Tuesday, 11 April 2017

It's Pumpkin Sowing Day!!

A short while ago I received an email from Thompson and Morgan saying that they had decided to instigate a national pumpkin sowing day and of course, with my known love of all things squash my ears perked up and I got a little bit excited. That date was set for April 12th, during National Gardening Week and so I decided to get on board.

Now I am well known for my love of squash and my annoyance every year at Halloween around the amount of perfectly edible pumpkin flesh that is binned rather than used to make soup, pies, risotto etc and therefore used to feed people rather than bins. It is shocking that around 80,000 tons of pumpkin flesh goes to landfill but I think there are various reasons for this and the main one is that the traditionally grown for carving varieties really aren't that tasty and so might be tried once and then never again. I think that all pumpkin flesh is delicious but even I agree that there are some that need quite a lot of additions to get really tasty results.

Lots of people of course will have already sown their squares and pumpkins but I think that setting the date at 12th April means that probably the whole of the UK is safe to sow their squash seeds, albeit indoors on a sunny windowsill or under frost free glass, knowing that they will be ready to plant out in early June when late frosts although possible are not really that likely. I say that with baited breath knowing that a light frost as late as June 2nd has been recorded in Somerset. I guess though that there is a point where we just have to hold our breath and plant and I would think early June should be it.

There are several things to remember when sowing squashes and pumpkins. The whole sow the seeds on their sides to stop rot, and putting them somewhere warm is of course important, but for me there is another thing, particularly for those of us with small and urban gardens and allotments.
Squashes take up space. Often quite huge amounts of space and often too a lot of space for very limited amounts of fruit. This can be super frustrating if you are limited by the amount of space you have, but I would say there are some great ways of growing squashes that minimise the amount of space they use. Lots of squashes will quite happily climb up tripods or frames, making really beautiful, green and productive areas of added height to the garden. Grown this way they can be a great addition to an ornamental border as well as a vegetable plot. The Japanese varieties such as Black Futsu and the small pumpkin varieties such as Baby Bear, will grow beautifully like this and be super productive. And of course will save on space.

If there are several varieties you want to grow in limited space you could make a squash tunnel, using ready made arches that are available in most good garden shops and reinforced with Bamboo canes to hold the plants once they begin to climb. This will of course take more room than one tripod but it will be both productive and beautiful and will give everyone visiting your garden something to talk about for sure. Rob Smith of @Robsallotment on both Twitter and Instagram is making one of these as I type so follow him for more info on how he gets on with this method of squash growing.

I think the other and most important thing to remember is that the larger the pumpkin the less tasty the flesh in most cases. Once they begin to be proper giants they are really not suitable for eating so therein lies a bit of a quandary. Do I grow it huge and risk the flesh being a bit on the watery side or do I keep them smaller for carving? Well what I can say is that I have carved the tiniest of pumpkins very successfully but also that the more medium sized fruits, those of about a kilo in weight, are still perfectly useable albeit with some added chilli or sweet potato, for soup and that although it might make a huge pot, it will freeze and give you plenty for the winter months.....

So with all that in mind, get sowing those pumpkin and squash seeds and start to look forward to harvesting them in the autumn and using them predominantly for food!!


  1. Aha - I experimented with the sowing seeds on their sides thing last year and found it made no difference. I'm just in the process of writing a blog post about it...

    1. I am sure it makes no difference unless, possibly, you sow them too early and overwater and they sit in the cold and rot perhaps? But yes-another myth I think!!