Be Like A Flower Turn Your Face To The Sun The Secrets to Growing Big Healthy Pumpkins

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The Secrets to Growing Big Healthy Pumpkins

Growing your own pumpkins is really good fun. Watching the vines grow, the flowers bloom and the tiny pumpkins form is truly exciting. They need between 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day, rich soil improved with compost and lots of space or something to climb on. They are extremely easy to grow and can pop out of your compost, without your help. The variety, well, who knows, depends on what you bought in the supermarket and which seeds went to the compost. They have some strange traits and it can be very frustrating when the vine is extremely healthy and you only get male flowers. It can also be very devastating if you think you will find a pumpkin if it has fallen. Why are you asking, what happened, what am I doing wrong? My answer is – probably nothing. Pumpkins are notorious for not bearing fruit.

Pumpkins belong to the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes gourds, watermelons, cantaloupes, gourds, cucumbers, and gourds. The word pumpkin comes from the word “pepon” which means “big melon” in Greek. It is classified as a vine and needs a lot of space to grow. Pumpkins are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers on the same plant, so you only need one plant to produce fruit.

Soil preparation

Pumpkins like soil pH between 6 and 7.2. If your soil is on the acidic side, I suggest adding horticultural lime, and if it is on the high side – alkaline – then you can reduce it by applying sulphur. To prepare the soil for the pumpkins, I suggest adding lots of compost and cow or sheep manure. A good handful of blood and bones plus potash will do. Pumpkins are an annual crop and need rich, organic soil to grow quickly and produce fruit before winter’s cold hits. The soil should also drain well, and if your soil is clay, I suggest making a mound using a good quality loam. This will lift their roots above the clay and poor drainage.

Setting up your pumpkin

Pumpkins need a lot of space and can crowd out other plants if left unchecked. Now, if you have a small garden and don’t want to be attacked by trifid plants, I suggest growing them next to a fence or shed, or putting up some kind of trellis and training the tendrils on it. The upside of tying them is that the fruit is separated from the soil from pests such as slugs and diseases such as mildew. If space is not an issue, then just let them roam. You will see a floating sea of ​​large pumpkin leaves enveloping your garden. If they get into mischief, just circumcise them, it won’t hurt them!

Propagation of pumpkin

The best time to plant pumpkin seeds is spring, when the soil and air temperatures warm up. If you start them in the vegetable garden, the soil temperature must be at least 20 C for germination and the air temperature 22 C. You can plant them in pots in a warm house if you wish, but the garden soil must still be above 20 C when you plant them. They don’t like cold or frost.

When planting seeds directly in the garden, make a hill about 1/2 meter wide and plant 3-4 seeds at a depth of about 4-5 cm. Depending on the heat of the soil, they should sprout in about 7-10 days. When the young seedlings have between 4-6 leaves, squeeze out the weakest plants, leaving the strongest ones. If you don’t prune the weak pumpkins, the mound will be overcrowded and no pumpkins will make it. If you don’t want to ignore them, plant them somewhere else in the veggie area.

Favorable conditions

Pumpkins are grown in the summer and take between 70-120 days before they are ready to harvest, which is usually early to mid fall. Pumpkins do not like high temperatures and will die down and stop growing. They have shallow roots, wither easily, so it is important to prepare the soil with lots of compost and animal manure to increase the water holding capacity of the soil. If the soil retains water, it is available to the plant to replace the moisture it loses through the leaves. Pumpkins do not like water stress and do not like the regime of flooding and starvation. This can cause them to split. They like regular watering, and the best time is in the morning. If you water at night and the leaves become wet, powdery mildew may appear. Pumpkins do not like the wind and should be protected from it. Heat and strong winds can cause woodiness that makes the pumpkin very unpleasant to eat. Too much wind is also thought to cause scarring of the flesh.

The vine needs about 10 weeks before it starts producing flowers, and the first are the males. They are located on long thin stalks (called pedicels) and there are many more of them than females. If you look inside a male flower, you’ll find a long, thin structure called an anther that produces pollen. Female flowers have a shorter stalk and are located closer to the vine. If you look inside the female flower, you will see the stigma, which is where the pollen is received. The pistil is at the base of the petals and that’s where the seeds develop.

Ovary fertilization

Flowers open only for 1 day; just before dawn, flower petals begin to develop and open for 4 hours. By the middle of the day they begin to slowly close, and by dusk they close forever. Pumpkins are pollinated by insects, especially native and honey bees, so it is important to encourage them in your garden. It is common for the ovary of female flowers to swell and begin to look like a pumpkin is forming. But disaster, it turns brown and falls off. This happens because it is not fertilized due to the lack of bees. There are a few things you can do to encourage them:

  • Do not use systemic (poisons that are absorbed into the plant and can last for several weeks) sprays, as many of them kill the bees when they eat the nectar of the flowers
  • Plant French lavender Lavanduala denatateblooms almost all year round.
  • Plant lots of Iceland poppies – the bees love them
  • Provide water for the bees, they will tell their friends and more bees will visit them.

