What Do You Get When You Drop A Pumpkin?… Squash!
I’m sorry I was not at the market again this Saturday but with this tortuous heat it is all I can do to keep everything watered and the idea of a whole day prepping is beyond me. They say we are to have some relief soon and hopefully that will allow me the freedom to be there this next Saturday. I hope you are all staying out of the heat and keeping cool. A dear friend called me with some questions about his Pumpkin plants and this is what I’ve found.
The Pumpkin is native to North America and has been growing here for thousands of years. It loves full sun and requires a minimum of 6 hours daily. It usually is not planted until late May or early June as the soil temperature should be close to 65 or 70 degrees. It is very sensitive to cold.
You can plant Pumpkins in rows or slight mounds the to a depth of about an inch or better yet with bedding plants that have been growing for at least 3 weeks as the time that some need to mature can extend to 100 days. They require lots of nourishment and should be fed high nitrate fertilizer until the flowers form and then a high phosphate fertilizer till maturity. The use of well aged manure and compost when planting is also a good idea. They also require a good deal of water and should be watered by hand to a depth of 1 inch every week and mulching is recommended when temperatures soar this will keep the soil most as well as suppress weeds. The PH of the soil should be around 7. As the Pumpkin is shallow rooted weeding can damage the plant so a gentle hand is required.
Water in the morning allowing the warmth of the days to allow any water on the leaves to dry.
Several fungal diseases that are found in the soil can cause problems such as Powdery Mildew that is not fatal but will affect the look and production of the plant. Anthracnose is more serious and causes dark sunken lesions on the leaves and fruit. Remove all damaged parts of the plant should this appear and do not plant Pumpkin in this area again for several years.
Garden pests such as slugs, cucumber beetle are a couple of the pests that can damage your plants and either hand picking or soap and water should protect them watch for damage that seems to happen at night and treat then for slug damage by placing newspaper around the plant and removing it in the morning. Companion plants such as Leeks, Onions and Dill will also help with unwanted pests.
When the plant begins to bear fruit some plants are green but some will be yellow to start depending on the variety that has been planted. They will turn orange when mature and exposure to sunshine will cause this change. Place the young fruit on wood or stone to keep it from rotting and rotate it gently to ensure a nice shape. Both male and female flowers will grow on your plant so do not worry if all the blooms are not forming fruit. Pruning the plant will increase the size of your fruit so trimming back vines to around 10 feet is suggested and the cut ends should be buried into the soil.
The mature Pumpkin will sound hollow when you tap on it and then it should be removed from the vine. The seed when roasted are a healthy snack but do not use the seed to plant your next years plants as they readily cross pollinate with any other Squash plants that you or your neighbour have planted. Hope this helps.
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