Monday, 30 October 2017



Pumpkins have been associated with Halloween for a long time, but there is a magic moment when you grow your own massive pumpkin fruit. My father introduced me to pumpkin growing when I was about ten years old hoping to get me interested in a spot of gardening. However the soils left over from the builders in the new St. Mary’s housing estate was not all that clever and without any additional manure or compost the resultant tennis ball sized pumpkins did not impress anyone. However fathers, peas, turnips, lettuce, radish and cabbages plus strawberries and raspberries helped to give me the gardening bug.
Picking pumpkins
Twenty years later it was my turn as by then I had my own garden and a huge allotment with plenty access to manure, leaf mould and compost, and with two young daughters to entertain, many hours were spent on the plot growing, planting and harvesting all sorts of vegetables and fruit. Wendy had the responsibility of making sure her sunflower reached as high into the sky as possible
Spooky lantern
whereas Val took on the task of growing a huge pumpkin. This did not get picked till Halloween and then the task of creating a scary lantern took a fair bit of time. As darkness descended the lantern turned spooky, but my young lady got so much fun from the event that she performs this ritual annually though now she has her own young daughter to teach the skills of creating spooky lanterns.
Way back in time to my early years before pumpkins were invented our Halloween lanterns were created from the biggest Swede turnip we could find, but life moved on and before long Swedes were replaced with monster sized pumpkins.
I think I have grown pumpkins as part of the normal range of fruit and vegetables to be grown on an allotment or garden for food. They are also a great challenge as when your patch of five or six orange balls starts to swell up into massive pumpkins the garden gets noticed.
Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow provided you give them plenty of feeding and watering and plenty of room to grow. They are gross feeders so they get the lion’s share of compost during the winter digging
Pumpkin flower
. Select a variety of seed known to produce huge fruits such as Hundredweight, and sow in individual pots in warm conditions in late April to early May. They soon germinate and grow so pot them up once they have filled their first pots and do not be in a hurry to plant out as they are still very tender and can be affected by cold weather and strong winds. June is a good month for planting out spacing them about a square metre apart. Water the plants in and add a mulch of rotted compost to retain moisture and add extra feeding as it rots down over the season. The plant will grow very vigorously with many side shoots. Although initially there will be plenty of flowers, they do not all produce fruit so wait till you have two decent fruit forming on each plant and then start to prune back over vigorous shoots if they are barren. Keep weekly feeding all summer so by mid October your prize pumpkins will start to impress.
Val's first pumpkin
As all my family have flown the nest our pumpkins are food (not lanterns) as over the years Anna has tested out numerous recipes to use up our pumpkins, so we just love this taste of autumn. My favourite is still roasted
Roast pumpkin slices
pumpkin slices sprinkled with some seasoning and nutmeg, and then drizzled with honey at serving. Pumpkin soup, risotto, pumpkin pie, pasta and cakes and the puree can be used in numerous dishes and surplus frozen for future use. However pumpkins can be stored for four to five months in a cool utility room. Pumpkins as well as being very tasty are just full of healthy goodness packed with fibre, and vitamins A and C and minerals. Seeds can be roasted and eaten, but do not save them for sowing in case they have been cross pollinated by bees visiting nearby courgettes, or you will end up with weird courgette shaped pumpkins.

Wee jobs to do this week
Geraniums at the end of October
Geraniums planted in a sheltered spot against a south facing wall will continue to flower well into autumn so don’t be in a rush to remove them when clearing out the last of the summer bedding plants. If we get another mild winter they can survive so take the chance and enjoy the flowers while they last.

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