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Pumpkins Calling

Pumpkins Calling

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They’re easy to grow and just as easy to store. If you love your pumpkins boiled, baked or blended, then now is the time to plan your summer crop, says PHIL DUDMAN

There’s something I find quite alluring about pumpkins. To look at, they are an absolute work of art… every one of them, with so many different gnarly shapes, bumps, warts and colours. Just cast your eyes at some of those beauties in my photo that I took during a visit to Heronswood in Victoria years ago.

I’m not the first to fall for the magnificence of this giant cucurbit either… what about the thousands of dedicated growers who take part in giant pumpkin growing competitions standing proudly beside their 300kg plus Atlantic Giants. I love that stuff!

What I most love is the fact that you can grow the bloomin things, raise a bumper crop and not have to eat them all at once. Pumpkins are so easy to store, and they keep for months, as long as you handle them with care. One thing I’ve learned, it’s important not to knock them about at any stage. When their skins are damaged, it leaves an entry point for fruit rotting bacteria, so be careful when you’re out there with the hoe or whipper-snipper. It’s also a good idea after harvesting to sit the fruit on a bed of dry straw in a cool dry spot.

When it comes to planting, find a sunny spot with plenty of room for vines to wander. Make a mound incorporating a full barrow load or two of compost and/or well-rotted manure. The roots will appreciate the better drainage and the plants will thrive in the beautiful enriched soil. Some of the best vines I’ve seen are self-sown escapees from the compost heap, so give the soil all you’ve got… you won’t be sorry. Plant about five seed at the top of the mound, and then thin the seedlings out leaving behind the two strongest ones. If it’s still a bit cold and frosty where you are, raise your seedlings in pots ready to plant out later.

And if you’re thinking you’d like to have a go at growing one of those super 300kg Atlantic Giants this year, have a search around for seed online. If you’re in the Northern Rivers, why don’t you join in the fun of the Kyogle Giant Pumpkin competition? The organisers are giving away high quality seedlings to all competitors.