I really don’t have room to grow pumpkins but each year I grow them anyway, in a little 6′ x 7′ square next to our driveway. The pumpkin vines grow beyond the square but have room to spread out underneath our neighboring plum tree. I plant a handful of seeds and let three or four plants grow together.
I’m not an expert pumpkin farmer but I do cover the basics. We (meaning my husband, with me “supervising”) mix compost into the soil before planting. The plants get regular water and as they get bigger, I deep water them by leaving the hose running on a low water flow. Unfortunately most of the time I get distracted and leave the hose running for an hour or two (!) but the pumpkins are hardy and don’t seem to mind.
The pumpkin plants grow male and female flowers. Unless you have plenty of bees to fertilize the pumpkins, you’ll have to step in for mother nature. Here’s how: Once flowers start growing, check them each day (they only live half a day). There will be plenty of male flowers; what you’re really looking for are the female ones, they don’t grow as often.
In case you haven’t noticed, the male and female parts look a lot like human parts, if you know what I mean…
When you find both a male and female flower, take a Q-tip and roll it around the stamen of the male plant. This picks up the pollen that you’ll be bringing to the female flower.
Then you insert the Q-tip into the stigma of the female flower and rotate it around. This usually gets giggles from the uninitiated.
Watch the female flower over the next couple of days. If fertilization was successful, you should see a baby pumpkin!
We had plenty of bees this year, so I didn’t have to artificially fertilize many flowers.
I was able to grow 12 pumpkins over the summer. A couple of them were “volunteers” from last year’s white pumpkin plants.
This year I grew Cinderella pumpkins because they are great for cooking as well as carving. Now I have to confess, my pumpkins don’t grow really big and for some reason, my Cinderellas don’t get those deep ridges and beautiful red skin. Maybe if I added fertilizer to the plants and limited the number of pumpkins to four or five, they would grow bigger and redder. Oh well, every year they still taste delicious in pies, soups and stews!
Speaking of stews, if you want to impress your guests at your next dinner party, I’d recommend this recipe by Pierre Schaedelin that I discovered in a Martha Stewart Living Magazine. It’s called Stuffed Pumpkin Stew. It tastes delicious and looks brilliant (no, I’m not British, but “brilliant” describes it perfectly).