Growing Your Own: Pumpkins

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As you’ve probably guessed if you’ve been into a shop any time recently this months commercial celebration is Halloween.  That means lots of ghoulies, sweets and, traditionally, pumpkins!  Few other vegetables grow to the prodigious size and shape that make for good lanterns which is why the pumpkin can be seen practically everywhere at this time of year.

Inevitably, the gardener in us takes a look at a box of pumpkins sitting in a supermarket and wonders what it might take to grow them.  Fortunately, pumpkins are actually quite easy to grow, so long as the proper care and attention is taken.

You’re already too late – Preparing Your Pumpkins

Sowing season of pumpkins was back in April through June.  Pumpkins are hugely sensitive to cold and must be planted to avoid the frost.  Ideally they’re best planted directly into the soil but if you have a short growing season you can begin growing them in pots or even large containers. 

Remember however that pumpkins are famous for their size! That’s why you need to give the plants plenty of room to grow.  When going into the soil bed, make sure they have plenty of space between each plant.  It’s important to remember that pumpkin plants grow lots of vines and so there needs to be space for these to grow.  It’s okay to have them grow out onto a path if necessary – they’ll only be there for a few weeks. 

Big vegetables as they are, pumpkins are huge eaters.  This means they really need rich soil for best results.  Additional supplementation with a nitrogen fertiliser may be required.  They’re also big drinkers so if you live in a dry area expect to water the plants as they grow. 

Like most plants, Pumpkins don’t produce their “fruit”, those big lovely orange vegetables, until they’ve had their flowers pollinated.  Normally this can be left to bees and other insects to do.  However if you have a lack of these you may need to fertilize the plants by hand in order to ensure they move on to the next stage of pumpkin growing. 

Protecting the Crop – Getting Ready for Harvest

One major reason to give Pumpkin plants plenty of space is the risk of grey mould.  This parasitic fungus can, if left untended, devastate a Pumpkin plot. Growing the plants in close proximity to one another aids in the spread of the disease.  If an infection is discovered it is important to remove the affected plants and destroy them in order to protect the remaining plants from the disease. 

It’s also a good idea to help support the heavy pumpkin fruits by supporting them off the soil itself, perhaps on a piece of tile.  This will help to keep it dry and avoid getting it wet. 

If all goes well, depending on the variety of pumpkin grown you can expect to have a harvest between 85 and 125 days of planting, with the larger pumpkins naturally requiring longer to grow. When ready to be brought in, Pumpkins will adopt their customary orange colour and can be removed from the plant. 

The Royal Horticulture Society, who provide many courses in association with ADL have plenty more to say on the subject of growing pumpkins.  

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