Pump­kin vines as peak per­form­ers

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

There’s an old say­ing, ‘‘To be a suc­cess­ful gar­dener, grow pump­kins’’. And you bet­ter be­lieve it. In a warm, sunny spot you can ex­pect them to take off like there’s no to­mor­row. If space is lack­ing, you can grow pump­kins ver­ti­cally. The vines send out a num­ber of run­ners that cling to what­ever’s in their way, so you can eas­ily train them up fences or trel­lises. As the fruit be­comes larger, cre­ate a sling out of bird net­ting or panty­hose to help sup­port its weight. Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of di­rect sun­light a day and dig in heaps of com­post. Tra­di­tion­ally, pump­kins are planted on mounds about 80 to 90cm in di­am­e­ter, with moats dug around them. These moats catch wa­ter runoff and di­rect it to the roots. A flat area is just as good for grow­ing pump­kins though. So too is a slop­ing bank, pro­vided lots of mois­ture is sup­plied. If sow­ing on mounds, sow four or five seeds di­rectly on top of the mound. Once seedlings have es­tab­lished, thin them out, leav­ing the two strong­est plants. If you’re still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of in­clement weather in your area, start your pump­kins in­doors and transplant when the weather is con­sis­tently warm. If cold weather threat­ens, place a cloche over your seedlings to pro­tect them. As the plants grow over the next few weeks, they need food – and plenty of it. A fish emul­sion, (avail­able from gar­den cen­tres – or make your own by soak­ing fish re­mains in wa­ter) is ideal. A gen­eral fer­tiliser is also good. Feed once a month to pro­vide fat, tasty fruit. Af­ter a while, the run­ners will start to race off with the main vine grow­ing 10 to 15m long if you let it. There is also a sec­ondary vine, which usu­ally grows in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. As they grow, shoots emerge from the main and sec­ondary vines which can be se­lec­tively pruned so that more en­ergy can go into pro­duc­ing fat fruit on the main and sec­ondary vines – or at the very least, so you can con­trol where your vine is head­ing. Some gar­den­ers also like to re­move a few fruit so the re­main­ing fruit grows larger. Pump­kins are har­vested when they have a deep, uni­form colour and a hard rind. When you press the rind with your fin­gers, it should not dent. For most pump­kins this will be af­ter the vines have shriv­elled and died but be­fore frost has set in. If stor­ing pump­kins, leave about 5cm of stalk at­tached to the top. Let your pump­kins cure in the sun for a few days then store in a cool dry spot. If stor­ing them in a garage or shed you may want to put them in a sim­ple hand­made chicken wire cage, oth­er­wise they may be­come din­ner for neigh­bour­hood ro­dents.

Sun-drenched: Let your pump­kins cure in the sun for a few days then store in a cool dry spot.

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