Tag Archives: pumpkins

Winter Squash Going Wild

Despite its name winter squash is a summer crop. Like all the cucurbit family including cucumbers, summer squash, and melons, winter squash loves warm weather and dies with frost.

The many varieties are called winter squash because they form a hard shell and will keep sometimes for months in a cool, dry place. My pantry has high humidity and I can keep winter squash there for four to five months.

Chinese winter melon

This isn’t listed as a winter squash, but acts like one. This is a Chinese winter melon. The seeds are difficult to get. The melon has a light green, firm flesh with very mild taste. I’m told that, once the white hair haze covers the melon, it will keep for months. It can be eaten at the immature stage like summer squash.

A few years ago I reorganized my garden into beds. These are a generous four foot by ten foot. All the vegetables I grow do very well in these beds.

Except winter squash.

Summer squash forms a large, bushy plant. It sprawls a little. My plants do get big enough to demand an entire bed for two or three hills.

kabocha winter squash

Years ago I tried a Kabocha squash from the market and liked it. The variety this year is like the store one. It had orange flesh and a sweet, moist taste.

This year I grew kabocha and butternut winter squashes. The kabocha grew up and over the pea trellis. Branch vines drooped off the edges spreading out through the bean trellis and across the summer squash.

The butternut plants were planted late in July. The heat and dryness held the plants back even with supplemental watering. Rain revived them. the vines remained smaller than usual, but still overran the bed and invaded the garlic chives across the pathway.

butternut winter squash

Waltham Butternut is an heirloom winter squash. There is at least one modern hybrid, but I prefer the old standard. The vines grow fast and load up with squash. It has a firm, deep orange flesh with the seeds at the rounded end. the goats love the peelings and seeds. They will eat the squash too.

The prize for exceeding its bed goes to two Winter Luxury pumpkin vines. Pumpkins are a variety of winter squash.

These vines engulfed their bed, the neighboring summer squash, the hollyhocks, covered the raised bed including the cherry tomatoes there. Still not satisfied, the vines went out through the fence and spread out into the orchard.

The vines can be trimmed. I hesitate to do so as the squash bugs move in and devastate the vines.

Unlike summer squash that quickly succumbs to squash bug attacks, winter squash has a survival tactic. Those long vines root at the leaf nodes. The extra roots help the vines survive long enough to ripen the squash.

pumpkins are winter squash

Waltham Butternut is an heirloom winter squash. There is at least one modern hybrid, but I prefer the old standard. The vines grow fast and load up with squash. It has a firm, deep orange flesh with the seeds at the rounded end. the goats love the peelings and seeds. They will eat the squash too.

And that is the big reason to plant winter squash. Each variety is different from the others in taste and texture. I like kabocha and butternut, but not buttercup. Acorn will do in a pinch. Spaghetti squash is not on my menu.

Pumpkins are another story. I love pumpkins. And those monster vines are busy ripening a few nice pie pumpkins for me.

OS16 Female Pumpkin Flowers

Investigation 15 looked at the male pumpkin flower. It only produces pollen, no pumpkins. The female pumpkin flower can grow into a pumpkin. Remember to pick your flower early in the morning and put the stem into a cup of water. Let’s look at a female flower.

Question: What parts are in a female flower?

female pumpkin flower

Materials:

Female Pumpkin Flower

Metric ruler

Knife

Magnifying glass

Procedure:

Step 1: Open your Science Journal, write “Investigation 16” and the date.

Step 2: Examine the outside of the female flower. Measure how tall it is. Compare it to the diagram of a flower on page 101 and label your drawing with the parts you see.

Step 3: Smell the inside of the flower.

Step 4: Carefully cut or tear the petals off the flower.

outside pumpkin petal

Three green veins go up the outside of each of the five lobes of a pumpkin flower. Only the tops are orange.

Step 5: Examine the petals. Compare the inside and outside surfaces [look, color, feel etc.].

Step 6: Examine the inside of the female flower. Measure the pistil. Touch the pistil. You can safely taste the liquid on the pistil. Draw and describe what you observe.

pumpkin flower pistil

Isolated from its flower a pumpkin flower pistil is a bumpy wet mound.

Step 7: Examine how the pistil joins the ovary [tiny pumpkin].

Step 8: Carefully slice the pistil and ovary in half lengthwise. Examine what you see in the two halves. Draw what you see.

pumpkin flower ovary longitudinal cut

Each line of ovules extends down the length of the pumpkin ovary. Each ovule has the potential to become a pumpkin seed.

Step 9: There should be a line of ovules or tiny seeds showing in the ovary. If there isn’t, cut a thin slice off the ovary to find a line of ovules.

