“Grow a pumpkin, just to challenge your fears,
One thing’s for sure, you’ll be boasting for years!”
Contrary to popular belief, this super-large sized fruiting veggie is actually very easy to grow. Asking for little care, and a lot of space – if you have what it takes, definitely give pumpkin a try!
SEASONS: Pumpkin plants are seasonal in nature. They are cool weather plants. For best results, sow during the mid-monsoons so your long-growing plants get time to steady their growth, and then benefit from the cooler months of winter for fruit production until March.
PROPAGATING: This plant is easily propagated from seed. Buy pumpkin seeds from your garden shop, or prepare your pumpkin seeds from scratch. Scoop out the soft center of the fully ripened pumpkin with its seeds, spread on a rack, and leave to dry, preferably in the hot sun. It may take several days for thorough drying, depending on the size and thickness of the seed. During the drying period, brush off dried pulp residue around the seeds. Once the seeds are dry, store in a brown paper bag in a cool, dark place.
GERMINATING: Pumpkin plants are best germinated in separate seeding pods that are rich in compost and peatmoss, or directly in the ground with a similar soil mix. Its seeds are large, hard shelled and highly temperature-sensitive, so they can be a little difficult to get started. It’s a good idea to scarify the seeds (file very gently with a nail file or sand paper) and/or soak them for 24 hours before placing in the ground in holes that are about 1 inch deep. Either wait until daytime temperatures are around 35 degrees, or place in compost – so that sufficient heat is generated around the seed to kick-start the germination process.
PLANTING OUT: If you have used seeding pods, then plant out your seedlings when they are sturdy in stem and the first true leaves emerge after about 2 weeks of growth. Choose very highly composted and manured, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. Plant out at least 2 feet apart in strong and full sunshine. It’s a good idea to plant pumpkins on a mound of earth so they can spread out more easily. They need plenty of space, are aggressive growers, heavy feeders and drinkers, and need to sprawl across the earth so their vines can take root and pull out more nourishment for the growing plant. So plan your space management properly before you decide to grow pumpkins! Pumpkins grow well on open plots and in very large and broad containers that allow its rooting vines space to spread out and derive nourishment.
NURTURING: Place mulch around the soil to reduce evaporation and water deeply each day, twice a day in peak summer. This is a plant that loves moisture. Water the roots and rooting stems, but not the leaves which will quickly rot when wet. It’s a good idea to water more in the mornings, so the noon sun can dry out wet leaves, if any. As your plant grows, it will throw out pumpkin vines that start rooting for more water and food. So add more compost and manure as you go along and allow your pumpkin vines space to sprawl across earth where its vines can take root. The first few flowers will be male flowers, sent out to attract bees. Thereafter female flowers (identified by bulbous stem) will bloom, ready for pollination and fruiting. At early stages of growth, the plant may abort its pollinated female flowers if it is not mature enough to support growth of pumpkins. Be patient and keep manuring and composting the earth well, so your plant grows stronger, holds on to pollinated female flowers, and decides it wants to grow them to be pumpkins. Snip off yellowing branches and dead leaves to strengthen growth of the plant. Keep marveling at the size of your growing pumpkins!
HARVESTING: Harvest your pumpkins when they are still tender on the vine. Vines are often prickly, so wear gloves while harvesting. Cut stems 1 inch away from the fruit. Ensure that you do not break the stem, as it will prevent your pumpkin from storing well. Lift carefully from the bottom and set it in the sun for 1 week to harden the skin, seal the stem, and improve its taste. If soil nutrients and growing conditions are favorable, each plant will produce several pumpkins each season (5-6 months). When productivity declines at end of season, uproot, compost, replenish your soil and use that space for growing leafing and rooting veggies next.
From tiny seed to a gigantic Cinderalla pumpkin!
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