Thursday, 28 June 2012

Plant out courgettes and pumpkins

Pumpkin in place with first earlies
As gaps have begun to open up in the first Early bed I have started to plant out my pumpkins and courgettes. Every year I sow far too many and have the problem of where to put them, I cant give them away because its usually one plant of each variety and I'm always experimenting with new types to see what cooks and tastes best! O the stress of it all!!

Both pumpkins and courgettes are hungry, thirsty plants and neither will do well unless you offer them plenty of food and water. For each plant I dig out a hole bigger than the pot the plant is in and as deep as possible, lorry in lots of horse manure to completely backfill the hole and add in a measure of chicken pellets for extra nitrogen( for the pumpkins I make it two measures of chicken pellets). I pull this nice mixture aside to just fit the plant using the extra horse manure to fill in around the top and sides, making a nice mulching material around the surface of the soil near the stem. This helps conserve moisture as well as feeding the plant.

Most importantly for pumpkins you must put a large cane or bamboo close to the central stem of the plant. It's not for support, it's for watering later on.Pumpkins grow like vines on the surface of the ground which means after a few weeks you wont have a clue where the original planting hole is-it will be one massive jungle of giant leaves! They need lots of water when the fruit is setting so its handy to be able to find instantly where you should be watering.

Ring fort around the pumpkin to hold water

Help your pumpkins and your courgettes retain as much water as possible by building a ring fort around them (by using the soil you originally dug out to make the planting hole). A ring fort is basically a little circular wall with the area around the plant lower inside the wall, and lower than it, so water flows towards the stem of the plant and into the ground closest to the root.

Success with pumpkins

When I started growing pumpkins I knew as much about them as a pig looking into a Honda but over the years I figured out a few things, so for what it's worth here goes;

1. Frost, slugs and wind will destroy them, mind them seriously from all of the above
2. There is a short window to set fruit-it must happen in July. Plant flowers with them to make sure they get pollinated within the month.
3. Put flat stones under baby fruit to keep them from rotting on wet ground and being attacked by slugs.
4. Two fruit is enough for each plant to bear, allow two fruit to set, have two backups, get rid of the backups when the first two get to a decent size.
5. Cut away un-necessary growth to get the plant to put all its efforts into making the two fruit get to full size.

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