For pumpkin enthusiasts

pumpkvine1As anyone who has had a vigorous, productive pumpkin vine emerge from an old compost heap will know, pumpkins l-o-v-e compost. If you are a pumpkin enthusiast, and live in an area with cold winters, you can prepare for pumpkin growing now.
Choose a sunny spot in the garden where you want to grow pumpkins next spring, and where the vine will have room to spread (but not the same spot where you grew them this year). Get a bag of horse manure and other compost ingredients, mix the ingredients together and pile it directly onto the soil where you will sow pumpkin seed.
Dampen the heap and cover it with black plastic but, and this is the important part, uncover the pile weekly and turn it to keep it aerated. Keep the heap just damp and the heat absorbed by the black plastic will help the materials break down over winter to about the quarter of the size of the original heap. Compost made from a mixture of ingredients will provide a full range of nutrients that pumpkin vines need for healthy growth. Soil under the heap will improve in structure, allowing better root penetration. Immediately after frosts in spring, you can sow seed directly into the compost to get your pumpkin vine off to a flying start, and you should get a very good crop.

6 Replies to “For pumpkin enthusiasts”

  1. My daughter picked one of the jap pumpkins before it was ready. The tendril was nearly dry the vine hasn’t died off yet. She cut it and said that it appears dry. Is it still OK to be cooked and eaten or is it better to put this one down to a learning experience. Kind Regards, Kayleen
    It should be ok Kayleen, if you use it immediately. We have had to do the same occasionally. If the pumpkin is too large to get through in a short time, make some pumpkin soup and freeze it (can supply a good recipe if you need one). The vitamin A content in JAP pumpkins helps to keep the lungs healthy when winter colds and flu are about. – Lyn

  2. I have 3 types of pumpkins growing, but the flowers (female) grow but then turn yellow and drop off. I have native bees (a hive in my yard), and plenty of other bees and I have hand fertilised them, with the males from the same vine. I have allowed the vine to grow until there are a min of 2 female flowers and then break off the vine tip. these plants are growing in different parts of my garden, and plants look OK. But they fruit are yellowing and falling off still keep falling off.

    Dorothy, if your pumpkin plants (or any other member of the squash family a.k.a. cucurbits) are producing small fruit that yellow and fall off before maturity, or turn mushy at the end furthest from the stem, either:
    (1) you do not have enough calcium in your soil, or
    (2) watering has been erratic and calcium has not been available when needed.
    Like us, plants need a good balance of calcium and magnesium to form a strong structure. Calcium and magnesium are required for growing tips of plants as well as fruit production and, if there is not enough of these nutrients to go around, growing tips will get priority. Dissolve a generous handful of dolomite (a mixture of calcium and magnesium) in a full watering can, and apply this around the root area of each plant – one full watering can per plant, or two around large vines such as pumpkin and watermelon. If you know that your soil has plenty of magnesium (e.g. SE Qld.), you can use agricultural lime instead.
    Another cause of this problem is soil that is too alkaline (pH 9+) where calcium becomes insoluble and unavailable to plant roots. However, as your plants look ok, this is unlikely to be the cause of your problem, Dorothy. – Lyn

  3. I have the same problem as Dorothy and I was told NOT to use Stable Manure But I see in your write up you say horse Manure. Can you tell me if Iam doing the right thing using Stable Manure. I would love to grow Pumpkins but have not had a lot of luck. I live at Glasshouse Mts Brisbane and I do find the soil is a bit sandy. Also we do have fruit fly would they in pack on the young Pumpkins. My last vine I got one good size Pumpkin but the rest was like Dorothy’s go yellow and drop off. – Kerry
    Hi Kerry, The above post was written in autumn, so that the horse manure (combined with other compost materials) would be composted in time for when most gardeners sow pumpkin seed in spring because pumpkin vines love compost. The vine in the photo above self-seeded from the site of an old compost heap and produced 28 pumpkins. It was not suggested that you sow pumpkin seeds in fresh manure. Was there a reason you were told not to use horse manure?
    The post explains what causes fruits of the melon family to go yellow and soft, and drop off, and also advices how to correct the problem. You may also find these posts helpful: Squash, melon and cucumber problems and Assisting root growth.
    I have never known fruit fly to attack pumpkins. Pest attack is a symptom that your plants are stressed for some reason. If you correct the problem, you will find that your plants are more pest-resistant. This is hard for some gardeners to understand, but healthy plants that receive adequate water and nutrients, and are in soil that has the correct pH for them can produce their own pest-deterrents. – Lyn

  4. Hi Lyn
    Many thanks for your advice and I will try what you said and what I have read. Once again many thanks.
    Kerry

  5. Hi Lyn, I forgot to tell you that they (Nursery) said it would be to rich, Also I did not explain my self in what I meant. I buy Stable Manure and mix it in my garden but not with compost. I do have a compost bin but have not put the stable Manure in it. I may have done the wrong thing by just putting it straight in to my garden. Sorry if I did not word the first message right as Iam not very good in writing messages. And thanks for the info on fruit fly as were we live they are a real problem. I was not to sure about young Pumpkins but you have explain that to me. Many Thanks, Kerry
    Uncomposted horse manure can generate a lot of heat and burn plant roots. However, horse manure, mixed with straw stable cleanings, is fantastic for kick-starting your compost heap as it provides both nitrogen and carbon. If you put any uncomposted manure where you want to grow plants soon, it is best to use well-rotted cow manure. – Lyn

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