It wouldn’t be October without an ode to the humble pumpkin. The star of the show for one month a year, its orange skin and fleshy centre have long been an iconic symbol of autumn and the celebration of Halloween. But they’re not just great for carving – have you ever thought about growing your own pumpkins? This is a great way of getting the kids involved in gardening. Start them from seed and five months later they will be able to pick and carve their very own.
Growing Your Own Pumpkins
There are various varieties to choose from, so select one that will meet your needs. Do you want to grow a whopper to show off? One that’s great for cooking? Or a prolific fruiter producing of little baby ‘kins?
- Start your growing off indoors in April where the temperature is warmer. Sow your seeds on the flat side in small 7.5cm pots or cell trays with some premium compost. Sow the seeds about 1” deep.
- Place your pots in a propagator at about 20° until they begin to germinate which should take about a week.
- Once germinated, wait until all risk of frost has gone, then you can replant out into their final growing spot. Choose a sheltered spot in direct sunlight to keep it warm.
Top Tip – add plenty of well-rotted manure to the soil a day or two in advance of planting.
- Keep the plants well-watered, to begin with, but pumpkins generally have quite long roots that are able to find water deep within the soil, then once the flowers start to emerge, start feeding with a high potash feed every other week.
- Cut back any large, over-extending stems as pumpkins will spread. You will also need to remove leaves enough to ensure the fruit is receiving enough sunlight.
- Once the pumpkin appears, place a bed of straw underneath to prevent any rotting.
Your pumpkin will be ripe for picking once it turns to the right rich orangey colour. Make sure you harvest all your pumpkins before the frost hits!
Talking About Pumpkins
Did you know that traditional ‘Jack O’ Lanterns’ were actually carved from Turnips in the 19th century? Originating in Ireland, it’s believed that the spooky faces were carved into the turnip to ward off evil spirits over Halloween to represent the spirits that were said to walk the earth on the eve of All Saints’ Day. There are lots of stories and interpretations of Halloween and the pumpkin across the globe, but we’re sure the tradition will continue for even more centuries to come, and that means lots more growing and lots more carving to do!
Once Halloween is over, don’t let your pumpkin go to waste. Why not give this quick and simple recipe for Pumpkin Soup a try! A lovely, autumnal, warming dish.
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