Yesterday, Sanna (the wwoofer who is staying with us) and I worked together to prepare the site where I intend to grow pumpkins this summer. We did it in stages. On Thursday, Sanna removed the broad beans, which were past their prime. The following day, we removed some cabbages that failed to mature. We then worked lots of compost and some nitrophoska fertiliser into the area. This year, I decided to try something a bit different. Cynthia, a gardening friend who lives in Foxton, grew her best crop of pumpkins ever by laying black plastic down and cutting out holes for the plants, exactly like how I grow melons. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of doing this for something as humble as the pumpkin, as they’re not terribly difficult to grow. Usually, we harvest enough to last us through the winter, but I was curious as to whether my plants could be even more productive. Sometimes, the plants would produce only one pumpkin each. I wondered whether this was normal, even for the fancier varieties. Despite sowing an entire packet of Musquee de Provence pumpkin seeds last season, we only harvested one pumpkin from them in total, which was a bit disappointing (but what an amazing pumpkin soup it made!). We wished there were more of them. Sanna spent some time looking at old pieces of black plastic we had used for growing melons in previous seasons and worked out what could be recycled for my pumpkin project this year. She managed to cover the entire area (cutting it as necessary so it would fit) and I put some potted miniature dahlias down on the edges to stop it from flying away. By that time, it was about half an hour before lunch, so there was enough time to plant a couple of pumpkin seedlings. I will continue with planting pumpkins today, because Sanna is going to the Bay of Islands for a few days.
Pumpkin varieties I’m growing this year include “Blue Hubbard” (Egmont), Marina di Chioggia (Kings), Hybrid Grey Crown (Yates), Whangaparoa Crown (Egmont), Queensland Blue (Yates), Jarrahdale (Kings), Beretta Piacentina (Kings), Long Island Cheese (Kings), Musquee de Provence (Kings) and Tonda Padana (Franchi). I’ll cover the squash I’m growing (including butternut) in a separate post.
I’m very pleased with my pumpkin seedlings this year. They look very healthy. The picture is of one of my Blue Hubbard plants. One of the problems with starting plants from seed is you can never be quite sure if you have timed it right. Starting too early might mean that the plants die from the cold. Even if you have a greenhouse which helps tremendously, plants can grow rapidly and become ready for planting out before outdoor temperatures are suitable or there is space in the garden. It’s never a good idea to leave seedlings in punnets or pots for too long or they can end up dying. This nearly happened to my corn, but I quickly planted it out yesterday while Sanna removed the broad beans.
If you can grow zucchini (which I covered yesterday), you can grow pumpkins. My advice is very similar:
· You can start pumpkins from seed indoors or purchase potted plants from the garden centre. In November, it will be warm enough to sow seeds directly where you want them to grow
· Choose a sunny site. Fruiting plants need full sun in order to do well
· Pumpkins are gross feeders. Work loads of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the ground beforehand
· Liquid feed plants regularly to promote growth. I plan on using my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my plants this year (which is appropriate for other fruiting veggies)
· Don’t pick pumpkins prematurely or they will not be ripe inside! I usually leave them until they die off the vine, which is usually around March
· Pumpkins store very well, so we don’t normally eat ours until the winter, when the garden is less productive. If you’re going to use a storage shed or the garage, be careful as rats and mice love to nibble on them!
Is anyone else growing pumpkins this summer? What varieties are you growing?