We associate pumpkins with halloween, and of course they are fun to carve faces in to – BUT, they are also very good to eat. For the home-grower that is trying to produce crops to store over the winter, pumpkins are an attractive option since they store particularly well, thanks to their very tough skin.
Sow seeds in early May individually in 7cm pots. Sow about 2cm deep. The pots will need to be kept on a heating mat or a sunny windowsill. Transplant them to larger 12 or 15cm pots after about 3 weeks. Leave the pots indoors or in a greenhouse or polytunnel.
Make sure the soil where you are going to grow your pumpkins has had a decent application of well rotted manure or compost. Harden off the plants well and then plant out in early to mid June. Cover with fleece if it’s cold at nights. Space the plants 2m apart – this seems a lot, but once these babies get moving, there will be no stopping them. A single plant can support just one or two decent sized pumpkins, so you should remove the smaller fruits and flowers to allow the plant to focus its energy on growing the larger fruits. Place a piece of slate or a brick under each fruit so that it’s not touching soil – if the fruit is in constant contact with wet soil it will go soft and might rot.
Harvest when the leaves die back or before if there’s a risk of frost. Cut off the pumpkin from the plant leaving the stalk attached to it. If they need to be ripened further put them out in the sun by day, before bringing them in again by night – do this for a week or so. Or leave them on a sunny windowsill to ‘cure’ – this is where the skin hardens up which means they will store for longer. Pumpkins will store right through the winter in a cool place.
They can take over a veg patch, sending shoots here there and everywhere. So probably not a great idea for a small garden. Keep them in check by moving the shoots back to the bed they should be in. They can be coiled carefully in to a circle.