Step 10: After you examine the line of ovules, cut across that half of the ovary and look for where lines of ovules are.

Observations:

Describe a female pumpkin flower

Label the parts on your drawing

Describe the outside of the petals

 

inside pumpkin flower petal

Inside a female pumpkin flower petal each main vein stands out in green against a pale yellow background. Only the tops of the petals are orange.

Describe the inside of the petals

 

split pumpkin pistil

Split in half its easy to see the single pistil isn’t single at all but several pistils clumped together.

Describe the pistil.

Describe the tiny pumpkin.

Describe how the inside of the pistil and ovary join

Describe the ovules

Number of ovules in one row:

Number of rows of ovules in half the ovary:

Number of ovules in half the ovary:

Number of ovules in the ovary:

Analysis:

Multiply the number of ovules in a row by the number of rows in half an ovary.

Multiply the number of ovules in half an ovary by two for the number of ovules in an ovary.

Conclusions:

If all the ovules in an ovary become seeds, how many seeds will there be in the pumpkin?

 

pumpkin flower ovary cross section

Each line of ovules is inside a spiral arm. Each half of an ovary has three lines of ovules.

If every ovule must join with one grain of pollen to become a seed, how many grains of pollen must be carried by insects to the pistil?

Why do you think the pistil is wet and sticky?

 

enlarged pumpkin pistil

Magnified a pumpkin pistil has many bumps making its surface look grainy.

What do you think makes the pistil wet and sticky?

 

Baby Pumpkins

Volunteer pumpkin plants have shown up in the chicken yard, in the asparagus patch and around the manure pile. These are Connecticut Field pumpkins.

These vines are big and vigorous. Their leaves are enormous.

big pumpkin leaf

Lots of rain and composting manure make the Connecticut Field pumpkin vines grow fast with leaves 16 inches across!

I planted sugar pie pumpkins in the garden. These vines are also big and vigorous and growing where they weren’t supposed to go. Their leaves rival those of the Connecticut Field vines.

Pumpkin flowers open every morning now. The bright orange yellow shows well against the green leaves.

Pumpkin flowers should foreshadow the arrival of pumpkins. Most of the little pumpkins yellow and die. I was wondering if any pumpkins would grow and ripen.

pumpkin

At last, hidden under the leaves, a pumpkin is growing on a Connecticut Field pumpkin vine.

Under those big leaves was a pumpkin. One of the Investigations from “The Pumpkin Project” is measuring three pumpkins to compare how fast they get big. I started measuring the pumpkin.

Giant pumpkin growers have to know how fast their prize pumpkins are growing. They have to grow fast enough to get huge but slow enough not to split and ruin. It isn’t possible to pick the pumpkins up and weigh them.

first measurement of pumpkin

The first measurement is from the stem to the blossom ends of the pumpkins. All the measurements are from the ground to the ground.

The growing pumpkin is measured three ways: from the ground at the vine end to the ground at the blossom end; From the ground across the circumference to the ground; and from the ground over the biggest part to the ground. These three measurements are added up and compared to a chart as one by Team Pumpkin to get an approximate weight.

second measurement of pumpkin

The second measurement is the circumference halfway between the blossom and vine ends.

In the case of my little pumpkin, the total is too small to be on the chart. That’s all right. The totals from many days in a row do tell me my little pumpkin is growing fast.

third measurement on pumpkin

The third measurement is over the biggest part of the pumpkin. This is just over the middle circumference on this pumpkin.

Peeking under other leaves checking for squash bug eggs I found that pumpkin isn’t alone. There are two more pumpkins sitting on the manure pile and a third getting started. I took the first measurements for one of them.

The vine in the asparagus patch is growing a pumpkin. I almost stepped on it as the grass is long and the same color as the pumpkin in the late afternoon. That one will be my third pumpkin to measure for comparison.

The side benefits are the pictures to use in “The Pumpkin Project.” It will be nice to have another Investigation completed. There are only eleven more Investigations and Stories needing pictures. Sigh.

Plant Warfare

Recently the news is full of reports about people fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe or across the Indian Ocean to Malaysia. When people or other animals find their present homes are not someplace they want to be, they move. Plants can’t pull up their roots when times get tough. Plants engage in warfare.

That’s ridiculous. Plants can’t do anything like that. They have no weapons or hands to use them. They have no teeth. True. This doesn’t stop them.

Ozark wooded hillside

Forest trees need light and room for their roots. New saplings are denied both by bigger established trees.

Walnut trees and red cedars among others use chemical weapons. Their roots give off chemicals that stunt or kill any plants trying to grow nearby.

