Last Summer, my three year old daughter and I tried our hand at growing pumpkins. In Spring, we planted them out, waited all the way through Summer, then when Autumn rolled around we had grown, wait for it, 120 pumpkins! Some big, some small but all delicious (Lucky we all like pumpkin soup). Now I had tried growing pumpkins the previous year, without my helper, in a different location and the results were less than impressive, only harvesting three.
But the best thing about growing them this season, aside from the improved crop numbers obviously, was having my daughter there to share the experience. We used this opportunity over the six months to discuss how seeds, with food, water and the right weather conditions can make us yummy food, she observed the life cycle of the seed sprouting, leafing out, flowering, then fruiting, and she took ownership of the crop, watering the vines, counting the pumpkins, and watching the pollinators jump between the flowers. She would proudly show all of our visitors “her pumpkins” to whoever would come by.
I am going to share our how we grew our bumper crop in hope that you too can get out in the garden with your little people, and hopefully get some good stuff in return.
We grow a wide variety in our garden but we love growing pumpkins with the kids because the seeds are large and easy for children to handle, and they grow fast and big which is a good visual for impatient gardeners like myself and now my daughter (even though it will be 5-6 months before you will be tucking into your first homegrown pumpkin soup).
After the main threat of frost has passed, (I use my friend Google to find out our last frost date, but last year it was in October when we planted), find a sunny position where vines will be able to stretch out.
I soaked the seeds overnight in water, then planted approximately 6 seeds in each hole, back filled with store-bought compost and watered in. Watering every 2-3 days (or as needed). You can thin out if it is looking a bit crowded, but we did not find this necessary as slaters got to some first and the strongest survived.
We also have a large number of pollinators that visit our garden so I did not find it necessary to hand pollinate. We just let nature do its thing and waited.
We then harvested just before ANZAC Day, before any hard frosts were predicted, the skin on the pumpkins were a nice orange colour and when the vine was dying back.
Cut pumpkin off vine, leaving as much of the stem as possible and leave outside on ground if dry weather is predicted for 10 days to allow the skin to harden off. If rain is predicted move them undercover. Frost was predicted on some nights so I tucked them in of a night time with an old sheet and took off the sheet during the day to protect them. Once this process was over they were stored on pallets, not touching each other, in a cool shed to allow air flow underneath.
I have used any with skin blemishes or broken skin first and have given a lot to family, but most have held up so far. With our abundant number of pumpkins, here’s a recipe that’s become part of repertoire I’d like to share.
1.8kg pumpkin chopped coarsely
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup of lentils
3 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of water
300ml pouring cream
1.Combine butter, onion, pumpkin, potatoes, lentils, stock and water in slow cooker. Cook, covered, on a low temperature for about 6 hours
2.Cool soup 10 minutes. Blend with stick blender. Cook covered on high for 20 minutes or until hot. Stir in cream and season to taste
3. Optional: serve topped with chives and extra cream