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The Secrets to Growing Big Healthy Pumpkins

Growing your own pumpkin is really good fun. It’s really exciting to watch the vines grow, blossom, and turn into tiny pumpkins. They need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, rich soil enriched with compost, and lots of space or something to climb. They are extremely easy to grow and can grow right out of your compost without any help from you. The variety, well who knows, depends on what you bought at the supermarket and which seeds went into the compost pile. They have some strange characteristics and it can be very frustrating when the vine is extremely healthy and you only get male flowers. It can also be extremely destructive if you think you’re going to get a pumpkin only to find it falls over. Why do you ask yourself, what happened, what did I do wrong? My answer is – probably nothing. Pumpkins are notorious for not bearing fruit.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita genus and Cucurbitaceae family which includes zucchini, water melon, rock melon, squash, cucumber and gourd. The word pumpkin is derived from the word “pepan” which is Greek for “big melon”. Pumpkins are monoecious which means the same plant has both male and female flowers, so you only need one plant to produce fruit.

Preparing the soil

Pumpkins like a soil pH between 6 and 7.2. If your soil is on the acidic side I suggest you add some gardeners lime and if it is on the high side – alkaline – you can reduce it by applying sulphur. To prepare the soil for pumpkins, I recommend adding lots of compost and cow or sheep manure. A good handful of blood and bone plus potash will benefit. Pumpkins are an annual crop and need a rich organic soil, so they can grow quickly and produce fruit before the cold of winter sets in. The soil also needs to be well drained and if your soil is clay, I suggest you use it to make a mound. A good quality loam. This will cause their roots to rise above clay and poor drainage.

Sit your pumpkin

Pumpkins need a lot of space and can crowd out other plants if left unchecked. Now if you have a small garden and don’t want to be invaded by three-pronged plants, I suggest growing them next to a fence or shed or setting up some trellis and training the tendrils. The good thing about tying them is that it keeps the fruit from the soil away from pests like slugs and snails and diseases like downy mildew. If space is not an issue, then just walk them around. You will find that your garden has a floating sea of ​​large pumpkin leaves. If they do any mischief, cut them off, it won’t hurt them!

Pumpkin promotion

The best time to plant pumpkin seeds is in the spring, when the soil and air temperatures are warm. If they are started from vegetable patches, soil temperature should be at least 20C and air temperature should be at least 22C for germination. You can start them in pots in a warm house if you want, but the garden soil should still be above 20 degrees Celsius when you plant them. They do not like cold or frost.

When you plant seeds directly in the garden, make a mound about 1/2 meter wide and plant 3-4 seeds 4-5 cm deep. They should germinate in about 7-10 days, depending on soil warmth. When the baby seedlings are between 4-6 leaves, pinch the weakest plants, leaving the strongest ones. If you don’t pinch out the weak ones, the mound will become overcrowded and none of the pumpkins will grow. If you don’t want to ignore them, plant them elsewhere in the veggie patch

favorable conditions

Pumpkins are grown in the summer, needing 70-120 days to be ready to harvest and usually in early to mid fall. Pumpkins do not like scorching temperatures and will shut down and stop growing. They are shallow-rooted, dry out easily, and that’s why it’s important to prepare the soil with lots of compost and animal manure to help increase the soil’s water-holding capacity. If the soil holds its water, it is available to the plant to replace the moisture lost through its leaves. Pumpkin does not like water stress and does not like flood and drought water regimes. It can split them. They like to water pretty even and the best time is morning. If you water at night and the leaves get wet, powdery mildew can enter Pumpkins do not like wind and need to be protected from it Heat and strong winds can cause mold that makes pumpkins very unpleasant to eat. It is also thought that too much air can cause stains on the meat.

It takes about 10 weeks before the vine starts producing flowers and is male at first. They are on long slender stems (called pedicels) and have more pileus than females. If you peek inside a male flower, you’ll find a long thin structure called a stamen that produces pollen. Female flower stalks are shorter and sit closer to the vine. If you peak inside the female flower, you will see the stigma where the pollen is received. The ovary is at the base of the petal and is where the seed develops.

Fertilize the ovaries

Flowers open for 1 day only; Just before dawn, the flower petals begin to open and remain open for 4 hours. By midday they begin to close slowly and by evening they close permanently. Pumpkins are pollinated by insects, especially native and honey bees, so it’s important to encourage them in your garden. It is common for female flower ovaries to swell and begin to look like a pumpkin. But disaster, it turns brown and falls off. This happens because it has not been fertilized due to the lack of bees. Here are some things you can do to encourage them:

  • Do not use systemic (poison that is absorbed into the plant and lasts for several weeks) sprays, as they kill many bees when they feed on flower nectar.
  • Plant French lavender Lavandula denatateIt blooms almost all year round.
  • Plant lots of Iceland poppies – honey bees adore them
  • Provide water for the bees, they will tell their friends and more bees will visit.

