Pumpkins

My pumpkin crop has not quite eventuated as I dreamed back in November and December when I first started chucking seeds in anywhere there was space. I blame the weather.

Ok, ok, I’m no perfect gardener so some of the blame is likely mine but so far our summer has been short, sharp and at times, plain vicious. It’s all over the place and as such, gardens have struggled. From discussions I’ve had with friends, fruit crops, both commercial and personal, have struggled to fruit this year. Something about being too wet for the bees. I guess I wouldn’t want to be flying around in the rain either. Here in Ballan we saw a cold November. Traditionally the last frost date is considered Cup weekend or the weekend that includes the 1st Tuesday in November when the Melbourne Cup horse race is run. Although I don’t remember any frosts since then I know we didn’t see much warmth. The pumpkin seeds planted to germinate around the start of November failed to germinate. I think, from the 20 or so I planted I saw 1. I planted out 2 hugels with seeds as well but again, the cold weather prevented germination or at least delayed it. The plants have been slow to grow too, again aided in that by cool temperatures and likely, a lack of nitrogen in the new hugels. My veggie beds out the back with their pumpkins thickly planted should be invisible under the groaning weight of large and slightly prickly curcurbit leaves but instead I can clearly still see the mulch. :(

January and February then challenged sanity with extreme heat days where my pumpkins looked like they were wearing 1950′s dresses with no petticoats, so wilted were their leaves. Still and all they recovered well with and without watering once the temperatures dropped. However, flowering has had me worried. We’ve seen nothing at all until this last fortnight and female flowers only this week.

Pumpkin flowers, for those that don’t know come in male flowers and female flowers. Female flowers are the ones from which pumpkins grow. When the pumpkin begins to flower it generally does so with male flowers only. The female flowers come later.

Male flowers forming.

Male flowers forming.

And a male pumpkin flower ready to open.

And a male pumpkin flower ready to open.

This is a male pumpkin flower.

This is a male pumpkin flower.

And a close up of the male pumpkin flower.

And a close up of the male pumpkin flower.

 

I’ve been out pollinating yesterday and can only hope they grow fast and the frost keeps away. There are about 5 or so pollinated female flowers and several more coming on.

 

┬áTo fertilise the flowers you pick a male flower and you need to let the inside of it connect with the inside of the female flower. Very technical I know. ;) The easiest way to do this is to peel the petals off the male flower leaving only the stamen in place with its pollen. Then just touch the stamen to the stamen of the female flower. Every time I’ve pollinated a pumpkin I’ve been able to see the pollen left behind which makes it easier to now that pollination has been successful. :)
And an itty bitty baby one coming on. Might be a while yet before the bees can help this flower.

And an itty bitty baby one coming on. Might be a while yet before the bees can help this flower.

One of my female flowers yet to be fertilised. Given the bees I saw in the garden yesterday I think I can leave them to find this one when it opens today or tomorrow.

One of my female flowers yet to be fertilised. Given the bees I saw in the garden yesterday I think I can leave them to find this one when it opens today or tomorrow.

One of my fertilised female pumpkin flowers. The bees beat me to this one.

One of my fertilised female pumpkin flowers. The bees beat me to this one.

The inside of a female pumpkin flower. This one is one I fertilised. You can see the pollen from the male flower in there.

The inside of a female pumpkin flower. This one is one I fertilised. You can see the pollen from the male flower in there.

Other curcurbits are the same including zucchinis, spaghetti squash, cucumbers and watermelons too. It’s very easy to know where the fruit will come on when you can see the baby fruit waiting and ready to go. :)

The female flowers are on a thicker stem or a thin baby zucchini.

The female flowers are on a thicker stem or a thin baby zucchini.

In my garden there are other flowers too.

IMG_8173

Potato flowers are so pretty.

IMG_8171

I believe you can tell the colour of the potato by the colour of the flower. I harvested the rest of this bed of potatoes last weekend and they were indeed white spuds. I have others with pinkish flowers and I am carefully watching my Purple Sapphire potatoes for flowers to prove the theory.

I guess I will just have to learn to adapt to the weather given that the anomalies and extremes are likely here to stay thanks to climate change. Still, if we could only reign in fossil fuel spending and environmental damage then our planet might have half a chance at stabilising herself. Even so, adapting is definitely the wisest choice. Next spring, in September I shall be planting out pumpkins and melons and more in pots. I can only hope transplanting is successful.

