The Giving Pumpkin

On a cool winter day, long before its scheduled appearance, a tiny pumpkin seed broke ground. How quaint, I thought, but how could it last? It was still cold at night.

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Pumpkin Sprout * March 4th, 2016

According to my seed packet, pumpkin seeds should go in the ground in May after “danger of frost has passed.” It was early March after all.

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The start of something special

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Pumpkin Vines (foreground). My crop grown from seeds in the Earth Box. RIP my failed little crop. * May, 2016

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Pumpkin Vines and a Strolling Mouse the Cat * May 26th, 2016

As weeds appear, they are unceremoniously tugged from the earth, but I let other tiny seedlings grow. When it comes to my garden I’m part dictator (off with their weedy heads) and part socialist (everyone deserves a fair chance).  I didn’t pamper the pumpkin, but I didn’t discourage it either. Before long, we were checking on the plant every day.  In the heat of summer, pumpkin vines grow like weeds. Curly tendrils grab hold of nearby plants and meander across the garden. The Giving Pumpkin took off before spring!

If you’re new to planting pumpkins, it goes like this: the seed sprouts and a small plant appears. Several leaves form and the vine trails. Male flowers start to grow on the vine, opening by day, closing at night, and dropping from the vine within a day or two.

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Male Pumpkin Flower * May 7th, 2016

Then the female flowers appear and the bees are on the job. The bees travel between blooms, cross-pollinating as they gather nectar for the hive.

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Female Pumpkin Flower

Presto! Tiny green pumpkins begin to form on the vine. It’s not a done deal by any means. Those tiny pumpkins might last a day or two before shriveling and dropping to the ground. Sooner or later though, a glorious pumpkin takes hold and off it grows. If you’re lucky, the fabulously forming fruit goes undetected by rats, squirrels and the dreaded squash bugs.

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Turning Orange in the Sun * June, 2016

The size of the mature leaves closely determines the size of the pumpkin.

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Pumpkin leaf correlates to the size of the fruit

Here’s what’s new this year with this fabulous giving pumpkin. As the fruit forms, the energy diverts from the plant to the fruit.  In the past, once that happened there was no turning back. In rapid succession, the leaves turned ashy, literally crumbling to dust in your hands.

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Pumpkin leaves turn to ash

I removed the dead leaves, harvested all three pumpkins, and figured that was that. My son asked it we could leave the vine a little longer, as we spotted a tiny budding pumpkin. So we did. To my delight, several new leaves formed at the joints and the vine took on a second life: more leaves, more flowers, more fruit. I’ve never “grown” such a prolific pumpkin.

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Pumpkin Vine at Dusk * June 10th, 2016

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New growth on the self seeded pumpkin

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Tall twins and a cousin * August 9th, 2016

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A Second Pair of Pumpkins * August 9th, 2016

The average life of a pumpkin plant is 90 to 125 days from seed to maturity. When I harvested the last pumpkin we were well into October.

The last of the pumpkins. Not quite orange, but full of teeth marks.

The last of the pumpkins. Not quite orange, but full of teeth marks.

What a fabulous crop! I may start following Pauline’s advice. I’ll just toss a bunch of seeds over my shoulder and let nature do the rest. This season was great fun.

*With a tip of my hat to Shel Silverstein, author of The Giving Tree.

Note: On October 31st, my husband carves the pumpkins and we display them on the deck. We average 300 costumed children at our door each year. It’s a festive night. Here are some of his carvings from prior years.

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34 thoughts on “The Giving Pumpkin

      • Oh no Alys – your generation must have been among the fore-runners for modern food, canned, sterilised and nearly devoid of nutrients. 😦
        Do don your big chefs hat and try your hand and make some pumpkin soup or even pumpkin pie – you’ll never return to the canned stuff! And it really isn’t that hard…….. You can also dry the seeds for delicious and nutritious snacking 🙂 (Not that I’ve ever done that – but maybe one day) And – another thought here, I’m on a roll! – you could use all the flesh that Mike scoops out when he’s carving the pumpkins and thereby do away with the tedious job of peeling the skin off. 🙂 You’re welcome 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Audrey. The squirrels get all the credit for planting. I’m the gatekeeper.

      Mike on the other hand gets 110% credit for his amazing pumpkins. I love seeing what he comes up with year after year.