Now, if the weather is too hot or too cold and you notice that there aren’t many bees buzzing around, you can try fertilizing them yourself. There are two methods, hand pollination using male flowers or hand pollination using toothbrush. To pollinate by hand, pick the male flower, remove the petals then sprinkle the pollen on the stigma of the female flower. I once tried the tooth brush method, where you gently brush the toothbrush over the stamen, then gently brush over the stigma but it didn’t work. I suggest you try the first method.

To save the seeds from cut pumpkin, store it for a month, then scoop out the flesh, rinse, and dry the seeds on paper towels. Then store them in a clean dry glass jar in a cool dry place away from sunlight. It’s also a good idea to label the bottle with the pumpkin and date variety. I guarantee if you don’t, you’ll forget in a year, what it’s like.

Pumpkins are notorious for cross-pollinating with each other, so to ensure true to type, save seeds of a variety grown in isolation. You may need to pollinate it by hand to ensure there is no pollen contamination.

Why is my pumpkin not producing fruit?

I mentioned earlier that palm trees are notorious for not producing fruit and there are many reasons for this.

  • Pumpkins are weather and temperature sensitive. If it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, you won’t get fruit. I recommend you try hand pollination especially if the temperature is above 30C. Remember, if the weather is exterminated and the temperature fluctuates widely; Then many plants are closed, until conditions are more suitable.
  • It is believed that seeds less than 3 years old produce more male flowers than female flowers.
  • Lack of insects in your garden. Bees, ants and other insects are important for the transfer of pollen. If they are not present, the pollen will not transfer to the female flower – thus no pumpkin
  • Heavy rain can damage the pollen, which means that even if it is transferred by insects, it will not fertilize the flower and thus no fruit will be produced again.
  • One technique to try to encourage more female flowers is to cut off the apical (also known as terminal) buds (top point of growth) and encourage lateral (side) growth.
  • When preparing the bed make sure you include some potash (which encourages flowering) and as such don’t put too much nitrogen. Blood and bones, which cause extra growth of leaves.

Pests and diseases

There are common pests like slugs and snails that attack leaves. You can try to pick them by hand, preferably after a rain, or use a beer snail trap in a glass jar 1/2 submerged in the soil. They crawl, get drunk and drown. There are also circles of finely crushed eggshells, which you place around each plant that they hate to crawl over. There is a new product for pots, which is a copper strip that you attach around the pot. There is also a spray to repel them but I haven’t tried it.

If you have problems with caterpillars I recommend using an organic spray called Dipel which is the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis. It will not harm you, your children, pets or other beneficial insects. Long-lived pyrethrum is also good for sap-sucking insects like whiteflies and aphids, but also kills caterpillars.

There are good ones and bad ones about ladybirds. The bad ones are known as 28-spotted and they eat the leaves, so you have to be careful and pick them off.

Powdery mildew is also the most prone to pumpkin disease and can spread very quickly in hot, humid conditions. To control this disease you can use cow’s milk, every two weeks the leaves are sprayed with a solution of 1 part cow’s milk and 10 parts water. Good female birds are marked by yellow and black bands and they eat smut, so don’t kill them. I also recommend watering in the morning, no overhead watering but watering at the soil level to prevent spreading spores over the leaves.

Harvesting and storage

The best part of growing pumpkins, is their harvest. You watch them grow, nurture them, no pests or diseases get them, and then you think, I can never harvest them. Well it takes between 3-4 months, they should be a nice color, when you tap on them and the skin should be firm and not show any indentation if you press on the fingernails. It is really important that you cut off at least 5-10 cm of the stem. This prevents mildew from entering the pumpkins and helps prolong their storage life.

Choosing the right storage space is essential if you want to get pumpkins out of season. It needs to be well ventilated, not in direct sunlight and cool. It needs to be dry and not damp. The pumpkin should also be healthy, with no breaks in the flesh and no traces of mold. If there is, eat it directly, it will not preserve.

A final tip to help them grow healthy and strong is to feed them with potash and liquid fertilizer fortnightly. Can be cow, sheep manure or worm liquid.

For pumpkins to grow successfully, they need rich organic soil, full sun, good weather and regular moisture. If you follow these general guidelines and the weather is consistent, neither too hot nor too cold, you’ll have nice healthy pumpkins that you can store and eat and eat when the season is over.

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