Halloween, the spooky season is almost upon us. The pumpkin, the iconic symbol of this season, has taken centre stage here at the Lodge. Preparations are underway for our Pumpkin Lunch, while the annual Pumpkin Festival is approaching in Virginia, one of the biggest events in the communities’ calendar. It only seems appropriate to dedicate a blog to this celebrity status veg!
Its little wonder the pumpkin has become the pin up star for All Hallows Eve. It’s one of the most flamboyant of veggies. The sprawling mass of lily pad like leaves, run ramped in the pumpkin patch, their magical tendrils curling and twirling around anything they can grasp. Sunbursts of yellow flowers glimmer like the stars of Hollywood boulevard. As the autumn dawns the leaves slowly begin to wither and recede to unveil the colourful fruits preforming in the late autumn sun.
The pumpkin is a bit of a diva!! When it comes to growing they are very demanding. Firstly they need warmth. Therefore seeds are best sown in April for planting out mid-May. Unsurprisingly this year has been a poor year for the pumpkin, being the coldest wettest summer in over fifty years. Secondly they need plenty of food in the form of manure or compost. I recommend creating a mound of manure/compost and covering it with earth on top of which you plant your pumpkin plant, like a castle and mote for this princess of the veggie patch. This brings us onto the final demand of the pumpkin, water. Pumpkins are very thirsty creatures, the fruits being eighty to ninety percent water.
One of the most common problems when it comes to growing these curious cucurbits is powdery mildew. The grey mould covers the leaves, but to be honest it’s more a cosmetic problem than a serious issue. It’s a caused by dry conditions, and the never quenching thirst of the pumpkin. Slugs are also one of the pumpkins biggest fans. The slimy fellows love to nibble on both the flowers and fruits.
The pumpkin comes in various shapes and sizes, from buxom beauties such as the voluptuous Atlantic Giant, to the more petite cuties such as Jack be little.
It’s time to harvest pumpkins now, before the frosts hit. Ideally the sun should have ripened the skin to allow the fruits to be stored over the winter months. If the sun has been illusive place the fruits in a warm sunny spot for a few days, then in a cool dark shed for the rest of the winter. This is what we are currently doing here in Gooseberry Gardens. Their glamour shall be missed in the veg patch, but there’s always a new starlet on the horizon, and the winter salads are up and coming!