Michelle Provaznik | Gardens on Spring Creek
There are so many varieties of pumpkins and gourds and far too little space in which to grow them. Pumpkins and gourds are easy to grow. Seeds can be sown directly into well-draining, amended soil. You can also buy pumpkin plants. They require full sun (six hours per day), like extra water and fertilizer, should be mulched, and need plenty of space to spread out. Pumpkins are frost sensitive so keep that in mind when planting in the spring.
Whether used for carving, cooking, or decoration, now is the time to visit local nurseries or winter markets to check out which varieties you like so you can grow them next year.
Traditional mid-to-large-sized pumpkins such as Howden, Big Max, and Jack O’Lantern are dark orange with thick walls perfect for carving. One plant should yield at least three to four pumpkins – just perfect for the front porch.
Smaller pie pumpkins such as Sugar Pie and Small Baby Bear are known for their sweet flesh making them excellent for cooking. Don’t forget to keep the seeds for roasting – they make a tasty snack.
Specialty pumpkins and gourds are pretty expensive, so each year I grow several varieties just for decorating the house and front porch. I’ve had especially good luck with Cinderellas – flattish, deeply lobed pumpkins that are red in color. Rouge Vif D’Etampes is another great red variety for a touch of fall color. White varieties such as Lumina and Valenciano make excellently carved ghosts for Halloween. Jarrahdale has a unique bluish-gray color. Combined together with the traditional orange, these pumpkins can provide a wonderful fall display through Thanksgiving (bring them inside if a large amount of snow is forecast – no one likes to clean up a mushy pumpkin!).
Miniature pumpkins such as Wee-B-Little and Jack Be Little combine with small ornamental gourds to make beautiful fall displays in centerpieces, baskets, and bowls. Fortunately, one seed packet of small gourds can yield Apple, Pear, Spoon, Nest Egg Flat Strip, and Yellow Warted fruits in greens, whites, yellows, and oranges.
Grow large gourds if you like to make crafts. Birdhouse, Dipper, and Speckled Swan can be dried and then carved or painted to create a variety of unique projects for the home.
If you want to try growing giant pumpkins, the seed source is critical. Atlantic Giant is the most common. There are special tricks to growing these that can be found online.
Don’t miss Pumpkins on Parade at the Gardens on Spring Creek, October 21 – 24. We’ll have a variety of pumpkins and gourds in artistic displays and you can try your hand at our Community Carved Pumpkin Contest! Visit fcgov.com/gardens/pumpkins to learn more.