Grow it yourself: pumpkins

It is pumpkin harvest time, not planting time. Alas the first buttercup pumpkin here (they are the smaller, green coated ones) was a terrible disappointment – watery and lacking flavour. Mongrel seed, even though it came from a major seed company. They are not the buttercups they were meant to be. There is a surprisingly large range of different pumpkin seed you can buy, but the pumpkin grower here plans to keep to the proven heritage varieties next year – grey ironbark for keeping and classic buttercup for eating fresh.

Pumpkins take up a huge amount of room for 3 to 4 months yet are very cheap to buy, so if you only have a small garden, you can probably grow higher value crops. Timing for planting is important. They usually go in as small plants when the soil is warming up but no later than December. You can accelerate early growth by planting them in a bed of warm compost. In good conditions, they then rocket away. Keep the water up to them as the fruit develops because these are thirsty plants. The young shoots of pumpkins, chokos and the like are a taste treat for quick cooking.

Pests and diseases include white fly and mildew but these come late in the season, after the fruit has formed. They should not have much effect on the yield and are rarely treated.

We grew Austrian Oil Seed pumpkins last year because they produce hull-less seed. They took up the usual large amount of space for a small seed yield and the pumpkin flesh was only stock food. We are back to buying pumpkin seed this year.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.