I am not the kind of gardener who tills an acre and plants all of the vegetables I can think of in that plot of land. However, I do enjoy growing a few things that don’t require a lot of work, mostly herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and jack-o-lantern pumpkins.
The pumpkins are just for fun and will go into the back swath of land that we don’t use for anything else. Their long vines like to run and twine and send up elephant-ear sized leaves from the raised hills my husband will prepare for me in about a month. But they need a head start on the weather in order to mature into the large shapes that will look good in the landscape this fall. Plus it just puts a smile on my face to watch little blossoms grow into tiny green globes that seem to fatten almost daily into giant orange misshapen decorations. These are not good for eating and if you want to grow the pie-making variety, use a sweeter, smaller pumpkin variety.
Last weekend I filled tiny starter pots with soil and stuffed two seeds into each one. Then I sprinkled a little water over them – not too much, just enough to really moisten the soil – then I covered the whole thing with a clear top (plastic wrap will work just as well) and stuffed it on top of the refrigerator to germinate. This is the best tip you can probably glean from this article. The refrigerator will put off enough heat to keep the seeds warm, and there in the balmy, moist darkness, your seeds will think they are in the Elysian Fields and shoot out of their seed pods in anxious green glory.
Just yesterday I noticed their heads sticking up like periscopes on submarines, duck-beak shapes that looked like little mouths wanting to talk to me. They were all the way to the top of the cover and I had to remove them from their high, dark perch and give them a fresh drink of water.
Later today – or possibly tomorrow – I will carefully repot them into larger containers. Their roots need room to spread out and tangle up. Then I’ll start giving them a little direct sun every day, not too much all at once, starting with an hour or two in the morning then increasing it gradually so that their tender shoots and leaves aren’t burned by the hot sun. After the danger of frost and freeze has passed – usually May 1 for my region – I’ll stick them into mounds of dirt and compost that my husband will prepare in the previously mentioned back strip of land. And that’s all I need to do really, except feed with a good vegetable food about once a month and water if it gets too dry. Weeding isn’t necessary, their leaves and long shoots smother out most weeds and the ones that get through can’t really compete with the pumpkins and almost act as soft green bedding for the beasty babies forming on the vine. That is another reason that I enjoy growing them.
If you want a plethora of pumpkins for your fall landscaping, then leave all of the fruits on the vine. If however, you are looking for size instead of quantity, keep one or two per vine and pinch the others off. That way all of the nutrients go directly to the ones you chose instead of being shared by all of its siblings. If you have room for several plants, you could do a bit of both – having some large pumpkins and some vines that you let produce as many as possible.
I hope you’ll try this. The process is the same for any plant that you wish to start from seeds. Don’t be intimidated by the whole germinating, hardening-off, planting process. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. A lot of heirloom plants are necessary to start from seeds and you’ll extend your harvesting season if you get them started indoors while you wait for the weather to be accommodating to planting outside.
If you plant a few pumpkins now, your house will swell with color this fall and be the envy of the neighborhood. This is also a good project for children and they could even sell their extras at a local farmer’s market or yard sale. Plus, they will love watching the maturation of the pumpkins and then choosing their jack-o-lanterns from their own backyard.
Send me your pictures this fall. I’d be interested in seeing what you grew. Happy planting!
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