Tuesday, 4 September 2012

To do this week-Pumpkin pruning

Happily situated in the top bed where it gets sun all day

If August was the month of pumpkins running all over the garden then September is the month of the chop-at least where pumpkin leaves and stems are concerned. By now the plants have set fruit, so any late fruitlets developing on the plants are not going to make a decent size for October but while they continue to grow they are actively taking food from their larger brothers and sisters on the same vine. If you want decent sized pumpkins that get to full maturity you have to chop off these extras now. Most pumpkin plants will support between 2-4 pumpkins to full size depending on the type; smaller pumpkins=more fruit, larger pumpkins=less. So if you have 2 -3 decent sized fruit on your pumpkin plant and it's got lots of tiny brothers and sisters they have to go!

before-in the shade
after- in the sun

 Before and after pruning

The other reason for chopping off growth now is light. September is our last decent month for long hours of daylight, it's the month when a lot of crops really ripen well. Once we get into October the days are much shorter, and light levels can fall dramatically under grey skies.If your ripening Pumpkin is hiding under large leaves it's time to chop those leaves off, exposing the Pumpkin to the fullest amount of light and heat from the sun. The last push if you like before harvesting next month.By the way I don't chop off the leaves until now because I really think the large pumpkin leaves protect fruitlets from excess rain until the fruit is large enough, with a hardened up skin, to get through wet days without beginning to rot.

obliterated pathway

pathway freed of pumpkins
Another good reason to cut is to get your pathways back! Late running stems with small fruit that are in your way can be chopped off to relieve the jumping over them every time you want to get something from the garden. When I saw the cat having to jump over vines yesterday I really realised it was time for the chop.

You might also be having trouble seeing exactly how many pumpkins are forming. This happens to me a lot. I go out to harvest in October and find a surprise under a leaf that I never spotted all summer! After chopping back vines and leaves yesterday I can see now exactly how many fruit I have and feed plants that might need help getting their pumpkins to the final size.
Do I still need to convince you?

A word of warning! one misplaced cut and it can all go horribly wrong! If you are following vines to cut back stems be so careful not to cut a vine with a ripening pumpkin attached. It has happened to me before and the swearing it brings on wouldn't get you forgiven without a trip to Lourdes and a donation to UNICEF.

do I see one in there? (white stuff on the leaves is mildew)



  1. I'm GREEN with envy....my pumpkins have produced pathetic sized fruit which keep falling off. GRRR. And I thought I did everything pretty ok...minded them, fed them etc.......Yours look beautiful!

  2. Eliza I'm sorry to hear it,I had lots of disasters with pumpkins over the years but I'm beginning to get it right now.what varieties did you grow?

  3. oh they werent any of the really interesting french or japanese ones - i think i got a free packet of 'jack' o lantern seeds in a magazine and thought i'd give them a go... what varieties are yours (or maybe it says in your post - will look back). did you feed them loads? when did you sow them?

  4. Eliza there are several varieties I grew,I have mentioned a few in the post.some failed, some succeeded, some are outstanding.I would never grow just the one variety.I think I grew 8 or 10 varieties, 5 are really excellent.the rest not so great.that's how it goes.but I gave them copious quantities of horse manure and pellets.read earlier posts about planting them out

  5. Thanks Marie.....very helpful