Starving neighbors is popular. Look at a seed packet. There is a recommended distance between plants. Disregard this and the plants themselves will enforce it.

Chinese cabbage plants

These two Chinese cabbage plants are growing well. They are a little too close together and one is growing faster at the expense of the other.

Robbing neighbors of light is another popular method. The fastest growing seedlings block sunlight from slower ones making them grow spindly. Spindly seedlings have delicate stems that break easily. No more competition.

What brought this to mind was talking with someone busy with the Pumpkin Project. I will admit I have been guilty of this as well.

starving Chinese cabbage seedling

Two Chinese cabbage plants are growing here. One is a big healthy plant. Can you find the second tiny seedling at its base?

When seedlings are used in an Investigation, they end up planted somewhere. These seedlings are often spindly. Most don’t grow well or produce pumpkins.

But it’s hard to discard these seedlings. They want to grow. They are trying to grow.

pumpkin seedlings

Only one pumpkin seedling can grow in this spot. Fast growers have leaves out. Slow ones are small and getting spindly.

For those with lots of room and not caring whether or not these seedlings will make good plants, planting them out is fine. I have learned to be like the rest of the plant world even though it pains me.

Lettuce and beets are thinned when big enough for baby leaf salads. Those left make nice plants.

Ozark woods sapling group

A group of saplings is growing. Already some are bigger than others. In the end only one or two will survive to join the forest.

After an Investigation, any pumpkin seedlings are checked over. Those with short stems looking healthy may find a spot in my garden. If there is room. Others end up as compost.

In the natural world most offspring, animal or plant, don’t survive. That’s a hard lesson to learn. Nature teaches it. Just watch the plant warfare in the garden.

The Pumpkin Project

OS1 Starting The Pumpkin Project

Why Investigate Pumpkins?

 Plants aren’t interesting. They’re dull. They don’t move. Once you’ve seen a leaf, a stem, a root and a flower, you’ve seen all there is to a plant.

Say that to the hundreds of people worldwide who grow giant pumpkins and they know you’ve never really taken a look at plants. Botanists (scientists who study plants) have studied plants for hundreds of years and are still finding out new things about them. This is your chance to find out a little bit of what all these people find so exciting.

Why pick pumpkins? There are lots of reasons. One is that the big seeds are easy to work with. Another is that pumpkin seeds are easy to find and grow. Still another is the huge number of different kinds of pumpkins.

And pumpkins are important commercial crops. They are eaten by people all over the world. They are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

mini pumpkin

Tiny pumpkins take only a little space to grow and will even grow in a pot. They make nice Halloween decorations.

Pumpkins are fun to grow. They can be used to make art. There are competitions for the largest pumpkins at county and state fairs. Then there are the competitions to grow giant pumpkins in North America, Europe and Australia. A newer competition for throwing pumpkins is starting around the United States.

When should you start investigating pumpkins? Some of the investigations use pumpkin plants. Since these grow best in warm weather, spring and summer may be the best time. But many of the investigations take a week or two to complete because seeds take time to germinate and grow. The best time to start learning about pumpkins and plants is now. Then you will be ready to grow your best pumpkins ever in Project 1.

Project 1

Part 1

Making Plans

 It should be easy to guess what the first big Project is in a book about pumpkins. Project 1 is growing a pumpkin!

Before you race to the store and buy some pumpkin seeds to grow, let’s make plans.

 What Kind of Pumpkin Should You Grow?

 By this time you have noticed there are lots of kinds of pumpkins. Some are very small. Others are extremely large. They come in different colors. Some have warts. Some have strange things on them.

Before you decide on the kind of pumpkin you must decide where your pumpkin will grow. The space needed is listed as square like 10 feet by 10 feet but it can be longer and narrower as 5 feet by 20 feet, just have that much room. The place must get at least half a day of sunlight.

 

pie pumpkin

Weighing five to seven pounds pie pumpkins are grown for eating. They are usually sweeter than larger pumpkins.

Small pumpkins need only a little space, even a big pot will do. They can grow on a trellis. If you have only a little place for your pumpkin plant, you should grow a little pumpkin.

Sugar pie pumpkins are a little bigger. These seven to ten pound pumpkins are the best kinds for eating. They need a space about ten feet square. They can grow on a trellis but you will have to support the pumpkins. The pumpkins may not get as big as they normally would because they will not get as much food.

Halloween sizes of pumpkins get ten to twenty-five pounds. These pumpkins can be eaten too. They are not as sweet as pie kinds and are stringier. These plants need a place twenty feet square.