About these ads

24 thoughts on “Pumpkins

  1. Sharon says:

    I loved this post very informative, I need to go check my pumpkin flowers now x

  2. narf77 says:

    I quote from this research

    http://www.suttonelms.org.uk/pot12.html

    “It is clear, however, that many of the potato plants with pigmented flowers are also coloured in their stems and tubers.”

    I have to say that the pumpkins that were planted as seedlings in our garden grew just as well as the pumpkins that grew in the compost heap so I think pumpkins are a vigorous and robust vegetable/fruit? To grow. I would have lots of them if the possums didn’t keep finding a way to breach the security up in my veggie garden and leaving their rotten little tooth marks in the biggest and best pumpkins :(. I am going to grow Turks heads or turban pumpkins next growing season. I LOVE how they look, taste and their excellent keeping qualities :)
    by the way, I am too lazy to pollinate pumpkins. I leave that to the bees. As we have an apiary at the rear of our property there is no shortage of bees to pollinate our veggies ;)

    • If you have enough bees then there is no need to pollinate but if you doubt the bees have visited or it’s been too wet for them then it is definitely worth giving them a helping hand.
      Pumpkins are pretty robust in my experience. We used to compost our cat litter at our old house (we do it here too but use soil for litter instead) and when we built our gardens and emptied out our other compost bins we wanted to clear the litter one out too so we scattered it under the lemon tree. Since lemons are high nitrogen loving trees it took off like a frog in a sock but there must have been a deposit of pumpkin scraps in there at some stage as one grew. It was headed halfway across the lawn before a scorching hot day toasted it. You have to be tenacious to survive as a seed in a cat litter compost bin I reckon. :)

      • narf77 says:

        “WET!!!!” Are you taking the mick young lady?! I would give that little tenacious pumpkin seed 10 out of 10 for effort. Sad it croaked really but whatchagonnadoeh? ;)

        • Not many pumpkins could have survived on Black Saturday with no care. :(
          Yeah, ok, taking the mick with Northern Tassie being wet in summer but hey, you can always hope. ;)

          • narf77 says:

            There are worse things than pumpkins dying in the heat… you could have perfectly healthy happy pumpkin vines with lovely big plump pumpkins forming and some bloody bollocky critter who keeps finding ways into Fort Knox slowly munching it’s way through them all…now THAT is worse :(

            • Yep, that IS worse. :(

              • narf77 says:

                Even worse is when you put a “Garden Chook” in to keep her from being eaten by quolls and she wreaks havoc on your garden…sigh…country living eh? ;)

                • And worst of all is when a small child leaves the gate to the veggie patch open (actually it was me but blaming the kids is so much better for my reputation ssshhh) and finding the sheep taste testing your veggie range. Thankfully they decided to “harvest” the tagasaste trees firstly. That’s what I’m growing them for. :)

                  • narf77 says:

                    Just goes to show that sheep really ARE dumb if they bypass the delicious veggies and go for the tagasaste ;)

                    • They sure are dumb, or these 2 are anyway. I gave up trying to herd them through the gate to grass to eat. They’d rather sit and try to chew inedibles rather than eat good grass (the little we have remaining that is).

  3. We never have a problem with our pumpkins (one reliable crop!) but this is really informative, thanks for sharing :) We do have problems with fruit so are hoping the new bees will take care of that for us.

  4. foodnstuff says:

    Likewise as to weather and crops. I got one miserable pumpkin. No flowers of any sex during that heat and none since, so I’ve pulled them out. Covered in mould anyway. Same for zucchini. I did get some cucumbers however, because they were in wicking boxes. A lot of learning to be had from this past summer.

    • I’m holding out hope (likely in futility) for the temperate weather to continue. Ballan does get the warm days and cold nights of Autumn for quite a while I believe so there is a chance… Going to make buying pumpkins a pricey enterprise if commercial growers are in the same boat.

