A Spooktacular Addition to the Garden
by Rita Campbell
Will Charlie Brown miss another Halloween party waiting in the garden for The Great Pumpkin? The Great Pumpkin has one faithful believer, Linus. Maybe The Great Pumpkin will show up in your pumpkin patch this year! Whether it be the musical group, Smashing Pumpkins, the Peanuts Halloween Pumpkin or the famous Cinderella coach made from a pumpkin, October is a month when we celebrate this large fruit otherwise known as a squash.
Did you know that 80 percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October. With that said in order to actually have pumpkins for the fall season the seeds have to be started by June. Six of the seven continents can grow pumpkins. Antarctica is the only continent that they won’t grow in.
Children are natural gardeners. They are curious, like to learn by doing and love to play in the dirt. Simply growing pumpkins and caring for something over time can teach a child self satisfaction as well as allowing them to observe the life cycle of life first hand. It can teach a child how to nurture as well as respect for nature. It can also make a child more aware of the environment and the world around them.
If you have the room growing pumpkins is a must for a child’s garden. And yes you will need a lot of room! Unless you decide to grow them vertically which means you will need support for each pumpkin. Pumpkins grow on vines. While some pumpkins are small some can get really, really big. The smaller pumpkins have a sweeter taste and usually are the ones used for pumpkin pie.
Plant your seeds in a small hill, poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week. After a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. When you have three pumpkins on a vine, pick off future blossoms so that vine will only have three pumpkins to support. Pumpkins like a lot of water but don’t plant pumpkins in wet or dense soil. They need good well drained soil and lots of sun. Pumpkins will take 80-120 days before you can pick them. When the pumpkin feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped, your pumpkins are ready to harvest. It is important to make sure that your pumpkins don’t rot while still on the vine. To do this use straw mulch or old newspapers and pine straw under each pumpkin as it grows until it is time to pick. Most champion pumpkin growers have their own methods and secrets for producing the gigantic pumpkins that win pumpkin contests every year. This might be a fun project but would take some research and be the beginning of a summer of long but rewarding work.
Some great varieties to plant are:
Atlantic Giant: a large pumpkin with red-orange skin. It is excellent for pies, shows, and as a giant vegetable.
Jack Be Little: Mini-pumpkins that can be held in one hand. These are very prolific and ornamental.
Becky: A classic orange medium-sized Halloween pumpkin perfect for carving. High yielding.
In the early stages of growth the main enemies of the pumpkin vine are slugs and snails. They can completely devour an emerging plant and kill it before it has a chance to grow.
Pumpkins were traditionally grown with corn and runner beans by the Amercan Indians. This method is called the “three sisters.” This is called companion planting and is beneficial to all three. The bean traps nitrogen in the soil which feeds the pumpkins, the corn provides the pole to support the beans and the pumpkins provide dense leaf and ground cover to suppress the weeds and keep pests away from the corn.
There are simply too many facts to name but I would like to share a few.
Just like zucchini or yellow squash pumpkin flowers are edible.
The tradition of the Jack O-Lantern is believed to have come from Ireland, where they used to carve faces into turnips, beet and other root vegetables as part of the Gaelic Festival.
Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine. Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
Pumpkins are usually orange but can sometimes be yellow, white, green or red.
Pumpkins can be a spooktacular addition to any garden. And who knows maybe this year The Great Pumpkin will show up in your garden!