Now, if the weather has been awful, too hot or too cold and you notice a few bees buzzing around, you can try fertilizing them yourself. There are 2 methods, manual pollination with a male flower or a toothbrush. For hand pollination, pick the male flowers, remove the petals and then apply pollen to the stigmas of the female flowers. I once tried the toothpick method, where you gently poke a toothpick over the anther, then gently poke it over the pistil, but it didn’t work. I suggest you try the first method.

To preserve the seeds of harvested pumpkins, store them for a month, then remove the flesh, wash it and dry the seeds on a paper towel. Then store them in a clean, dry glass jar in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. It is also a good idea to label the bottle with a variety of pumpkin and a date. I guarantee that if you don’t do this, over the years you will forget what variety it is.

Pumpkins are known to cross pollinate each other, so to be sure of the type, save the seeds of one variety that is grown in isolation. You may need to hand pollinate it to make sure there is no pollen contamination.

Why is my pumpkin not producing fruit?

I mentioned earlier that pumpkins are notorious for not producing fruit and there are many reasons why.

  • Pumpkins are sensitive to weather conditions and temperature. If it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, you might not get fruit. I suggest you try hand pollination, especially if the temperatures are above 30C. Remember, if the weather is erratic and the temperatures fluctuate a lot; then many plants are shut down until conditions become more suitable.
  • Seeds less than 3 years old are considered to produce more male than female flowers.
  • Lack of insects in your garden. Bees, ants and other insects are crucial in the process of pollen transfer. If there are none, the pollen will not be transferred to the female flower – so there is no pumpkin
  • Heavy rain can damage the pollen, which means that even if it is carried by insects, it will not fertilize the flower, resulting in no fruit.
  • One trick to trying to encourage more female flowers is to cut off the apical (also known as terminal) bud (top growing point) and encourage lateral (lateral) growth.
  • Be careful when preparing the bed to add a little potash (it encourages flowering) and not to add too much nitrogen, eg blood and bones, which causes excessive leaf growth.

Pests and diseases

There are normal pests like slugs and snails that attack the leaves. You can try picking them by hand, especially after a rain, or use a beer slug trap in a glass jar 1/2 submerged in the ground. They get hooked, get drunk and drown. There is also a circle of finely crushed eggshells, which you place around any plant they hate to crawl on. There is a new product for pans, which is a copper strip that you attach around the pan. There is also a spray that repels them, but I haven’t tried it.

If you have problems with caterpillars, I suggest that you use the organic spray Dipel, whose active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis. It will not harm you, your children, pets or other beneficial insects. Long-lasting flea is also good for sap-sucking insects such as whitefly and aphids, but it also kills caterpillars.

As for pigeons, there are good ones and bad ones. They are poorly known as 28 spotted and eat leaves, so you have to watch out for them and pick them by hand.

The disease that pumpkins are also most prone to is powdery mildew, and it can spread very quickly in hot and humid conditions. To try to control this disease, you can use cow’s milk, spray the leaves every two weeks with a solution of 1 part cow’s milk to 10 parts water. Good female birds are identified by their yellow and black bands and they eat mold, so don’t kill them. I also recommend watering in the morning, no overhead watering, but watering at ground level to prevent spores from splashing onto the leaves.

Harvesting and storage

The best part of growing pumpkins is harvesting them. You have to watch them grow, take care of them, they haven’t caught any pests or diseases, and then you think, I don’t know when to harvest them. Well, it takes between 3-4 months, they should be a nice color, sound holy when you tap them, and the skin should be hard and not show any indentations if you press your nails into them. It is very important to cut them with at least 5-10 cm of stem. This prevents the hills from entering the pumpkin and helps extend their life.

Choosing the right storage space is key if you want to have a pumpkin out of season. It must be well ventilated, without direct sunlight and cool. It must also be dried, not wet. The pumpkin must also be healthy, with no cracks in the flesh and no traces of mold. If there is, eat it immediately, it will not be stored.

The last tip to help them grow healthy and strong is to feed them a bi-weekly drink of potassium salt and fertilizer. It can be cow, sheep manure or worm liquid.

In order for pumpkins to grow successfully, they must have rich organic soil, be in the sun, good weather and regular moisture. If you follow these simple guidelines and if the weather is neither too hot nor too cold, you will have wonderful healthy pumpkins that you can store and eat and eat when they are not in season.

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