  5. Sue says:

    No pumpkins for us this year – again.
    You can eat them if you dont plant them… Well you can but not in the household.
    I think it is almost getting to the point that we need to through away previous knowledge regarding growing vegies and experiment. Plant things out of season and sit back and see what happen. Ok so you arent likely to get tomatoes in winter in our neck of the woods but I think you get what I mean.
    There was a disturbing story on the news last night about projected rises in temperature and water levels up to 2070. Did you by any chance see it? The most disturbing part I thought was the statement that no matter what we do now with regards to carbon emissions etc it will not alter what is going to happen over the next 10 years or so. May have been longer….

    • Sue says:

      and that would be throw not through….should proof read before clicking post comment!!

    • No Sue, I didn’t see it. If it was on TV then that’s why. We don’t have a tv here.
      My kids love pepitas too but so far we’ve not saved our ow to dry etc. As I have the Thermomix all of our seeds, bar those I save to plant are used in soups. The thermy will blend them into near nothingness in a pumpkin soup so the extra nutrition in skins and seeds is part of our meals.

      I agree with chucking the book out the window. Climate change will throw it all on its backside anyhow. Last year I tried pumpkins in the greenhouse but powdery mildew got them in the humid environment. Was well worth a try though. I’ve got all sorts of tropicals in there at the moment though – sweet potatoes, ginver, I’m trying taro and galangal too and want to get cardamom and turmeric. The banana pup a friend is offering me makes me nervous though. The last one froze solid and I don’t want to kill another one. Still, with water butts in there and a bale of straw to compost down and put out the heat whilst it does so I hope I can heat the greenhouse sufficiently to get the tropicals through the winter.

  6. Linne says:

    Well . . . an X-rated post! I’ll be back for more . . . ;-)

    Seriously, I’m sorry to hear that everyone’s pumpkins did so poorly (or didn’t do at all). That’s sad. Sue has a point; I was thinking myself that if you plant some cold-loving and some heat-loving plants, you might have a better chance of something making it to harvest. Greenhouses and those large row covers will help in case of cold; sounds like Narfie7′s got it licked when it comes to heat, so maybe we’ll see more fish netting going up soon? Village and suburban standards are going to have to adapt, methinks . . .

    One thing about throwing out food we raise; at least we can compost it and ‘recycle’ it that way. Nothing is truly lost when we insource.

    I’ve used paintbrushes to pollinate, too, but your way sounds easier. Depends on how easy the female parts are to access.

    Another great post, Jess! Thanks.

    • Knew someone would comment on the eye-brow raising parts of this post. ;)
      As for throwing out the food, I mean merely out of the kitchen. Almost 100% of our food waste is not wasted. The goats eat the fruit leftovers and love them (apples, banana skins etc), the chooks get what the goats don’t eat including meat scraps and dairy etc, the compost and soon to be built worm farm get/will get what the chooks don’t ad I would love a bokashi composting system for fast composting the bones and any dairy waste the chooks don’t get. Not really wasted at all. :)

  7. Lynda says:

    Not much to ad but the old guy on the victorian gardening dvd i have uses a rabbit tail on the end of a stick to pollinate. He’s head gardener at an estate that was self sufficient. Its a very dry watch but full of helpful hints. I didnt have room in my little beds (arches are on the way) but i borrowed some land at the back of someone else’s house in Sunshine (beautiful soil) and gave them some seeds. Im about to post a pic of my first butternut but can i really claim ownership?

  8. a says:

    The cucumber seedling I bought, i then thought was a zucchini, then a watermelon, and now turned pumpkin has taken over a front yard, a space by about 6 x 5 metres.( landlord not impressed). We grew it in the wicking bed. I’m waiting for 11 pumpkins to finish their thing, although most I think are pretty decent sized. Timing definitely important- my first cucumber didn’t make it here (too early/ cold). The low- till wicking bed means constant plant available water and excellent soil web activity. Also maximisation of nutrient input- the pumpkin used almost all of it! I’m thanking hte old wicker for this novice pumpkins success. although could have been lucky.

    • Bribe the landlord with a giant fruit of the triffid vine and I’m sure all will be forgiven. ;) My pumpkins have put on some size but it’s still a major race against the frosts. It’s been cold in the mornings here so it’s only a matter of time now. :(
      I think the wicking bed may well have had a large effect. And pumpkins are hungry plants too so lots of food and water is exactly what it likes. No wonder you’ve had tremendous success. Here’s to lots of large ripe pumpkins.

I'd love to know what you think so please leave me a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s