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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Success

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

A couple of weeks ago our pumpkin season finished here in South Eastern Australia.  The three wheelbarrow loads of vines are now composting away nicely, and the garden looks much tidier.

Did I have much success I hear you ask?  I am proud to announce that this has been my best pumpkin growing year ever!  I have been trying to grow this vegetable for at least three seasons now, with very limited success.  Here is a bit of history.

Year one, I planted butternuts (squash) in a large pot and a fair bit of vine and lots of flowers, but it kept on drying out, so therefore no pumpkins.

Year two, butternuts again, and in a small garden bed.  For my hard work I received two smallish butternuts that were very tasty, but there were just not enough of them.

Year three. Success!

And this harvest was just the begining!  In the photo are Australian Butter, Golden Nugget and Queensland Blue pumpkins.

These two butternuts decided to grow from the compost that I spread in the spring.  Who am I to turn down a gift from nature?

Also, just before I pulled all of the vines, I found these four pumpkins lurking in the patch.  All up I harvested 13 pumpkins for winter.

I believe my success was due to a few factors.  I selected an area where the plants could stretch their legs, and prepared the bed with lots of organic manure and compost.  I also ensured that each plant had more than enough water and that the bed was well drained.  I set up drip irrigation to water them twice a week as allowed by water restrictions, and I ran a hose from our washing machine and watered with grey water from just about every wash (I use low sodium and low phosphate laundry powder).  When each plant got about 5 metres long, I pinched off the growing tips so that side shoots would develop female flowers.  I then let the bees do their thing, and when I notice that they were not around, I tried my hand at pollination with some success.

With good soil preparation and lots of water, they grew like crazy.  Here is a photo of the vines when they were about 2 metres long.  Note the hose from the washing machine.

Then again at 4 metres.  It was starting to take over the entire garden, which was okay because there was plenty of room for it to grow.

So what will I do with all these pumpkins?  So far we have roasted two of them for Sunday dinners, and also roasted the seeds as snacks.

We have also made pumpkin soup.  Here is my favourite recipe that I use all the time.  It requires no cream, however the onions give it a creamy consistency.

Golden Butternut Pumpkin Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small stalk celery, chopped
750g Butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
half teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh
2 bay leaves
quarter teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the oil so the butter does not burn over a moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery; cook, uncovered, until the onion browns a little and is soft - about 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stock, oregano, bay leaves and pepper, stir and gently bring to the boil. Adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Check to see if the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves and let the soup cool for 5 minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand-blender in the pot, or transfer to a blender in a few batches. Careful as it is still very hot. When smooth, return to the pot and reheat gently for about 5 minutes. Do not boil and it will burn on the bottom of the pan. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. Yum.


Ferris Jay said...


Glad to hear of your pumpkin success.

We tried pumpkins last year, in our new polytunnel, and had great success - in Ireland.

I tried pumpkin Potimarron (small, orange, round and tasting of chestnuts - gorgeous), butternuts (yum), a big green and gold squash (mainly for seeds) and blue banana squash (a monster Zeppelin looking squash with grey blue colour). It was tricky to carve - but we roast them whole to solve that problem. I think we still have one left to eat, in mid April.
I bet I have pictures from last years blog showing them all(
One thing, they really tried to take over all the paths.
I grew some extra ones outside and they did well there too. I'd do that in future, as they seem very high maintenance in the tunnel.

I'm glad that you got a good crop this year. Happy eating!

Holly said...

Thanks for the tips. I've tried pumpkins before, but never had any success. I think I'll try putting them where the drain line for the gray water dumps out!

Simple in France said...

Here in France, we're finishing up the last pumpkins of the season. Yours look beautiful and I suppose you can expect them to last well into the winter.

Frugal Life UK said...

I have squash plants in the greenhouse, just starting to show life - can you tell me if squash will grow up and over a shed if I put trellis round it? It gets really warm (don't you love thermal mass) and will help them grow

Laura said...

Thank you for the recipe--I will definitely try that. I love butternut squash! :)

Laryssa Herbert said...

Good for you! It's so satisfying to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I'm looking into growing some next year. Your post gave me some great growing tips, thanks!

The Younger Rachael said...

