Homeschool Garden Club - Pumpkins

Pumpkins - in April, well yes! You need to think about planting these now if you want them in October.


You may remember that last year I planted my Musquee de Provence pumpkin in to the top of the compost bin. However, the summer last year was very warm and dry and the pumpkin suffered. I had a 1/6 success rate at the germination stage. It put on loads of leaf and loved the compost bin portion, the fruit set but they then didn’t grow despite frequent watering cans of water from the water butts. I did eventually grow two large pumpkins, which made lovely soup and pasta dishes. I am still in two minds about growing pumpkin again this year. If you are growing pumpkins, I am happy to swop some plants with you.

Pumpkins are usually orange but can be yellow, white, green or red. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and with 45 different varieties we have a lot of choice. Most need quite a large space and they are very hungry feeders and need a lot of water.

There are two things to think about 1) do you want to eat the pumpkin or 2) do you want to carve the pumpkin. This will effect which variety you will choose. Carving pumpkins are popular at Halloween, to scoop out and made into lanterns with scary faces! But their sweet, orange flesh is delicious to eat too. I prefer to eat than carve so I am looking for good taste not size necessarily. Nutritious and low-calorie, pumpkins can be used in sweet or savoury dishes.


Why should you eat them?

They’re packed with vitamins and nutrients, including:

Vitamin A: Good for your vision, bones, teeth and skin - and important for your growth and immune system.

Vitamin B2: Known as ‘riboflavin’, this helps your body make red blood cells.

Potassium: Keeps your heart healthy and helps plenty of blood to get to your brain.


Here are some recommendations


Popular pumpkin variety: ‘Jack of All Trades’

Bright orange and perfect for carving: ‘Zombie’

Warty and grotesque: ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’

Eating: ‘Casper’, ‘Cherokee Bush’, ‘Cinerella’, ‘Jarrahdale’, ‘Cushaw Green-striped’, ‘Fairytale’ and Mausquee de Provence.


What you’ll need:

Pumpkin seeds

Small pots (e.g. yoghurt pots)

Multipurpose compost Liquid tomato plant feed Watering can

Large space around the pumpkin or a frame to grow upwards.


Method


Start your pumpkins indoors

  1. Plant your seeds in April or May. Soak your seeds in water overnight - they’ll grow quicker.

  2. Fill your pots with compost.

  3. Plant a seed in each pot, on its edge (not flat), 1cm deep.

  4. Put your pots on a warm, light windowsill and water.


Plant Them Out

  1. When they’re big enough to handle, plant your seedlings out into the garden, from late May.

  2. Pumpkins are hungry plants! Add compost or well-rotted manure into the soil first.

  3. Plant at least 90cm apart, depending on how big your variety grows.

  4. You can also plant them out into large pots, if you’re growing small pumpkins.


Caring for Your Pumpkins

  1. Protect young plants from slugs and snails.

  2. They’ll grow quickly! Let them trail over the ground, or train them over a strong arch.

  3. You may need to hand pollinate your pumpkins, so they fruit.

  4. Keep your pumpkins well-watered.

  5. Feed with tomato feed every 10-14 days once the fruits start to grow.

  6. They’ll be ready to harvest in time for Halloween!


Did you know? Some Gigantic Pumpkin Fact!

  • Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds and all edible!

  • Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown each year in the US and 80% of these pumpkins are ready for October. That is sales of over 4m in one month.

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed in at 1,677.8kgs, there was a lot of pastry, sugar and cream with that pie!

  • Giant pumpkins are often grown for competitions. The most recent record I could find was in 2016, the world record was 1,190.49 kg. Pumpkins are grown for weight not size.

  • The weirdest record linked to pumpkins I found was was the pumpkin boat race. A 'pumpkin boat' is defined as a hollowed out pumpkin that can then function on still water as a boat. This record is for a boat that takes two passengers.


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