasantly surprised to discover that yes, pumpkins actually grow very well vertically and don't require the large amounts of land people often think that they do. Monty Don has confessed that it's his favorite way of growing pumpkins. The gardening guru wrote in his blog that 'the beauty of growing them up a support is that you can grow half a dozen different pumpkins in an ordinary bed, where normally you need to leave two or three meters between each plant.'

Amy Armstrong, a long-time gardener, farmer, and the owner of Conservatory Market, adds that 'even if you have an abundance of garden space, sometimes these vines can take over and can creep into neighboring beds. Growing them vertically is a great way to keep them wrangled and creates a wonderful focal point.'

Yellow pumpkin hanging from the vine in the greenhouse

(Image credit: lingqi xie/ Getty)

How to grow your pumpkins vertically

Amy advises being careful when choosing your pumpkin varieties for growing vertically. Her rule of thumb is to 'stick with a smaller pumpkin variety, I’d say nothing larger than a pie pumpkin. Anything larger than say a melon size will cause stress to the trellis and to the vine itself.'

She also advises against cramming too many seeds into your vertical patch – 'less is more. Pay close attention to the spacing recommended on your seed packet. You may be tempted to squeeze extra seeds in your row, but I promise you’ll have better success if you stick with the recommended distance.'

Finally, the type of trellising you choose is crucial to success when growing pumpkins vertically. Amy says that in her professional opinion, 'growing pumpkins is done best on an arch. Consider purchasing a cattle fence from your local feed or hardware store and making your own sturdy arch. Having the arch at the top of the trellis helps support the vines and pumpkins.'

You can grow pumpkins straight up a garden fence, but 'you may have to periodically tie the vine up to the structure as it grows.'

Is growing pumpkins vertically difficult?

Amy refers to this method of growing pumpkins as a 'mild challenge' that 'will prove worth it' if you are reasonable with the type of pumpkins you want to grow and really think about the best climbing plant support ideas for these plants. 

You may not be able to grow giant pumpkins using this method, but smaller varieties will do just fine, and will look beautiful in your garden. There are many small pumpkin varieties you can easily grow from seed – they make for beautiful Halloween decorating as well as eating.

Anna writes about interior design and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.