I put out my pumpkin seedlings a week or two ago (zone 8 in Central Texas), and they are looking very nice. I put them in a spot where they can grow to their hearts content... lots of room. Glad to hear that I did the right thing!

I will try the soup -- thank you!

Hathor's Bath said...

Pumpkins are a big problem in the UK at the moment due to climate change; we haven't had a summer hot enough, and the only thing I've seen round here is butternut - I'm bored to death with butternut! Early this year at a local market I managed to find a orange hubbard squash which was heavenly! I made a squash-groundnut soup to a Ghana recipe from a friend which convinced me to try and grow this squash myself, so I saved the seeds, planted them and now have three very good-sized seedlings! I'll be placing them in a corner of the garden, and then try and find a way to keep my dog from eating the growing pumpkins! I have an old style trash bin which I am cutting in half - the lower bit will be potatoes, and the upper ring filled with my semi-broken down compost for the squash. I don't have a ready manure supply sadly, but water is the least of my concerns in England, so we'll see how we do!

Last year I had relatively good results but they didn't get enough sun, so this year I'm planting in a more south-facing portion, and will be adding some plastic sheeting as a temporary tunnel around Sept-time.

maa said...

Wish I could grow some too. I always seem to have failures. Will keep trying though.
My secret ingredient for pumpkin soup is a teaspoon of curry. Yum!
Don't tell anyone will you? LOL!


Sense of Home said...

I have tried pumpkins and often find our season too short for much success. More space and sunshine would probably help as well. Hmmm, perhaps I could add a pumpkin plant or two in my daughters garden, she has lots of space and sunshine, and maybe we will have a long fall this year. I love my fruit and nut pumpkin bread and only have enough pumpkin left for one more loaf.

Your vines and pumpkins look beautiful.

Bel said...

Our pumpkin season is a little late this year. They are my #1 favourite vegetable and I have been growing and saving the seeds from our Jap pumpkins for over 10 years. Last year I grew Queensland Blue which were a little big with tough skin. This year I grew the Japs (as every year) as well as Marina Di Choggia for the second time, from seeds from a friend in the Northern Territory - saved last year and replanted this year. I have used about 5 this season, with another 8 in storage and perhaps at least a dozen more on the vines yet. I normally harvest 40 to 50 pumpkins, so unless they produce a lot more this late in the season, we're down on our usual harvest. :(

The varieties you grew look fantastic, Gavin!

Gavin said...

@ Ferris Jay

Great pictures over at your blog. The poly tunnel looks like a very productive place to grow your crops.

@ Holly.

I am sure the addition of the grey water will boost your crop size, if my experience is anything to go by.

@ SIF.

Thanks, glad your crop was okay last season. Have you planted more this year?

@ Frugal Life

Pumpkins and squash love to climb, and you would have noticed the tendrils they use to attach themselves to anything and everything. You can support any heavy pumpkins inside stockings tied to the trellis.

@ Laura.

Hope you enjoy the soup

@ Laryssa

Thanks for dropping by. Glad I could be of help

@ Rachael

They really do love long warm days and plenty of sunshine. I hope you are rewarded with a massive crop!

@ Hathor's Bath

The Orange Hubbard squash sounds great. I better do some research and see if I can grow it here.

@ Maa

Your secret is safe with me. Keep trying, you will succeed soon!

@ Sense of Home

Try and grow seedlings indoors in late winter to give yourself a head start to the season. That way you will be able to plant strong seedlings when the soil is warm enough.

@ Bel

I remember reading you post about pumkins last year and that is what inspired me to write my post this year! I am going to plant Aust Butter again next year and try and grow a few more weird varieties in my greenhouse to give me a fair chance of success. I love pumpkins too!


Anonymous said...

My Dad grows hundreds of pumpkins every year... the thing about pumpkins is they really do like a LOT of space... they roam wild over about 2 acres of land! they are not pretty things to grow and they take up loads of space, but they sure do last for a long time when you've harvested them... they need to be kept in a dry spot where they can mature and dry out a little... just make sure you keep them somewhere rats can't get to them as rats adore pumpkins!

Anonymous said...

one last thing... please make sure you don't feed any of the pumpkin seeds to your chooks (chickens)... it makes them very ill and they may die! best not to feed them any pumpkin at all!