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The Secrets to Growing Big Healthy Pumpkins
Growing your own pumpkins is really good fun. Watching the vines grow, the flowers bloom and the little pumpkins form is really fun. They need between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight a day, rich soil improved with compost and plenty of space or something to climb on. They are very easy to grow and can come out of your compost, without any help from you. The variety, well you know, depends on what you buy in the supermarket and what seeds go into the compost heap. They have some symptoms and can be very frustrating when the vine is very healthy and you only get male flowers. It can also be extremely devastating if you think you’re going to get a pumpkin only to find it gone. Why do you ask yourself, what happened, what did I do wrong? My answer is – maybe nothing. Pumpkins are notorious for not bearing fruit.
Pumpkins belong to the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae which includes zucchini, water melon, rock melon, squash, cucumbers and gourds. The word watermelon comes from the word “pepon” which is Greek for “big melon” It is classified as a vine and needs a lot of space to grow. Pumpkins are monoecious which means having male and female flowers on the same plant, so you need one plant to bear fruit.
Preparing the house
Pumpkins like a soil pH between 6 and 7.2. If your soil is on the acidic side then I suggest that you add some garden lime and if it is on the high side – alkaline – then you can reduce it by using sulfur. To prepare the soil for pumpkins, I suggest that you add a lot of compost and manure or sheep manure. Good blood and bones with potash will be beneficial. Pumpkins are an annual crop and need a warm soil, so they can grow quickly and bear fruit before the cold weather sets in. a good quality loam. This will raise their roots above the clay and poor drainage.
Siting your pumpkin
Pumpkins need a lot of room and can crowd out other plants if not taken care of. Now if you have a small garden and you don’t want to be invaded by trifid plants then I suggest growing them next to a wall or sell or putting some lattice and train the tendrils. The good point about planting them up is that you get the fruit off the ground from pests like slugs and snails and diseases like mildew. If space is not a problem, then just let them roam. You will find that you have a floating sea of giant pumpkin leaves covering your garden. If they fall into cruelty, just cut them back, it won’t hurt them!
The pumpkins are spreading
The best time to plant pumpkin seeds is in the spring, when the soil and air temperature are warm. If you start them in a vegetable patch, the soil temperature should be at least 20C for planting and the air temperature 22C. You can start them in pots in a warm house if you want, but the garden still needs to exceed 20C when you plant them out. They do not like the cold or the cold.
When planting seeds directly in the garden, make a mound about 1/2 meter wide and plant 3-4 seeds about 4-5cm deep. Depending on the temperature of the house they should germinate within 7-10 days. When the baby plants have between 4-6 leaves, pinch off the weaker plants, leaving the stronger ones. If you don’t give out the weak ones, there will be a pile on the lot and none of the pumpkins will do well. If you don’t want to plant them, replant them elsewhere in the veggie patch.
Pumpkins are grown in the summer, need between 70-120 days before they are ready to harvest and are usually early to mid autumn. Pumpkins like this don’t like hot temperatures and will die and stop growing. They are shallow rooted, rot easily and that is why it is important to prepare the soil with lots of compost and animal manure to help increase the water holding capacity of the soil. If the soil retains water, then it is up to the plant to replace the moisture lost through its leaves. Pumpkins do not like waterlogging and do not like flooding and drought. You can pull them apart. They like good watering especially and the best time is in the morning. If you water at night when the leaves are cold, powdery mildew can set in. Pumpkins do not like wind and need to be protected from it. Heat and strong winds can cause mold that makes the pumpkin not very tasty to eat. It is also thought that too much air can cause harm to the body.
The vine takes about 10 weeks before it starts producing the first flowers and males. They are on long thin stems (called pedicels) and there are more of them than females. If you peak inside a male flower you will see a long thin structure called a stamen that produces pollen. Female flowers have a short pedicel and sit close to the vine. If you peak inside a female flower you will see the stigma where the pollen is collected. The ovary is located at the base of the petals and is where the seeds grow.
Putting out good words
Flowers only open for 1 day; in the early morning, flower petals begin to open and open for a period of four hours. In the middle of the day they begin to approach slowly and in the evening they are completely closed. Pumpkins are pollinated by insects, especially wasps and bees, so it’s important to encourage them into your garden. It is common for female flowers to swell and begin to look like a growing pumpkin. But unfortunately, it was brown and dropped. This happens because it has not been fertilized due to lack of honey. There are several things you can do to encourage them:
- Do not use systemic (poisons that get into the plant and can last for several weeks) sprays, because many of them kill bees when they feed on the nectar of flowers
- Plant French Lavender Lavandula denateteit is a flower every year.
