Planted "giant" pumpkin seeds late August (southern california). First time venture! They started to show vines , flowers and leaves early on, but noticed, when the fruit started, it was tiny white balls, then turning yellow as they grew. Some did not make it but those that did, remained bright yellow! Was it the type of seed or did I expect too much too soon? They felt a bit "mushy and the stems were very moist when cut. 3 of the ones that got to be carving size were about the size of volleyballs. Should I plant earlier next year or cut earlier and let dry a bit?
Yes, you want to plant pumpkins by seed or sets as soon as your soil has reached about 65 degrees, probaly May in your area. Pumpkins and other hard-skinned" keeping" squash (you can keep/store them for several months in a cool location) require a long season to grow and mature fruits, so start in late spring for best results.
You could start seeds indoors about 4 weeks before your estimated plant date. Call your Master Gardener helpers at the local county Ag Extension office. They can advise you when to set out in your area.
Pumpkins are "heavy feeders" which means they like rich soil, even moisture and continuing supply of both, so you need to be watchful. Organic fertilizers are best for soil health, so try some of the fertilizers formulated for hydroponics; you can find them at Ace hardware or hydroponics stores. Fox Farm is a good brand. An old Italian neighbor told me to plant fish guts from the pier a foot underneath the new plants or seeds, for continuing nutrition during the season.
Pumpkins sprawl mightily, so give them scads of room. When they start to set fruits (the first blosoms are male only--gotta wait till "the girls" show up-- let 2 or 3 start to grow and then remove alll others that set on the branch as it grows. That way, all the energy will go to just a few fruits.
For carving, a couple of the best varieties are Jack O' Lantern and Howden. They get to be decent size 12-15" but not huge, and have thick walls for carving. These are NOTcooking pumpkins. If you want dryer, meatier pumpkins for baking, try the Cinderella type, Jarradale, Connecticutt Cheese, Musque de Provence, Sugar Pie, and others. They tend to have a much higher sugar content. Other good eating winter squash that can be used for oies, etc are Cusahw, Butternut, Banana, Hubbard, etc. Just google 'cooking pumpkins' and you'll get a list.
Good luck this year!