TIME TO PLANT PUMPKINS COURGETTES AND CUCUMBERS
Pumpkins and courgettes have a lot of similarities in their needs for producing good crops. They are both gross feeders, so get the lion’s share of manure or compost during the winter digging. It is always a good idea to plan well ahead and using
a four year rotation you will know what space they have been allocated
before the winter digging begins. They are also both a bit tender so sowing is
best in mid spring and the plants kept protected in the greenhouse to grow on
to sturdy strong plants before hardening off in late May to early June
depending on weather at that time. A late frost or cold snap can harm them so
keep an eye on the weather once they go out for hardening off. Also beware of
any strong winds as the large leaves makes then vulnerable to getting blown
over and damaged.
|A good year for pumpkins|
|Courgettes ready to cut|
|Pumpkins running riot|
Early to mid June is soon enough for planting, as once established they grow very rapidly. This late planting gives us the opportunity to enrich the soil further with a fast growing green manure crop of tares, ryegrass or clover. Sow this down on prepared soil which has previously been well composted before the winter digging. The green manure crop has plenty of time to make good growth before trampling down and digging in at the end of May. Plant out in early June into prepared soil, raked level incorporating a dusting of fertiliser, but leave a depression at the planting stations to allow for watering which both plants need all through out summer. They will also benefit from a mulch of well rotted compost to maintain reserves of moisture and feed the plants as it rots down. Space plants about three feet apart. Where these plants are grown together do not be tempted to save seeds if you happen to get a cracker of a pumpkin. I tried it and got white striped courgette shaped pumpkins as the bees will ensure cross pollination,
and then traits from the past are also likely to appear. During
the summer keep them well watered and feed monthly. Weed early on, but once the
large leaves take over weeds do not stand much of a chance to grow. Harvest
courgettes once they are about six to nine inches long, but as usually happens
a few days absence results in vegetable marrow sized courgettes appear. Do not
discard them as they can make a brilliant soup together with other summer
vegetables. Leave pumpkins to grow large then ripen off ready to harvest at the
end of autumn. Pumpkins can produce long shoots which love to wander all over
the plot and don’t necessarily produce any more fruit so chop these off after
each plant has made a couple of fruits.
Courgettes cannot be stored for any length of time unless used in a recipe then frozen. However pumpkins will store till the end of March.
Cucumbers come from the same family and enjoy similar conditions, but grow best indoors under the protection of the greenhouse. They are sown at the same time as courgettes and pumpkins, then pricked out into pots to grow on before planting into ten inch pots spaced 18 inches apart, or in growbags (two to a bag.) Like tomatoes they are best grown as cordons up a cane, or strong polypropylene baler twine. Pinch out the top once it reaches the roof and cut back side shoots to two leaves after a female flower, seen as having a wee cucumber behind the flower. Remove any male flowers as these might pollinate the female flowers and produce bitter tasting cucumbers. Keep the plants moist but not wet and feed every fortnight with a liquid fertiliser high in potassium like tomato feed. Carmen, Zeina and Femdan are all female varieties so no need to remove male flowers.
Wee jobs to do this week
Remove withered leaves from spring flowering bulbs. Snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, tulips and thesmaller bulbs, Chionodoxa, Anemone blanda, Aconites, grape hyacinths and bluebells will now all have just about gone dormant. This old foliage can go on the compost heap, but some will have produced seeds. Aconites, snowdrops, crocus planted drifts will increase from seed which in time gives a better display, but bluebells and grape hyacinths can become very invasive so remove the seed heads, once they have spread to their allocated space, before discarding the old foliage.