Let's talk about pumpkins
Let’s talk about pumpkins…
For many, Autumn is a season synonymous with pumpkins. Come October, people go wild for the squash, which has become a big part of Halloween associated traditions worldwide. While the typical traditions involve costume parties and children knocking on the doors of neighbours asking for sweet treats, this year’s activities are looking to be altogether different.
One tradition that will continue year after year is pumpkin carving. Although the obvious choice is to flock to the nearest pumpkin patch for your jack-o-lanterns, start a new autumn tradition by growing gourds in your own garden. With the right care, these hardy crops will flourish just about anywhere. And for those lucky enough to already have their own patch, now is the time to start harvesting your orange beauties.
Did you know? Although often thought of as a vegetable, pumpkins are actually a fruit
The growing process
Pick your seeds.
Often, the hardest part of growing pumpkins is choosing which type to plant. Pumpkins come in hundreds of varieties differing in size, colour, taste and texture. Here’s just a few of those options:
Jumbo pumpkins: Dill’s Atlantic Giant, Hundredweight
These are the pumpkins to choose if winning a growing contest is on your to-do list. You’ll need a large patch to handle their full potential.
Miniature pumpkins: Jack Be Little, Baby Boo, Munchkin
Due to their small but cute stature, these tiny pumpkins are best displayed as they are. Carving could be tricky but painting them would be a fun alternative.
Carving Pumpkins: Jack of all Trades, Casper, Becky
Classic, orange and perfectly round in shape, these varieties lend themselves perfectly for carving.
Novelty pumpkins: Turk’s Turban,Knuckle Heads
With a quirky appearance, these pumpkins make for an unusual autumnal display. They also work well as creepy Halloween props.
For best results, it’s recommended to sow pumpkin seeds in a greenhouse or indoors on a windowsill and plant out into the garden once the risk of frost has passed. Typically, early June is the ideal time to transfer your pumpkins. Make sure you choose a spot that receives plenty of sunlight.
Pumpkin care advice.
- Water your pumpkins thoroughly as and when they need it. Always water the soil, never the leaves. Alternatively, sink a pot alongside the plants when planting out. Watering directly into this will help ensure the water goes right down to the roots.
- Fertilising pumpkins is essential as they are heavy feeders and will eat up whatever you give them. Feed every 10-14 days with a liquid fertiliser, such as liquid seaweed feed once the first fruit starts to swell.
- Once fruits start to develop, slide a piece of slate under each pumpkin to keep them off the ground and protect them from slugs and rot.
Leave pumpkins on the plant for as long as possible to mature and ripen. When the stem cracks and the skin is tough, the fruit is ready to be picked. This is often anywhere from 75-115 days after sowing. Monitor the patch well as some pumpkins may be ready to pick before others. Use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin from the vine, leaving roughly 2 inches of stem.
Tip: Make sure you handle your pumpkins carefully to avoid any bruising.
Clean your harvested pumpkins with soapy water to remove any dirt and place in direct sunlight for 2 weeks before storing. In poor weather, place them in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. Once your fruits are stored, they can be kept for 3-6 months.
A second life for jack-o-lanterns
Wondering what to do with all the leftover pulp, seeds and skins? Look no further, we’ve come up with some edible, useful and creative ways to put your pumpkin waste to use.
Pumpkin pie. The best pumpkin recipes obviously must feature pie. Fresh pumpkin pie will always taste far more scrumptious than a canned offering.
Roasted pumpkin seeds. Save all of the seeds and simply roast with a little salt. Healthy and delicious.
Pumpkin spice latte. Making a homemade version of this widely beloved coffee shop drink is cheaper, far tastier and healthier.
Pumpkin bread. You can make anything into bread these days and this loaf has to be one of the tastiest variants.
Spicy pumpkin soup. Quintessentially autumnal, pumpkin soup is the ideal winter warmer. Batch cook and freeze for future cravings.
Feed the wildlife. Once you’re done displaying your carved pumpkins, cut them up and place around your garden. Sit back and watch as deer, rabbits and even hedgehogs make short work of them.
Compost. Pumpkins make great additions to compost bin. As they consist of mostly water they decompose quickly.
Unique birdfeeder. Sprinkle feed on the base of your hollow pumpkin and hang from a tree using thick twine or simply add the pumpkin seeds to your bird seed feeder.
Whether its for cooking, carving or both, growing pumpkins is both fun and rewarding. Get prepared today and enjoy a delicious harvest next autumn.