Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Birthday Pumpkins

I've always wanted to have our own pumpkin patch, but I never can remember to plan for fall pumpkins in the middle of summer. It just so happens that my birthday falls about 120 days before October 31st and that means that if I get those pumpkin seeds in the dirt now that they should be ready in time for Halloween. If I can just remember that pumpkins should be planted at the same time I celebrate my birthday I should remember when to plant them every year!

We decided to go for a mini pumpkin patch design considering our small piece of yard that we're devoting to the pumpkin patch. We picked up 3 straw bales from Callahan's General Store and two 4' X 5' pieces of cattle panel from Montopolis Steel which is just up the road from Callahan's. All in all it cost us about $40-50 and a very small amount of time to create. We plan to use the straw as mulch for our strawberries and garden troughs in the late fall and winter...and I'm sure we'll see some disappear to be used for nests in our large oak tree.  

We are growing Musquee De Provence, Rouge Vif d'Etampes and Chinese Miniature Pumpkins (all from Seed Savers Exchange - Check Wheatsville for seeds) for our first try at a pumpkin patch. Don't forget to research different varieties if you plan to cook or bake with the pumpkins as some are not suitable for baking. Planting Instructions: We made 12" diameter mounds/hills around the seeds (with high quality organic compost) and spaced them 6" apart. Put about 6-8 seeds in each hill and thin to 3-4 plants once they've sprouted. Don't forget to give them extra water in the beginning and especially in the hot Texas summer sun. Don't be afraid to just allow the largest pumpkins to grow if you have limited space - even one pumpkin per plant is just fine for a small pumpkin patch.

The pumpkin vines will grow out of our metal trough onto the metal trellis and the pumpkins can rest on the straw or ground as they grow heavier. The leaves on the trellis will also provide shade for the pumpkins in the hot afternoon sun. 

Chinese Miniature Pumpkins and most small gourds can also be grown on an arch or trellis (similar to our cucumbers) which would make for some great fall decor in the backyard. Or, just for fun, grow some dinosaur gourds or giant pumpkins and impress the neighbors. 

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