Really big pumpkins need lots of room. Giant pumpkin plants need a place at least forty feet square. These plants need special care every day. They need lots of fertilizer and water. But growing one of these really big pumpkins is exciting.

 

Halloween pumpkin

Stores have lots of these pumpkins in October. This is a Halloween type pumpkin.

What Kind of Pumpkin Will You Grow?

 Once you know how much room your pumpkin plant will have, you can pick a kind to grow. Mini pumpkins come in orange, white and two colors. Pie pumpkins come in colors too but it is hard to tell when a white pumpkin is really ripe. Bigger pumpkins have even more choices. Pick out your favorite pumpkin of that size. That is the one you will grow.

 Getting Ready

 Serious pumpkin growers start the year before. They add manure to the place their pumpkin plants will grow. They kill off the weeds.

We are starting in the spring so we have to hurry to get ready. You need to till or spade up your pumpkin area. Add compost and mix it into the soil.

If the spot is covered with grass or weeds, you need to get rid of them. It takes more work but is better for your pumpkin plants if you mulch or till or pull those pesky weeds and grass. Herbicides do kill weeds but can kill lots of other things too including your pumpkin plants.

 

giant pumpkin

This giant pumpkin weighed 878.5 pounds! Giant pumpkins are so heavy they flatten in shape.

When Do We Start?

 Even a little frost will kill a pumpkin plant. Small, sugar pie and Halloween pumpkin kinds can be planted in the garden after spring really arrives. Giant pumpkins can be planted then too but many growers start them in the house before then.

While we wait, we’ll find out more about pumpkins.

 

 

Spring Pumpkin Plans

One of my plans for this year was to go over and finish or discard some of the manuscripts sitting in my computer memory. Snow discourages outside activities so I opened up an old manuscript called “The Pumpkin Project.”

The Pumpkin Project

The Pumpkin Project will be a book of pumpkin trivia, puzzles, investigations, projects, recipes and more.

I taught science. I loved teaching science. This book was born out of that love.

Another favorite activity is gardening. I’m not a great gardener but enjoy being out growing or trying to grow plants. Pumpkins are fun to grow.

Like in “Goat Games” puzzles are part of this book. There are 19 puzzles finished. The mazes and coloring pages are not done yet. All relate to pumpkins and squash.

Like in “Goat Games” interviews and stories about pumpkins are in the book. It was fun doing these as I wrote and met people who love to grow giant pumpkins. These are the ones that set world records. The newest record is for a pumpkin grown in Germany weighing over 2300 pounds!

giant pumpkin

How do you grow a pumpkin this big? Why would anyone want to grow a pumpkin this big? Find some answers in “The Pumpkin Project”.

Some of these stories are too old to use, perhaps. Most are still interesting. Unfortunately pumpkins are a fall crop so I can’t redo these stories until this fall.

Like in “Goat Games” I included recipes. But “The Pumpkin Project” has a recipe section. There are lots of pumpkin recipes from soups to pancakes to breads and muffins to pudding and pie, even cheesecake.

pumpkin cookies

My favorite pumpkin cookies taste like pumpkin pie but in a soft chewy cookie.

Several of these recipes are ones I still make from time to time. But I have yet to make one or two. Luckily I still have some pumpkin puree to use.

Most of “The Pumpkin Project” is about the pumpkin Investigations. There are 19 Investigations and 2 Projects.

The Investigations begin with looking at seeds and end looking at pumpkins. The Projects are growing and using pumpkins.

baby pumpkin

What is it? A baby pumpkin. Do the pumpkin Investigations and find out about pumpkin seeds, sprouts, plants and, of course, pumpkins.

If you have checked out any of my science projects in the Project Corner, you know I like to have pictures showing the Project being done. I made some changes in the pumpkin Investigations and need pictures. There is a problem.

Pumpkins grow in warm weather. Snow is not helpful. Single digits at night are not helpful. Pumpkins take months to grow.

I would love to finish this book this year. But I hate to make everyone wait an entire year to have a chance to enjoy and try out the book.

“The Pumpkin Project” will be featured on the Outside Project page this summer. Except you can’t wait until summer to start your pumpkin plants. Mr. Richard Botorff grows giant pumpkins every year and starts them in April.

pumpkin sprout

Warm weather is pumpkin growing weather. Get your pumpkin projects started this April.

“The Pumpkin Project” will begin in April. The Investigations will appear on the Outside Project page. But the book with all the other puzzles, recipes, trivia and more will be by subscription sent in PDF installments over the summer. The printed book will be sent out this fall to those subscribing then offered for sale to everyone else.

Sign ups begin after the “Dora’s Story” giveaways end.