I was surprised to realize recently that I have been growing pumpkins for almost thirty years! And it all started by accident. One early summer afternoon, when I lived in Connecticut, I was sitting in my yard under some shady trees with a friend, when I noticed we had these big orange flowers growing in the composting area. I had no clue what they were. When I asked my friend, she said they looked like squash flowers-but I hadn’t planted any squash seeds. Yang was away in China visiting his family, but when he checked in with me by phone, he said those were probably from the Halloween pumpkins we’d put in with the compost last fall. He told me to check for a bump under some of the flowers, which I sure enough found: embryos on the female flowers. I even learned how to pollinate the female with male flowers. Happily, we ended up with some giant pumpkins for Halloween that fall. My pumpkin growing with Yang was off to a successful start!
Eventually, we had to re-purpose that area, but we created another pumpkin garden next to the house. They loved it there! We had gourds, pumpkins, decorative squash and even hulu! You can see how the vines spread out and took over. The land was so rich we had the best of luck growing. You can also see that in my thirties, I was a natural blonde-just saying.
When we moved to Auburn, we had a lot of land, but not all of it was good for growing vegetables. Still, after the first year, we did get some nice pumpkins and gourds, as well as other veggies (peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, soy beans, corn). However, the earth in the first garden we had started to wear out after almost twenty years. About three years ago, we got NO pumpkins or gourds. Yang decided to do something.
He developed a circular garden in the middle of our large lawn, filling it with lots of good earth and cow manure. Last year, we got plenty of veggies and some outstanding pumpkins and gourds. One white pumpkin is still whole and unrotted over a whole year later. Of course, Yang also circled the garden with a fence and chicken wire at the bottom to keep out the critters. This year he expanded the garden and replaced about six inches of bad earth with cow manure and good soil. Boy did we do well with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and PUMPKINS!
Here’s Number 1 Son, the first pumpkin to get fertilized (thanks to me), as well as the first pumpkin to be picked. He’s not the biggest, but your first born is always special. He came off the vine of some seedlings that we bought.
We also have a sister to last year’s big white pumpkin. I think this one might even grow to be bigger than last year’s. This pumpkin grew from seeds that I saved from an early pumpkin. When I buy pumpkins for decoration, I always look for good “breeding stock” from which I save the seeds for growing the next generation.
I’m not sure what the heck this one is. It’s green with stripes. I don’t remember buying seeds or saving any that looked like this one, so it’s probably some kind of hybrid. If anyone recognizes the type, please let me know. Maybe it’s part squash?
We bought a bunch of pumpkin seedlings from Howe’s in Paxton, and I also planted seeds from previous years’ pumpkins of a similar variety. I did plant the seedlings and the seeds in different quadrants, but the vines just went wild, so it’s hard to tell which is the source for these beautiful orange pumpkins. this one, I can trace back to a seedling, but the others are hard to tell.
Some of the plants are more adventurous than others. This guy snaked through the fence and is now growing wild and free (and subject to rabbits and ground hogs) in the yard. What a rebel!
As you may have noticed, we have some sunflowers in this garden. I successfully planted delphinium and bachelor buttons, then said, “What the hey!” and dropped in two sunflower seeds. We’d had a mammoth sunflower that I bought last year, towering about seven feet. Well, one of my seeds (either from a package or that sunflower) has shot way up. Here it is next to me (I’m 5’3″) for scale. So, I hope your growing season this year, despite the drought, was as successful as ours!
This summer and autumn we had great luck with our vegetables! In the older garden, we followed the advice of our friends Peter and Eric and put dried grass over the ground around our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings. They grew tall and strong and gave us plenty of fruit!
Then, as an experiment, Yang created a new garden in the center of our yard where there was abundant sunlight and Yang laid down lots of cow manure and rich soil.I admit the area does look shaded here, but it’s mostly sunny. I also had him sow soy beans in the big patch we used to have for pumpkins in the old garden. I know that soy beans revitalize the soil, so I’m hoping a few seasons of them will enrich that plot so it can support pumpkins once more.
As a result, between the two gardens, we ended up with multiple servings of peppers, egg plant (still a few left), tomatoes, and soy beans! We also got several nice gourds and pumpkins from Yang’s garden as well. We might have had more, but we ended up planting late. Anyway, we can’t wait for next year to set up our new gardens, expanded and improved!
We also did much better than expected with our sunflowers, which generally had been brutally assaulted by squirrels, birds, and bugs. I bough one seedling for Yang’s garden that shot up to over seven feet! These seeds that I planted managed to dodge predators and provided a beautiful glow in the sunset. I’ll be experimenting with buying seedlings and planting my own seeds again next year. The birds have since finished off the seeds from these flowers.
I hope you enjoyed the show!
Summer is almost officially past, so I’m posting some images from my gardens. We have three kinds of morning glories flowering in our yard. We’d have four, if the large blue ones would flower, but they won’t. So, we have some deep purple, some magenta, and some orchid ones. I don’t know all the names of the types, but they are lovely. Every year, I collect the seeds from these flowers to replant them in the spring. Sometimes, we get some interesting hybrids. I managed to get pictures of one of my favorites. Sometimes the orchid morning glories will sport a broad, deep purple stripe, as you see here. The seeds will actually reflect the combined types. Orchid seeds are cream colored and purple or magenta ones are black. These hybrid seeds are usually cream with a black stripe. Sometimes, the orchid ones will also blend with the magenta to produce a pink flower. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the one pink flower I’ve seen so far, but I did tag the flower so that I can retrieve the seeds.
The birds have also been having a grand time in our yard. We’ve seen lots of cardinals, including the Daddy Cardinal taking the kids out for dinner. We also have Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, scads of Gold Finches and Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches. I even saw a hummingbird three times this year! One time was in early September! The young gentleman Coopers Hawks have since taken off and rarely visit now. We named them Shawn and Gus – I know you know that I AM telling the truth about that! In this picture, you can see one hawk in the foreground and if you look carefully, the other is in silhouette in the triangle of railings on the right.
The drought has certainly left my pumpkins gasping for life. I’ve seen so many pumpkin and gourd embryos wither and die. Still, some made it. Here is an odd shaped pumpkin, which some critter took a chunk out of. Still, the pumpkin lives and now resides on my sideboard in the dining room. The pumpkin below isn’t a rogue that needs to be caged to protect the other flora and fauna. The vine climbed over the garden fence and the pumpkin embryo became fertilized hanging over the outside of the garden. Since we found evidence of some creature trying to dig into the garden, we developed protective caging from milk cartons. The ploy worked, for this pumpkin matured and now resides in state on the what-not table in my parlor. You can also see a crown of thorns embryo ready to flower and be fertilized. The good news is that this little guy is happily growing away. Maybe I’ll have some more pictures of it later.
Here are some of our eggplants and peppers. These guys were delicious! Yang can cook! So, I guess the drought didn’t totally blacken my green thumb.