Still Time to Plant Pumpkins
Summer is underway with the days still getting longer, so if you haven’t planted pumpkins yet there’s still (just) time to get growing. Easy to cultivate, these spectacular fruits are another crop great for beginners and children. They provide good ground cover, supressing weeds and keeping moisture in the soil and as they ripen towards autumn add spots of striking colour to the garden or plot as summer flowers fade. To get the best results you need to plant in rich, moist soil and a long warm late summer – so fingers crossed.
Pumpkins (or winter squash) come in a huge variety – from monsters bred for competitive growing, to those grown for taste or carving up for Hallowe’en. While growing a big one is great for showing off – smaller varieties like ‘Sweet Dumpling’ or ‘Turks Turban’ look interesting and are more practical for cooking – chopping up a pumpkin can be hard work.
Sow seed either in a pot or direct (if direct, protecting with a cloche will avoid slugs/snails nipping them off as they emerge). Other than that they are pretty much pest free – although can be susceptible to leaf spot and mildew in hot damp conditions. With warm June temperatures seeds germinate in a few days and pumpkin plants grow fast. Alternatively there might still be seedlings left at nurseries or garden centres ready to plant direct. Also, if you make your own compost – and added your pumpkin pips last year, you could even find pumpkin plants popping up all over your plot so keep an eye out when weeding.
As the pumpkins easily cross pollinate you may end up with some interesting variations.
Once your seedling has developed four or five leaves or you have your purchased plant, prepare your pumpkins’ final position – they need plenty of sun to fully ripen so an open, sunny site is ideal. You can also plant them in between or near sweetcorn where the rampant foliage provides weed suppressing ground cover, as well as keeping moisture in the soil around the sweetcorn plants. The plants will run for several feet so be aware they might smother any smaller specimens in range. Some varieties climb as well so will tumble over a fence or compost heap.
Pumpkins are shallow rooted and like a rich fertile soil – so dig a small hole and back fill mixing in as much compost or manure as you can spare. Watering using a watering can or hose can bring the roots to the soil surface meaning plants could dry out, also once pumpkins get going it’s difficult to identify the stem amongst all the leaves – so adding your own irrigation point makes watering quick, easy and efficient. Top Tip – Do this by placing a cut off plastic bottle in the soil angled towards the roots of the plant with the top sticking out a couple of inches so you can see it – then you can get water straight to your pumpkin without waste from run off or evaporation.
Now all you need to do is watch, wait and hope for a long hot summer into autumn, while dreaming of pumpkin carving and yummy soup round the bonfire.