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  1. Its other name could be Determined Pumpkin ~ no way was it going to squander the opportunity to thrive! No bugs, I see. What was your magic trick this year, as I know you have been despairing in past years? Have a Happy Halloween, and enjoy every minute of it. Don’t forget to post photos of this year’s carved pumpkins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that Anne: Determined Pumpkin. This one wins the blue ribbon for sure. I took two seasons off from planting any pumpkins, hoping that any that overwintered would have to eventually die off or go elsewhere. Last summer I had another plant volunteer and produce one pumpkin. I didn’t provide any water, and the roots were bone dry when we eventually dug it out of the ground. It survived on morning dew! Can you believe it? So perhaps a dry environment is key. This year’s plant wilted every day in the heat, but by dusk, the leaves were plump once again. Amazing! And yes, I promise photos. Thanks for reminding me.

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  2. Isn’t that interesting, how much it wanted to live and give? I wonder what was special about that one pumpkin plant . . . And its fate is delightful–those pumpkin carvings are excellent! Your husband is really good at that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kerry. I will pass on your kind words to Mike. He impresses us every year.

      We ended up with three, un-planned, volunteer pumpkins and they all grew quite differently. One grew more like a plant then a vine and produced two, globe-shaped pumpkins. The third plant produced one or two pumpkins, and the one that survived isn’t much bigger than a baseball. Each one so different in shape, size, growth pattern and location. What fun!

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  3. Well that little pumpkin plant was determined was it? Did you have to water during the crazy heat or do they actually prefer that? I’m really amazed that no ‘night’ critters found those pumpkins and made a midnight snack of them. Your yard is so tidy, I’m sure you must weed constantly. It slays me that the pretty things I want to grow have to compete with the weeds that need absolutely nothing to grow. That old adage, “growing like a weed” has merit, since they seem to appear over night. I love the way Mike carves them, my favourite being the kitten. I don’t think I’ll put out a pumpkin this year, too chilly. What a weird fall we’ve had here…gah! Happy Halloween (( Alys )) xo but before I leave the garden, I did see little Slinky out there in your pumpkin patch too ❤ gentle hugs dearest ❤

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    • I’m amazed myself at the success of these volunteer plants. It’s quite remarkable. I didn’t provide any additional water to the three plants, though they may have drawn some from a nearby drip system. Like the one that grew last year, they seem to get by on little to no added water. This one drooped at the end of each hot day, but I let it be. By night fall, the plant perked up again. Isn’t that terrific?

      So here is the things with weeds in San Jose. I pulled weeds like crazy throughout the spring. Like you, they seemed to pop up over night. But as soon as the rains stop, the weeds also stop…or significantly slow down. The ones that do grow insinuate themselves next to another plant’s roots. I yank them out a few times, and then I’m generally good for the season. Now that we’ve had just a couple of rain storms, they’re popping up again. Because you have rain all summer long, your weeds have a steady supply of moisture. They say the best way to combat them is heavy mulch and vigilance, but I’m convinced it would take a nuclear event to wipe them out completely. My biggest nemesis is oxalis. It roots sideways, making it difficult to get out properly. It also grows rapidly, so it could flower and seed in a few days, making it easy to spread.

      I will be sure Mike carves another kitty this year. He takes requests. 🙂 Thanks for noticing Slinky. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. She loved her time in the garden. I probably have at least 100 pictures of her out there.

      Sigh.

      Thank you for those hugs. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Happy Halloween to you, too.

      Mike is quite talented with his carving tools. One year he downloaded a character from a children’s story book by Rosemary Wells (Max and Ruby). It was a favorite of my boys at the time. His pumpkin looked just like Max. It’s fun to hear the comments as people come to the door on Halloween night.

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    • Thank you, Helen. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I too wish I had Mike’s patience and carving skills. He really does an amazing job and he has a great time. I love the way the house smells, too, when he’s carving them. Mmmmmmm

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  4. Mother nature will always give if given the opportunity. She just wants us to realize who’s really in charge. What a delightful surprise that generous plant was after you had thrown in the towel on pumpkins. Mike carves the best looking pumpkins I have ever seen. What a great pumpkin pair you make. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marlene, you make me smile. Thank you! Mother Nature does knows best…like you, I’m convinced. I’m looking forward to seeing what the squirrels plant next year. 😉

      Mike does an amazing job with his carvings year after year. It’s amazing, too, how they come to life when the sun sets and the candles are “lit”. We use battery operated ones now. They are so much safer.

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  5. Pingback: The Clock is Running Down: Four More Days of Halloween Fun – Gardening Nirvana

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