Tuesday, June 16, 2009
If you have never grown pumpkin before it is an experience like none other. It’s not recommended that you attempt growing pumpkins if the only garden space you have is a small patio or deck area. Yes, pumpkin can grow in pots or containers but the vines will take over your outdoor space fast if space is limited.
Your average run of the mill pumpkin plant will send out anywhere from 1 to 10 runners off one plant. These runners or vines can grow in length to as much as 50 or more feet. The vines themselves also send off sprouts that will twist and wrap around other plants or whatever they can reach and also root themselves in any soil they find.
On top of the vines you will find leaves developing that range in size from that of an average adult hand to 3 feet across. Yes, one leaf and each vine will be covered with leaves so thick that it may take some doing to find the pumpkins themselves. You will however be able to judge approximately where your pumpkins will be as large orange to yellow blooms will open before the fruit develops.
If you do have an open space where you would like to grow a few or a bunch of pumpkins it can be a very rewarding experience. Pumpkins come in a wide range of varieties offering the grower different sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest pumpkins being about the size of a soft ball to the largest being over 1000 pounds. Pumpkin colors are normally white, yellow, or the traditional deep orange.
Pumpkins grow well in most average soil and don’t require a lot of care once the plants are started. If you live in an area where there is a short growing season you may want to start seeds indoors but be warned if doing this don’t start them too early or you will need to repot several times before they can go outside and you may end up with pumpkins too early in the season to enjoy for Thanksgiving or Halloween.
Normally you can plant seeds outside after the danger of frost has passed. By placing a mini-greenhouse (a plastic jug such as a milk or juice carton with the bottom cut out) over your seeds you will accomplish several things. First it helps to remind you where you planted the seeds. Second it helps keep the ground warm at night. And, lastly it helps to hold moisture in helping the seeds to germinate faster and the seedlings to get off to a good start.
Once the seedlings pop up through the soil you can place mulch around the plant. This helps keep down weeds as well as hold moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often. In average soil pumpkins only require watering about once a week. If they do need watering they will let you know though as the leaves will start to wilt. Don’t panic though, just give them a good watering and the leaves will pop right back.
As the season progresses you will want to keep an eye on the pumpkin vines. As stated earlier they do tend to be invasive and it’s much easier to move them back where you want them early on rather than waiting until they have attached themselves to your favorite rose bush or garden hoe left in the garden. Just gently pick them up and direct them where you want them. You will want to wear garden gloves or some protection though as most pumpkin vines are prickly and although they don’t cause harm can be uncomfortable to the touch.
As your pumpkins start to grow you may want to also adjust the fruit themselves. The pumpkin will grow however they feel but by setting them up on end early they develop in much more uniformed shapes. Ones left on their side may develop flat spots or upside down ones may break the stem away from the vine and rot before they are mature.
You will know when your pumpkins are finished growing when the vines die off. First the leaves will wither and die then the vines. The stems connected to the pumpkin fruit will be the last to die. Once this happens simply cut the pumpkin stem 5-6 inches from the fruit and remove it from the garden.
Your pumpkins are now ready to cut and cook for pumpkin pie, carve as Jack-o-Lanterns, or set on your door step as autumn decorations.
Faith Wright-Draper (aka byfaithonly) has been writing for over 40 years as a journalist, ghostwriting, and freelancing. She currently writes for several blogs, freelances, and on her own website www.byfaithonly.com
Previously published on Associated Content
A Beginner's Guide to Growing Pumpkins
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