Friday, 28 October 2016

The joy of the pumpkin....

A long time ago I visited the Chelsea Physic Garden for the 1st time. It's a garden I'm always blown away by. The history of the garden, it's links to so many events in garden history including those links to  the plant hunters who are still to this day responsible for so many of the plants we grow in our gardens, always makes me feel that I am wandering through the corridors of British garden history. But on this occasion I came away with two real interests. The first was that I should discover more about the Salvia family, after spending time with the collection in one of the gardens greenhouses, and the second was to explore pumpkin and squash growing more.
In the garden there were different varieties of Japanese squash growing up tripods, with fruit beginning to form and I was mesmerised not just by the new varieties of food in front of my eyes, but also at their beauty.
So not being one to waste time, I ordered lots of seeds and got growing the following year. I'm guessing this was the late 90s and in our corner of leafy Bucks few folk grew these varieties and we had lots of interest from our neighbouring plot holders, particularly when we started planting into our compost heaps!
We grew them up tripods, across beds and in all our compost heaps. And we had a great harvest and we swore to grow more, experiment with new varieties and try lots of different ways of cooking with the flesh. It's fair to say I was hooked.
Nearly 20 years later the excitement of choosing which varieties we are going to grow in the year ahead is still palpable. We grow our favourites each year but always try to add something new, to add to the excitement of the harvest. The great thing about pumpkins and squash is they all taste different and so lend themselves to particular recipe types. And there isn't one that's disappointed us.
And to grow them? Well ideally they need a nice long season so we sow in March in modules  and keep them under protection until the roots have filled the modules. They then get potted into 1ltr containers as I feel 9cm is filled to quickly and who wants to spend their lives potting up? They then get put back under protection until early to mid May depending on the weather. Once all signs of frosty nights are gone, they go into the ground, with a thick layer of compost around them, and after a few weeks they romp away, not taking any notice of allotment boundaries, paths or roads. In good soil, full of rich humus, they need little attention other than plenty of water, but if you do see yellowing leaves, a good feed of a seaweed solution will soon sort them out.
What we always do is stop them growing at some point in August by cutting out the growing tips and this really helps with production of the fruits, and encourages them to ripen. 
Recently I was asked which are my have to have varieties, and I have to admit to always growing Turks Turban, Baby Bear, Jack O'Lantern, Crown Prince and New England Sugar Pie, and then interspersing with various others that catch my eye. I love Pink Banana and Sweet Dumpling, but have often to limit myself as there's only so much space and lots of other veg to grow too!! 
And before you ask, I buy lots of seed from the wonderful Pennards Plants as well as Real Seeds and Jungle Seeds and then pick up unusual varieties often at seed swaps and community events.
So that takes you through my pumpkin/squash obsession and I hope has encouraged you to give some different varieties a go!! 


  1. Hurray! Lovely to find another squash addict. :) I had a disastrous year this year, but I normally grow 10 or more varieties and I trawl the web for new and interesting seeds. I wouldn't be without black futsu, potimarron and flat white boer though.