How to Grow a winning pumpkin

Insole Court has some fantastic Victorian Gardens. Our walled garden is currently used as a community garden and contains the original crinkle crankle wall. The garden was originally used for growing fruit. The large surface area of the serpentine wall was designed to maximise temperature and thus promote fruit growth.

Image of a giant pumpkin in Insole Court Community Garden

In autumn our community garden is bursting with multiple varieties of impressive pumpkins. But did you know that preparations to grow these seasonal fruits should begin now. Here are some tips to grow you own.

Step one: It’s all about the soil. Having nutritious soil is the most important start to growing a healthy pumpkin. Feed your soil with plenty of nutrients. Some of the best things include: well-rotted manure (chicken and horse), fish blood and bone, and compost. Mulch your soil with plenty of rich organic matter to make sure your soil maintains as much moisture as possible.

Step two: Choose your pumpkin seed. There are thousands of varieties of pumpkins to choose from. They can range from the traditional orange to bright blue, and from smaller tastier varieties to varieties bred exclusively for size. The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1502 pounds. If you want to grow a giant pumpkin it’s all about genetics. You can buy seeds descended from these giants which go for anywhere from a couple of pounds to over a thousand pounds for one seed. Atlantic Giant is a widely available seed which should give you good results.

Step three: Planting your seed. You should plant your seeds indoors around April. The best method is to use a propagator to control the temperature as seeds sprout between 16-38 degrees. While they are growing indoors you will probably need to repot them a few times to avoid them becoming root-bound. After the last frosts are over and your seeds have sprouted you are ready to move them outdoors once you have hardened them off. Plant them one inch deep and on their side rather than flat because it prevents the seed from rotting.

Step four: Feed! Feed! Feed! Pumpkins love water. Water your pumpkin daily if possible at the base to prevent powdery mildew. During its initially leafy phase your pumpkin will require Nitrogen. Good sources of nitrogen include chicken manure pellets and nettle tea. You will also need to apply Phosphorus which encourages root and shoot growth. Liquid seaweed is a good source of Phosphorus. Once the fruit has appeared you should switch to feeding a source of potassium such as potash. This is also the time to place straw underneath the fruit to prevent it rotting from being in contact with the damp ground.

Step five: Sit back and watch your pumpkin grow! A giant pumpkin can put on as much as 60 pounds a day under the right conditions.

If you would like to volunteer with us in the Victorian gardens please get in touch.

Charlotte Brown and Mathew Stickler

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