A few months ago I decided to grow a pumpkin. It was a random decision made whilst looking at some ‘grow your own’ pots designed for children. It cost just 99p to buy a pot marked ‘grow your own pumpkin’ and I thought, why not? Every year I get annoyed at not being able to find a pumpkin to carve on Halloween, or we just don’t get around to picking one up. It makes sense to have a go at growing my own so that I don’t have to go through that situation.
I asked myself: how hard can it be if they make a ‘grow your own’ kit for children?
The answer: bloody hard work. You will not believe (unless you’ve attempted to grow one yourself) how difficult it actually is to grow a pumpkin.
It started out very easily, the ‘grow your own’ pot had everything I needed: 3 seeds, a block of compacted soil which grew when watered, and a little pot to plant them in. I expanded the soil, I placed each seed carefully separated around the pot and then I gave it more water.
Within a few weeks I was the proud owner of two growing pumpkin plants (2 out of 3 isn’t bad!) and they were very pretty little plants too.
Eventually the first leaves died off and the ‘proper’ leaves started to grow, they were differently shaped to the soft rounded leaves of the sprouting seed. They were coarser and pointier, but they were proof that it’s really not that difficult to grow a plant. All they needed was a bit of water, some sunlight, and they were thriving.
As the plants grew bigger and the summer sun grew warmer we thought it a good idea to put the plants outside to give them some sun. We were growing tomatoes too, which we put out every day, so I followed the same routine with my pumpkin plants. The pumpkins loved the sun, they loved their bigger pots and they enjoyed the time they spent growing even bigger. And then we got the first flower!!!
My mum decided that she wanted a special vegetable patch in the garden that we would build it with wooden slats and plant all of our wonderful vegetables and herbs in the designated plot. The slugs, being slugs, love green things. They’d already caused a little damage with our lupin which was a huge disappointment as it was brand new and the slugs just eradicated it. We decided that we whilst we built the vegetable patch, we would also buy some hay so that we could help protect the pumpkins from the nasty, slimy creatures.
So we build the vegetable patch, we rehomed the rhubarb (moved across a bit), replanted the herbs and seedlings from salad and spinach and we dug holes for my beloved little pumpkin plants. Everything was going well. We scattered a lot of hay around the pumpkins so that they sat happily in the soil with the added support of some slug pellets.
Our vegetable patch looked wonderful.
Around the same time my mum had a look on Google, something which I had done myself but hadn’t really taken in some vital pieces of information. Pumpkin plants can grow and grow and grow until they’re so big that you have no garden left. One vine can grow up to 30 feet long, that’s right, about 6 very short women. The space we’d designated wasn’t *that* big, but we persisted.
Unfortunately, by the next morning the slugs had decided to visit my pumpkin plants in the night. A leaf had been chewed off and a few holes had been nibbled into other leaves. Whilst the damage was minimal, the worry was not. The pumpkins spread well, they have plenty of stalks all going off in different directions. But what if a slug was to bite into the main stalk? That would mean the end of my pumpkin plants.
Plan B was a go-go! We bought two large plots and replanted the pumpkins, that way we could keep them on top of soil, concrete or on the garden table, depending on our preference. It then became a daily battle against slugs. Every morning I would check the soil and the leaves for damage/signs of those hungry slobbering creatures and every morning I’d find at least one little guy hiding out and on several occasions, some very large guys. It’s safe to say that I learnt how to sling a slug a twenty yards over the back fence.
The more the pumpkin plants grew the more trouble we had keeping the stalks inside the bucket, as much as we tried to curl them round, the plant had other ideas and the bucket was only limited in its size. So we had to start thinking logically, how were several pumpkins going to fit into our buckets along with the plants themselves?
Not to mention, how were we going to support the pumpkins when they did eventually grow?
It wasn’t long before we found out what it was like to see a pumpkin on a pumpkin plant. Up until then the plant had only shown off lovely orangey-yellow male flowers and we were desperate for that first female flower. We weren’t disappointed.
As our first pumpkin grew larger we were faced with a very sad moment when the weight of the little pumpkin brought the stalk down on the edge of the bucket and I thought we were going to lose him. Thankfully, with a little help of other upturned pots, the stalk and the pumpkin survived and there were a couple of others rearing their pretty little, round heads. But it was time to act and act fast, we had pumpkins coming out of our ears (well, about 3) and we needed to do something to support the plants continued growth.
Insert, a homemade triangular tower designed to give our pumpkins height in which to grow upwards. Upwards, are you serious? You might ask. But yes, we are serious. We’d done our research, people all over the internet have been supporting pumpkins using pairs of tights and netting. If you want a pumpkin plant but only have a small garden, what other option is there? So our contraption was born and our pumpkins, since we build them, have been going from strength to strength.
We still have a way to go. The plants now have many pumpkins on, there are 5 visible ones on the more successful of the two plants, though there are off-shoots appearing here and there. The less successful plant has 4, though one doesn’t appear to be growing. It has the potential for more. We made the decision to chop the top of the one with 5 because we want to pumpkin plants to focus their energy on a smaller number of pumpkins, rather than have too many growing.
The next couple of months are going to be exciting, though. They say that pumpkin harvesting season in towards the end of September right through October. I hope that in October I’ll be able to share with you pumpkins which we’ve carved up to celebrate Halloween. In the meantime, feel free to have a look at some more of my photographs taken a couple of weeks ago.
(The leaves are huge! I could fit about 4 hands on this one.)
(One of our lovely little pumpkins.)
(Another pumpkin, along with the vines it uses to support itself.)
(The pumpkin stalk supported against the cane stucture.)
(The first pumpkin, still growing, though it’s now a little more orange.)