If you’ve been following along for a while, this will come as no surprise: I love pumpkins.
I love growing them, harvesting them and finding creative ways to show them off leading up to Halloween. Mike takes over from there, carving extraordinary Jack o’ lanterns for the front deck.
After growing pumpkins for a decade, I had two bad seasons in a row. Squash bugs infested my small patch the first year, claiming a few pumpkins entirely, forcing an early harvest of what remained. I relocated the pumpkin crop from the back garden to the front the following summer, but as soon as the plants fruited the squash bugs were back. Then the drought dragged on and I stopped planting them altogether.
The pumpkin growing hiatus did the trick and sent those dreaded squash bugs packing. Further, I’ve now had a couple of self-seeded pumpkin vines grow without a single drop of additional water, at least from me. All the reading I’ve done says that pumpkins like warm, moist soil and lots of water. I learned last summer, though, that they can hydrate from the morning dew using their straw-like stems. Don’t you just love nature’s resilience?
Late last year, after Halloween had come and gone, I did what any self-respecting gardener would do. I harvested the seeds, dried them and stored them for the winter.
Ha! I’m kidding!
Instead of saving the seeds, I sent a “written invitation” to the neighborhood squirrels. What exactly does that look like, you ask? The first invitation was subtle. I placed a pumpkin in the center of the garden and carried on with my day. I glanced out the window from time to time, and sure enough, this cautious squirrel showed up for a meal.
Squirrel eating pumpkin seeds
Squirrel enjoying pumpkin seeds
Pausing for approaching competitors
They don’t like the fruit or the skin, but there are plenty of other garden visitors to take care of that. It wasn’t long before it looked like pumpkin mush.
The second “invitation” landed on the back steps in view of the sliding glass door. I kept the camera nearby and sure enough another squirrel came along and helped him or herself to the seeds.
Squirrel approaching pumpkin
Nibbling on seeds
Squirrel has had his fill
I love watching squirrels eat as they sit on their haunches keeping watch.
Fast-forward to this spring, and I’ve got pumpkins growing throughout the garden. There are a couple of large specimens growing along the side of the house. As an aside, I removed three large flowering vines last year so we could replace the dilapidated fence. I didn’t want to replant anything till the new fence went in. Long story short, it will be October before it’s replaced. Meanwhile, the pumpkins showed up and off they grew.
Front garden, under window
Front garden near Magnolia
Two pumpkin vines, garden side yard
Pumpkin blossom male flower
First pumpkin vine to bear fruit this season
Beach ball sized pumpkin
One of the pumpkin plants actually made it into a planter box and it’s also the first to produce fruit. It’s getting the best sunlight and moisture from a drip system so it’s doing well.
There are three smaller pumpkin vines, struggling to take hold but refusing to give up. I’m just letting them be for now.
The biggest surprise showed up in the last couple of weeks under our home office window. After freshening up the front garden after the sweet-peas went to seed, we replanted the area under the window with a gardenia and a few sunflowers. A week or so later, in the blazing heat I might add, I brought home 36 bags of redwood mulch and covered every bit of exposed dirt. We upped the watering to twice a week to help establish the new plants, and with that several more pumpkin plants arrived on the scene.
I love checking on the vines each day, following the traditional progress of male flowers, then the female flowers and with good pollination, wonderful fruit. If our luck holds, and the rats, opossums and squirrels let them be, we’ll have carving pumpkins once again.