This month’s blog for October is going to focus on how to grow you own weird and wonderful varieties of pumpkins and squash at home or on your allotment plots. We will be giving you all our top tips to be successful for your 2023 harvest. With hundreds of different types of pumpkin and squash available to grow here in the UK, now is the perfect time to think about creating your own pumpkin patch ready for next season.
Pumpkins and squash are the perfect beginner vegetable and great for getting children interested in the garden and outdoors. It doesn’t matter if you have acres of space or a small garden, you can still grow them successfully by utilising vertical growing space by using the right varieties that like to grow up instead of across. We will aim to give you the ultimate go to step-by-step guide to help you grow your first pumpkin or squash with ease.
One of the first key points is preparation of the growing area. If you are using an allotment plot or garden border and wish to grow multiple plants to create your own mini pumpkin patch, then the first focus is your soil. Autumn is a great time to focus on soil not just for your pumpkin patch but for gardening in general. You can start by clearing these areas of any dead plants, lightly weeding and making sure that any perennial weeds are removed. The next step is to add a layer of cardboard to the area and then cover the cardboard with mulch. Mulch is a fantastic product that will help feed the soil with the right nutrients, retain moisture and supress weeds over the winter. Our amazing Magic Mulch is the perfect product for the job!
When your space is prepped and ready you can leave it like this until springtime, in the meantime you can have a think about what you would like to grow in the space you have. You can order in your seeds any time up until spring so take some time choosing what’s right for your space and if you want to use the fruits for decoration or eating. Have a think about the space you have and how you can use it to its fullest potential by growing in all of the space vertically and across the ground.
Below you can see our list of great vertical and ground growing varieties.
- Jack o lantern
- Baby boo
- Turks turban
- Jack be little
- Sweet dumpling
- Butternut squash
- Galeux d.Eysines
- Musque de provence
- Jack o lantern
- Crown prince
- Queensland blue
- Giant pumpkin
- Autumn crown
- Uchiki Kuri
The next part of the pumpkin growing journey will start again in April/May time when you need to start thinking about sowing your seeds. Sow single seeds into pots, filled with peat free compost, you can use the Seed and Cutting compost from our range. Make sure you sow your seeds on their side as this helps with germination and helps prevent the seeds from rotting. Place the seeds in a brightly lit warm area, so a sunny windowsill or greenhouse. Make sure you give them a light water but don’t over water as peat free compost naturally retains more moisture. It will take around 7-10 days for germination and then the plants will grow very quickly. As you leave your plants to grow you may find they outgrow and need to be re potted into slightly bigger pots, so you don’t restrict their root growth.
Planting out will happen around the month of May or when the risk of frost has passed in your area, this can vary depending on where you like in the UK (you can check this online). You want to make sure your seedlings are mature with a few sets of leaves before they are planted out as this gives them a better chance of surviving against any pests or adverse weather. When planting out your pumpkin and squash give the plants a good 2 ft of space around them just so they are not competing for water and feed. As the plants start to grow, they will intertwine and fill the space, it is fine for the plants to overlap.
Here are our three top tips for planting out the pumpkin/squash seedlings
Firstly, when planting out the seedlings you need to dig a big enough hole to fit the plant, some extra mulch at the bottom and a 9cm plant pot next to the seedling. This plant pot will then be used to water and feed your plants. All the water and feed you use will be directed directly to the plants roots providing a better watering and feeding system, stopping any nutrients and water being lost by evaporation in the height of summer.
Secondly mulch around the plants, this is a great way to retain the moisture under the soil when the plants are in their final positions and will also provide a slow release of feed to the plants too.
Thirdly give the plants a good feed once a week with our Plant Fuel liquid plant feed. Pumpkins and squash plants are very thirsty and hungry plants so it’s important to keep them happy over the summer with enough water and a good organic feed.
Over the summer months you will see flowers start to appear and this will soon be pollinated, you don’t have to do anything to help this process as the plants will be pollinated by the bees/insects in your gardening spaces. You will see male and female flowers appear you can tell these apart as the female flowers have a small fruit set behind the flower and the male ones do not. Once pollinated the flowers will die back and the fruits on the female flowers will start to grow larger and larger each day. The wonderful things about growing pumpkins and squash is seeing the progress of the plants growing happen so quickly. Try and keep the area around the plants weed free but other than feeding and watering them pumpkin and squash are super easy plants to care for and you can just let them get on with it.
Harvest time, this will depend on when the plants were planted out, how warm the season has been and other factors. The best way to see is the plants are ready is by allowing the plants to fully die back and allowing the fruits to cure on the vine. When the vine has turned brown you can remove your pumpkins/squash by cutting the vines into a T shape. These pumpkins and squash will be ready to store in a cool dry place over the colder months and can store for up to 6 months. Just make sure that they are checked regularly for any signs of turning, and make sure when they are stored the fruits are not touching each other.
Growing Pumpkins and squash is very easy and incredibly rewarding. Get children involved by growing their own pumpkin to carve for Halloween and grow some funky squash to make excellent Halloween displays and very tasty soups.