This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pumpkin and Squash Guide

Pumpkin 'Hundredweight'

I am continuing to write the basic gardening guides for GardenMessenger members and others who visit the GardenMessenger website. Amongst the latest is a brief review of the cultivation of pumpkins and squashes.

Pumpkins and Squashes
Pumpkins and squashes are both fun and economical plants to grow. While it is true that they can occupy a considerable space in the vegetable garden, they can be highly productive. Pumpkins are often objects of fun and considered to be fruits that are grown for their spectacular size, rather than their nutritional value.

It is true that it is a satisfying achievement to grow a monster fruit, but when cultivated in a more rational manner the yield of high quality fruit is an excellent return for the time and space expended. The best known pumpkin cultivar is called ‘Hundredweight’, but both ‘Atlantic Giant’ and ‘Jack O' Lantern’ are widely grown.

The related squashes are not as well known in Europe as in North America where they are staple diet. In Europe the most widely grown are ‘Hubbard's Golden Squash’ and ‘Acorn Squash’, along with various crook-neck cultivars. For those who are not familiar with them, squashes all produce fruits which have the quality of very firm marrows.

All pumpkins and most squashes are trailing plants that require an open sunny position and a free-draining, richly organic soil. They are usually sown under glass or on the window ledge during spring, although in frost-free districts they can be sown directly in the open ground. Here two or three seeds are sown in a group at regular stations on the plot and the emerging seedlings are thinned to the strongest.

Indoors the seeds are sown individually in small pots of a good seed compost and pot grown until it is safe to plant out once the danger of frost has passed, usually during late spring or early summer. They must be kept weed-free and well watered particularly during dry spells. The fruits are harvested regularly as they mature. Unblemished ripened fruits of most squashes are easily stored in a cool, dry, frost-free place.

When growing a giant pumpkin it is usual to restrict fruiting. Once the plant has become established it will quickly develop spreading growths that will produce flowers and fruits. Allow three fruits to set. Then remove the first one and observe the other two. When these reach the size of a tennis ball remove the weaker. Keep all the lateral shoots trimmed back to three leaves from the main stem and keep well watered.
Photo: Suttons Seeds

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Happy Gardening



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