Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cinderella's wheels...

Cucurbita maxima, moschata and pepo make up the pumpkin family, within the family are many siblings. There are Grey ones, Orange ones, Green ones, long ones, lobed ones, tiny ones and huge ones... Cucurbita pepo is the scientific name for the Zucchinis also, so many of the growing techniques used for the production of Pumpkins are the same as for Zucchini. The seed (pepita) is elliptical, about 10mm across, and should be sown (with the flat sides up and down) about an inch deep after the last frost or early to mid spring.

Pumpkins require a long growing season so in cold areas they will benefit from being sown early in a propagator and transplanted when the soil has warmed. Pumpkins like to be planted in a mound of earth well enriched with compost. They grow quickly and appreciate regular water. The leaves and flowers look almost identical to Zucchini, they mostly grow as a sprawling vine rather than a large bush though. The vines love to have room to ramble so planting them well away from each other (1-2m), or training the vines will help.

Pumpkins also have tendrils (left) like
peas, beans, etc. for climbing, and can be grown up a trellis or over a garden structure (you can support developing fruits in string or net bags).

Early in their life Pumpkins predominantly produce male flowers (right), which have no embryonic fruit behind the flower, female flowers (with fruit, below) come later. Pinching out the growing tips can force the vine to send out side shoots which will usually produce more female flowers. Hand pollinating may increase yield in areas with poor pollinator activity. It is quite common to get 4-6 fruit developing on a plant, but if you want larger fruit thin out a few, If you want competition sized fruit thin to only one fruit per plant and watch 'em go.

Wait until the vine withers and dies, the fruit has developed full colour, and a hollow sound is produced when you tap the fruit before you harvest. When you harvest ensure you get a good (10-15cm) length of stem on the fruit and allow the fruit's skin to harden in the sun before storing for up to 6 months with some cultivars. Seeds can be saved when you prepare the fruit for eating for next years pumpkin patch, or you can throw them in you compost and watch them take off. Powdery mildew is the major threat to your crop (look at my post on Zucchinis for a milk spray recipe) and, less commonly, mosaic virus.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hope, rather nice Blog you have here, very inspiring. I have started my garden which has been neglected for two years due to other commitments (excuses excuses). Anyway I used to live in the Otways for many years and we always used a spray for mildew made from stinging nettles (they seem to grow on any vacant block everywhere). Sometimes I made a soup in flagons, and sometimes I had a 44 full. Seemed to work a treat.I am now in Belgrave (15years) Thanks for your Blog