How to ensure your pumpkin produces fruit to harvest
October 3, 2017
Have you grow pumpkin plants and not had any fruit to harvest? If so, these growing tips and information to encourage pollination of the female flowers will help to ensure this year you do get to harvest many pumpkins.
This weekend I went to the beautiful Central Coast of NSW to teach a gardening workshop. I used my soon to be released Vegetable Garden Workbook to run the program. At the beginning of the session I asked each of the 15 attendees to describe the one thing they really want to learn about during the day. A couple of them mentioned their pumpkin plants did not produce any pumpkins last year.
Right now is the perfect time to start your seeds. Mine are just starting to germinate. They will go into the garden once there are 3-4 leaves on each plant.
I prefer to raise my seed in trays rather than direct sow but if you prefer, pumpkin seed can be directly sown in the location it will grow.
If you plan to grow it vertically as I do, ensure there is a large frame available for it to use for support. The vines are very strong and will hold fruit from a height as it develops.
Space seeds at least 30 cm apart if you are growing multiple plants. Most varieties will produce between 3-6 pumpkins per plant. I generally plant 3 or 4 plants so I have a good supply of pumpkin to use in our meals for a year.
Note: It is common for pumpkin seedlings to emerge from compost at this time of year. If the pumpkin in the compost pile was grown from F1 (genetically modified seed) it is unlikely to produce fruit. This is one reason a pumpkin plant may not produce any pumpkins.
If you choose to leave self-seeded pumpkin from the compost it can be successful if you know you have purchased organic pumpkin.
Pumpkins require a lot of space to grow. The plant is a large vine that will take over any space it has available. It is for this reason I like to grow mine on a frame so that I can use the space around where it is planted for other plants.
Pumpkin is a heavy feeder, once the fruit has developed, provide some compost or well rotted manure to the base of the plant. Water pumpkin regularly and ensure the fruit is not going to be crushed as is grows by the edge of a garden bed, the frame it is using or anything near it. Allow each one space to grow and develop.
Fruit develops if the female flowers are pollinated. You can assist by using a soft brush (such as a small paint brush or make up brush).
To pollinate the plants manually:
Locate a male flower – they have a long stem and no fruit at the base of the flower. Take a brush and rub it over the middle of the stamen and then use the brush to gently brush over the center of the female flower. Use one male flower to pollinate one or two females. The picture below is of a female flower
Bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies, pollinate pumpkin. You need these in the garden in order to obtain harvests. Plant flowers that attract bees to your garden, beside and near your pumpkin plants.
Some of the flowers that are suited to attracting bees in the garden that you can add include:
Pumpkin planted in October is ready for harvest in March when grown from seed. To check for readiness do the following:
Tap at the base of the pumpkin with your knuckles. If it makes a hollow, woody sound it is ready – the size should be good at this stage too.
The stalk attached to the top of the pumpkin will also begin to look dry and withered when it is ready to harvest and the plant will be dying off.
When you remove the fruit from the vine do not remove the stalk. Cut and leave at least 10 cm of stalk attached or it will need to eaten immediately and is not suitable for storage.
Once harvested the fruit should be cured to harden the skin and improve storage time. Sit harvested pumpkins in an airy location in the sun for approximately two weeks. Keep an eye out for poor weather and bring them under cover if it rains.
Store pumpkins in a cool , dark location for use over the following months. Ensure you check and move them around every month or two to prevent them rotting if they are stacked in a pile against each other.
These are some of our favourite ways to use our pumpkins.
You will find many more recipes that include pumpkin via the search function in the top corner of the home page near the menu.
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