This post has been a long time coming, almost 7 months in fact! A year ago, we started a plan to grow our own pumpkins when we saved the seeds from the one we bought last Halloween. (It was actually our son’s idea, as his birthday is really near to Halloween and he wanted his own pumpkins to carve.) We weren’t sure if they would grow or not, but it was worth a shot. All of us have been pleasantly surprised at the results!
On April 7th this year, we planted our seeds in peat pots. They were a good size for the children to plant, and our production line resulted in a lot of seedlings. They went into our plastic greenhouse, where we cared for them until the end of May.
Meanwhile, we prepared a raised bed at the allotment, with compost filled holes to plant each seedling in. Once we were certain that the last frost had passed, we popped to the allotment after my son had finished school so he could plant them out. We had grown more than we needed, so we selected some of the strongest looking plants and gave the rest to other allotmenteers.
For quite a while it felt like not a lot was happening-we had a very dry June and the plants grew slowly. After a sudden wet spell, they shot up in size. It was our son’s job to weed that raised bed; every time we went he pulled up a few! By the start of July, flowers were appearing. One day when we went we saw the first tiny pumpkin, which seemed to have appeared literally overnight.
This meant another after school allotment trip to show a very excited boy what had happened! The pumpkins swelled rapidly and within a couple of weeks there were seven of them. We placed spare floor tiles underneath each pumpkin to stop them lying on wet soil and rotting, and watered them with vegetable feed every couple of weeks.
After another few weeks, they turned orange. By early September, they had all fully ripened (I did the thumbnail test on them, where you see whether your nail leaves a dent in the skin or whether it goes through it). We decided to harvest them to prevent them from being eaten by rats, slugs, or any other creatures, and stored them at home until we needed them. We kept them under the table in the conservatory, which fulfilled the criteria of being cool and dark, but did take up a lot of room.
Each plant produced one pumpkin, so we had seven to bring home (we managed to keep all of the ones that formed alive!) Our son gave one to each of his cousins to carve, which brings us to today. (Well, yesterday and today as my son was off school yesterday as they had a training day, so him and Daddy hollowed out the pumpkins and saved the seeds whilst our daughter was at preschool, then today he went to school and me and the little one carved her pumpkin.) He really enjoyed the whole carving out process, and I tried not to be too concerned by the excitement caused by ‘eating pumpkin guts’ and ‘if you roll up your sleeves you can get your whole arm in the slime’.
My son wanted an Avengers pumpkin, it failed miserably and looked like one of the vomiting pumpkins you see on Pinterest, so we turned it around and just did a scary face. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted a Frozen pumpkin. Having discovered that pumpkin carving is harder than it looks, I persuaded her that a snowflake would look lovely! I cut it out and she painted white spots/stripes/whatever else took her fancy on it. We then lit them and popped them on the driveway to show trick or treaters the way.
I think it’s safe to say that it was ‘mission accomplished’ here-all my little boy wanted was his own pumpkin to carve. It felt like a lot of responsibility at each stage, especially when the pumpkins started to form, as Mr C and I had to try and keep them alive but ‘in the background’ as they were his project. Between fellow allotmenteers, bloggers and Google we managed it!
Next year we plan to have an even bigger pumpkin patch, and maybe try some different varieties. For now though, we will settle for the sense of achievement we’ve all felt, and perhaps a bowl of pumpkin soup.