Pumpkin - provides fibre, contains potassium and carotenoids (the antioxidants found in orange, yellow, red and dark green vegetables).
It is wonderful as a cooked veggie, makes great soup and delicious pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are so easy to grow that you most likely know the basics, but here's a few tips for you anyway. Consider growing different varieties as there are many interesting pumpkins to choose from.
Pumpkins are warm-season vegetables that don't like to be transplanted. The seeds are large, so are best sown directly in the position that they will occupy for the summer. They will need between three and four months of frost-free days to reach maturity.
Sow your pumpkins seeds in a well drained, fertile soil, in a sunny position, as you want them to grow quickly. They prefer a soil pH of around 6.0. Add organic matter to the soil before planting and follow up with a measure of organic fertilizer half way through the growth cycle.
Pumpkins do well planted three to five in small mounds. Push each seed into the soil about 2cm / 1inch deep. In a month or so, thin to the healthiest two or three plants per mound. Space your mounds about 1metre / 3feet to 1.5metres / 4.5feet apart. Or you could try growing them in rows, placing two seeds per hole about 1metre / 3feet between seeds.
Pumpkins don't like sitting in wet soil so only water when necessary, but water deeply. Powdery mildew can be a problem for pumpkins, so watering from below is helpful in preventing this disease.
There are several pests that will attack pumpkins, so it is best to grow in a companion planting situation such as with corn, beans and radishes.
Keep weeds at bay by adding organic mulch to the soil surface around your pumpkins once the soil has warmed enough.
Male and female flowers appear on the same vine. The fruits develop from the base of the female flower, which soon withers and drops off. Most pumpkins take around 50 days to mature, so you'll be harvesting in autumn (fall).
Wait until the vine starts to die off and the fruit has developed a rich colour. The stem right next to the pumpkin should be dry and hard before removing it from the vine. Make sure the stem remains attached to the pumpkin or it will not store for very long.
It is best to "cure" your harvest for between 7 and 10 days at around 25°C / 80°F, then store in a cool, dry place.
There are so many wonderful varieties to choose from, with such varying shapes and sizes. Remember to save the seeds of your most successful pumpkins so that you can grow even better ones next season.
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