Thursday, 9 April 2009

Veg Doctors here at Trerice to Help You!

If you have been lucky enough to sow a pumpkin seed at Trerice this week good for you, follow the advice below, this will get you on the road to a big pumpkin in October.

Want to know how to sow a pumpkin seed but can't get to Trerice next week?
Ask me how to do it here, now and I will answer any questions you have. You have everything to gain and not much to lose from the experience!

Caring for your pumpkin seedling step by step guide

Step 1.
Think where you would like to grow your pumpkin.
Sunny area, protected from strong winds. Doesn’t have to be a large area….

Step 2.
Soil preparation in your pumpkin planting area is vital.
Do not plant direct into soil without first preparing the ground. There are no short cuts sorry! You will probably need to fork/dig the ground.

If the ground has not been cultivated before (ie, not dug over before) you will probably need to break the ground up using a fork. Use the garden fork as a lever get the prongs right down into the ground as far as you can push, then lever down. Dig over the whole site in this way.

While you are working, remove large stones, remove weeds by their roots. Take your time, drink lots of tea, take plenty of breaks.

A thorough job will be a good job. I suggest, you start with a small site, not a field!

Step 3
Organic matter is important, pumpkins need well drained, fertile soil. Most soils will need organic matter added to them to ensure a good, healthy crop.

What organic matter you choose is up to you. I like using soil conditioner made from municipal waste that has been composted. As a guide, I add one bag of soil conditioner for every metre squared area. Avoid using Peat Based products, read the label carefully.

If you have it, use your own home made compost (if it smells very bad though, I would advise that you do not use this yet - give it longer to break down).

Fork your Organic Matter in to the ground, mix well with the soil try to avoid clumps of organic matter in one area and none elsewhere. Mix into the soil, to a depth of one fork.


Step 4
While all of this is going on, you need to look after your little pumpkin seed and check it every day.

Ensure that the little seedling you have put into your pottle is located in a light but warm place.

Put your pottle on a saucer or similar dish mainly to protect the surface it sits on! Keep the soil in the pottle moist, but not saturated.

The pumpkin seed should start to sprout in 5 to 8 days.

Step 5
At this stage the little seedling is most vulnerable. Check it every day. Keep it in its light place. Keep it moist, but not saturated. Does it look healthy? If not, oh dear… may never look healthy! Log on to explain what it looks like to me, I might be able to help.

Step 6
In the right conditions, the plant will soon be growing very well, and putting on a couple more leaves. When it has 2 true leaves that get to about 3 cm long, you will need to transplant the little seedling carefully to a larger pot (half litre size ideally).

Half fill the new pot with compost then gently firm down with the back of your hand. Use a good multi-purpose peat free potting compost (New Horizon or Westland).

Test drive the new environment using your pottle as a guide. Sit the pottle on top of the compost in the new larger pot. The orginal soil level in the pottle should be about one inch below the top of the sides of the new pot. Remove the pottle. Add more compost as necessary to the new pot. Do the pottle test again. Is the compost level OK yet?

At this stage, you will need to remove the plant with its roots intact from the pottle. Keep as much of the pottle soil around the plant roots as possible. Be careful not to damage the plant in the process. Treat it tenderly.

Try to make it so it your pumpkin doesn’t realise its been moved! Hold it just over the centre of its new pot where it is to be planted and add compost gently around it. Make sure your little plants sits at the same depth in the new compost as it did in its old compost. Firm in gently with your knuckle.

Water in gently.

Step 7
Keep your plant indoors and well watered, until it develops very good, strong leaf growth. You will be able to plant your pumpkin outside at this stage, (of course plant it outside into thoroughly prepared ground as described above)

Step 8
Plant your pumpkin outside, move it gently from its pot, don’t fiddle with the roots too much. Keep as much of the compost in around the roots as possible. Try to make this journey to the outside world as painless for it as possible.
Firm into the ground so it won’t topple over in a wind. Water copiously around the roots of the pumpkin not the leaves.

Water well especially in dry weather. Keep checking on your pumpkin preferable each day to ensure its healthy and growing.

Step 9
Pollination producing pumkins. Female and male flowers will form on your pumpkin and both are needed for this stage of fruit setting. The female flowers have a little swelling behind the flower. The male ones don’t. Press male and female flowers together for pollination to happen. Or, mimmick and insect, use a cotton wool bud to transplant pollen from male to female flowers.

Step 10
Once fruit are set, they will swell. Aim for 3 fruits on your pumkin plant at a maximum. Pinch out new flowers that form and remove them.

Place straw or slate under the pumpkin to stop it from rotting. Continue watering in dry weather.

Step 11
Harvest pumpkin and bring it in half term October for judging. Cut your pumpkin off the plant with a knife or with scissors and carefully transport to Trerice. Visit for more details and online help….

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