FOR PLANT­ING A PUMP­KIN PATCH OF MANY COLOURS

Whether you like yours white, blue, grey, pale green, or­ange, striped or knob­bly, you can never have too many pump­kins. Or so says this pump­kin lover. A ded­i­cated pump­kin patch will en­sure you re­main in pump­kin for the whole year.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Jane's Garden Diary - WORDS JANE WRIG­GLESWORTH

Choose a patch that gets at least six hours of di­rect sun­light a day and dig in gobs of com­post.

Tra­di­tion­ally, pump­kins are planted on mounds about 80-90cm in di­am­e­ter, with moats dug around them. These moats catch wa­ter runoff and di­rect the wa­ter to the roots. How­ever, a flat area is just as good, and 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 to grow.

If you’re still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of in­clement weather in your area this month, 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’ll 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 10-15m 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 and ef­fort 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 that 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 au­tumn frosts 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 dry, cool 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 the neigh­bour­hood ro­dents.

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