- Plant lots of Iceland Poppies – bees love them
- Provide water for the bees, they will tell their friends and more bees will visit.
Now, if the weather has been too hot or too cold and you notice that there aren’t many bees buzzing around, you can try to get them mixed together. There are two ways, hand polishing using a male flower or using a toothbrush. To hand pollinate, pick the male flowers, remove the petals and then pour the pollen on the stigma of the female flowers. I tried the toothpick method once, where you gently cut the toothpick on the stamen, then gently cut it on the stigma but it didn’t work. I suggest you try the first method.
To save seeds from harvested pumpkins, store it for a month, then remove the flesh, wash it off and dry the seeds on a paper towel. Then store them in a clean dry glass jar in a cool dry place away from sunlight. It is also a good idea to label the bottle with a variety of pumpkin and date. I guarantee if you don’t you will have forgotten in a years time, what variety it is.
Pumpkins are famous for crossing with each other to ensure that it is true to type, save the seed from a variety that grows in isolation. You may need to pollinate by hand, to ensure there is no pollen contamination.
Why is my pumpkin not bearing fruit?
I’ve mentioned before that pumpkins are famous for not being a fruit and there are several reasons.
- Pumpkins are weather and temperature sensitive. If it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too much rain then it may not produce fruit. I suggest you try holding hands especially if the temperature exceeds 30C. Remember, if the weather clears and the temperatures are spreading; then many plants die, until conditions improve.
- It is assumed that a plant that is less than three years old, produces more male flowers than female flowers.
- Lack of insects in your garden. Bees, ants and other insects are important in the pollination process. If they are not, then the pollen will not be transferred to the female flower – so there will be no pumpkins
- Heavy rain can damage the pollen, which means that even if it has been carried by insects, it will not pollinate the flower and so again there will be no fruit.
- A trick to try to encourage more female flowers, is to nip off the apical (also known as the terminal) bud (the top of the growth) and encourage lateral (side) growth.
- Make sure when you prepare the bed that you add some potash (encourages flowers) and not too much nitrogen for example. blood and bone, which causes the growth of many leaves.
Pests and Diseases
There are regular pests such as slugs and snails that attack the leaves. You can try to catch them by hand, especially after the rain or use a beer trap in a 1/2 glass jar that burns in the ground. They come in, get drunk, and drown. There are also the finely crushed egg shells circle, that put around each plant which they hate crawling on. There is a new product for pots, which is a copper strip tied around the pot. There is also a spray to leave them but I haven’t tried it.
If you have trouble with caterpillars, then I suggest using an organic fertilizer called Dipel whose active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis. It will not harm you, your children, pets or other beneficial insects. Longlife pyrethrum is also good for sap-sucking insects such as whiteflies and aphids, but also kills caterpillars.
In regards to the bird lady there are good and bad things. The bad ones are known as 28 spiders and they eat leaves, so you need to watch out for them and take them out of hand.
The diseased pumpkins are also powdery mildew and can spread in hot humid conditions. To try and control this disease you can use cow’s milk, sprayed on the leaves every two weeks with a solution of 1 part cow’s milk to 10 parts water. Good lady birds are known by yellow and black bands and they are moldy, so don’t kill them. I also recommend watering in the morning, no overhead watering but watering at ground level to prevent the spores from being splashed up onto the leaves.
Harvesting and storage
The best part of growing pumpkins, is harvesting them. You have watched them grow, take care of them, no pests or diseases get them and then you think, I don’t know when they will be harvested. Well you get it within 3-4 months, they should be a nice color, sound clean when you hit them and the color should be hard and not show any indentations if you press your nails finger into them. It is very important to cut them off with at least 5-10 cm of attached wood. This prevents mold from entering the pumpkin and helps to extend their shelf life.
Choosing the right storage space is important if you want to have pumpkin out of season. It needs to be well ventilated, no direct sunlight and cool. It also needs to be dry and not damp. The pumpkin also needs to be healthy, there are no cracks in the body and there should be no signs of mold. If there is, then eat it immediately, it will not keep.
A final tip to help them grow healthy and strong is to feed them every two weeks with potash and liquid manure. It can be cow dung, cow dung or worm water.
For pumpkins to grow successfully, they need to have rich organic soil, be in full sun, good weather and regular moisture. If you follow these simple instructions and the weather is not too hot or too cold, you will have healthy pumpkins that you can store and eat and eat when the season is not over.
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