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The reliable guide to growing pumpkins
Pumpkins come in hundreds of varieties differing in size, colour, taste, and texture, from ballooning giants to teeny-tiny gourds. From the purely decorative, to pumpkins fit for a king’s feast, there’s a variety out there just for you.
Ensure you’re choosing a variety that will fit in your garden or space in the vege patch. Some of the best Pumpkins are Mammoth, Trombone, Turks Cap, Button, Calhoun, Triamble, Crown and Ironbark. Our family favourites are:
Butternut Pumpkin – These are mid-sized and on average they weigh 2kgs.
Butternut pumpkin is more pear shaped, with a long body rather than squat and round. It’s a light orange-beige colour on the outside with deep yellow flash. It has a sweet, nutty and dense, taste which holds its shape. The Butternut Pumpkin is best for baking, roasting and blending into pumpkin soup.
Queensland Blue Pumpkin – A very popular large sized Australian pumpkin variety that grows all year round. They weigh on average about 5kgs.
The Queensland Blue Pumpkin has a distinctive blue/green skin with deep ridges. It has a mild taste that pairs well with most dishes.
These pumpkins are well suited to boiling, baking, roasting, steaming or pureeing.
Pumpkin Planting Position
Pick a sunny sheltered site. Spacing Single Plants: 90cm (2′ 11″) each way (minimum). Rows: 90cm (2′ 11″) with 90cm (2′ 11″) row gap (minimum).
The growing Pumpkin requires more room than any of the other members of the Cucurbitous family, and twelve feet each way between the “hills” is necessary.
Plant the seeds in a full-sun spot and improve the soil before planting by digging in well-rotted manure or compost. Sow two seeds on their side 2.5cm (1in) deep if sowing directly into the soil or sow under cover in pots. Transfer to larger pots if necessary then plant out when no danger of frost.
It’s best not to plant seed from store-bought pumpkins, you’re better off buying seeds from reputable brand than saving ones from a random pumpkin. This is because a lot of produce from the supermarket will be hybrid varieties that will either not reproduce at all from seed, or revert back to an earlier variety.
Growing Pumpkins are heavy feeders. Using an all-purpose vegetable garden fertilizer will provide them with the right food they need or with a lot of well rotted animal manure. Fortnightly liquid feed with a deep yet gentle soaking once per week — about an inch of water at a time. Pumpkin leaves can look wilted in the afternoon heat, even if the soil is still moist. Mulching your beds will help keep pumpkin plants more consistently hydrated and also keep down the weeds.
In general, you do not need to prune your vines. Big leaves help them produce more carbohydrates, which mean more pumpkins or thin your plants to one or two fruits each in order to grow giant prize pumpkins. However, pick off any early solitary blossoms for the sake of a more uniform crop later. Should the plants, after flowering, run too much to vine, pinch them back to force fruiting. For the best results, pick off all the flowers from a plant after four or five fruits have set and pinch back all the ends.
Spreading a layer of hay or straw underneath your developing pumpkin crop can help protect the fruit during the hot summer months and it helps keep the pumpkins cleaner. Towards the end of the summer raise the pumpkin off the ground by putting a piece of wood or similar under them to prevent rotting.
When to Harvest Pumpkins
After several months of growing, pumpkins generally take about three months to reach maturity, but it can depend on the variety. Check seed packet for the “Days to Maturity” to determine when you can expect to harvest your crop. Your pumpkins will reach maturity when the rinds harden and reach the desired shade. A ripe pumpkin will make a hollow sound when you knock on it.
Pick the fruit when ripe, but where required for storing through the Winter, pick them almost ripe, taking care not to start the stem, and leave them in the sun to dry. The end of the stem will soon dry, and the fruit can then be stored away in a dry, airy shed or cellar away from the frost. Be particularly careful not to bruise the fruit when handling, otherwise it will not keep.
Definitely harvest before a heavy frost, which will damage the fruits. Cut the vine with pruning shears leaving several inches of stem attached. When the plant starts to die cut off the pumpkin leaving part of the stalk attached. Allow the skin to harden in the sun for a few days if wanting to store them in a frost-free place.
Ideal Companion Plants for Pumpkins
Borage, Lovage, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Peas, Beans, Sunflower, Sweetcorn, Tansy and Lemon Balm.
Now sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour — either by carving, cooking, or decorating.