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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.