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