pumpkin

  • Grow at Home - Perfect Pumpkins

    Big_pumpkins_in_field_with_many_behind

    Pumpkins are a perfect crop to grow with children as they look impressive and can be put to use at Halloween as lanterns.  The flesh makes great soups and pies and there are many other than the huge orange varieties which are developed for great flavour rather than size.

    Where to grow

    Deep fertile soil that is rich in Humus. Before planting out dig a panting pit 45cm deep.  Fill the pit with well rotted manure or garden compost and back fill again.

    Plant or sow pumpkins in a sunny position and protect from strong winds

    Sowing

    Sowing can begin under glass in late spring at a temperature of 15-18c.  Soak the seed overnight to speed up germination.  Rootrainers will give them the perfect start.

    Plant out in the prepared space in early summer after all threat of frost has passed. Alternatively sow direct in early summer under an Easy Tunnel to aid germination.

    Keep a distance of 1.5m between rows or use one Medium Veg Planter per plant.

    Aftercare

    To keep the vigorous growth in check, train the stems around the plant pinning them to the ground with pegs or opt for a decorative frame to support the developing crop.

    Watering needs to to take place throughout the growing season and feeding every two weeks will support the rapid growth of the pumpkins.  Pinch out the trailing tips and once the fruits are mature stop watering and feeding completely.

    Harvesting and Storage

    The fruits will mature best on the plant.  Harvest the entire crop before the first frosts, leaving a stem of about 5 cm. Leave them in a sunny position for about a week for the skins to harden - they will then store well.

    Pumpkin Pests and diseases

    Slugs can be a problem, especially when the fruits start to grow - Slugbusters will help to protect the crop.

  • Grow at Home: Courgettes & Squashes

    Courgettes_pumpkins_pileCourgettes are so easy to grow and you can get as many as three or four a week from each plant during the height of the season.  Squash are also easy and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes from huge pumpkins to tiny cucamelons.  You can even grow your own Loofah (yes its a squash!) if you want to take squash growing to another level!

    Which you grow depends on

    • the space you have
    • what you like to eat
    • when you want to grow them  - there are winter squashes and summer squashes
    • What you like the look of - some are so decorative that you might just want them there to add some zing to your colour scheme (and of course you can eat them after too)

     

    Where to Grow Courgettes & Squashes

    They need quite a bit of space - about a square metre/yard per plant for courgettes and bush squash varieties, so allow enough room in your veg patch.  Trailing squash varieties need even more space - around 5' (1.5m) square.Kabocha

    If you don't have this amount of space spare they will be perfectly at home in a large Veg Planter or a Grow Bag Planter. Plant one per container or one or two per Growbag planter.   

    Sowing

    cucamelons_chelseaOutside

    You can sow directly outside from May onwards.  If you do this then sow 2 to 3 seeds 1" (2.5cm) deep and cover with a Cloche or an Easy Poly Tunnel.  Leave the protection in place for at least two weeks and then thin the seedlings to leave the strongest one. The cover will also help keep slugs away too which are partial to a young courgette plant.

    Inside

    It is easier and more successful to get them going inside though on a windowsill or in the greenhouse.  Sow the seeds on their side  ½ ”(1 cm) deep in small 3” (7.5cm) pots on the windowsill  from April to June,

    From May onwards harden off the plants.  Do this by putting them in a cold frame for a week.  If you don't have a cold frame then put them outside during the day and then pull them back inside at night for a week.  Then put them outside in a sheltered spot day and night for a week.  Once hardened plant them out into their final position from May to July when they are as large as you dare let them grow in the small pots.

    Courgettes love a good dollop of manure under them so if you have any dig it into the bed along with some good compost or add it to your container before you plant them.

    Flowers

    Courgettes_flower_with_baby_courgetteWe just have to mention the flowers at this stage.  Courgette and squash plants have male and female flowers on the same plant.  The male flowers appear first and have a single stamen covered in pollen.  They release this pollen and then fall off leading those new to courgette growing to panic and wonder if they will get any courgettes!  Rest assured that the fruit all comes from the female flowers.  The plant then produces female flowers which have a noticeable swelling behind the flower which is the start of the fruit.

    Watering & Feeding

    Courgettes and squashes are very thirsty plants so need frequent watering.  Try to avoid getting water on the leaves when watering and don't let it sit in a pool of water as this may cause rot.

    Once the fruits start to appear - you will see them behind the flowers - feed every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser.

    Harvesting

    Harvest from July to October.  Pick the courgettes anything from 6” 15cm to 12” 30cm, depending on what you want to do with them. Croping them while small will ensure a longer croping period.  The smaller they are the more tender and more delicious. The larger ones are good for perhaps stuffed courgette dishes. The flower is also edible either fried in a light tempura batter or in a salad.

    Pests & Diseases

    Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaves which become stunted and shrivel.

    Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations  Easy if you are growing in containers - simply move elsewhere in the garden.

    Grey mould: This is a grey, fuzzy fungal growth which can begin as pale or discoloured patches. It is most common in damp or humid conditions. Spores can survive over winter and enter plants via damaged tissue or open flowers.

    Remedy: Where you see the black spores remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected. Cut out infected areas into healthy tissue and clear up infected debris and wash your hands before touching healthy plants. If growing in the greenhouses, ventilate well to reduce humidity and give plants lots of space.

    No courgettes or fruit rots whilst very small: This is not strictly a 'pest or disease' but more a problem with the growing conditions.  It is usually caused when pollination has not taken place or has been inadequate.  This happens when the start of the summer is cool and there aren't enough insects around to pollinate the plants.

    Remedy:  If you notice a lack of insects then you may want to try to hand-pollinate your plants.  Do this by taking off a male flower (see above on how to identify one).  Brush the central parts against the centre of a female flower. If you don't have time to do this don't worry.  This problem should go away on its own when the weather starts to improve.

  • Hold onto Autumn and use your stored pumpkin for this lovely recipe...

    Autumn_Leaf_in_leaf_litterLashing rain from frequent storms makes it feel like Autumn is over.  In Greek mythology, Autumn began when Persephone was abducted by Hades to be the Queen of the Underworld. In distress Persephone's mother, Demeter who was goddess of the harvest, caused all the crops on Earth to die until her daughter was allowed to return, marking spring.

    I think maybe it is more to do with temperatures dropping and chlorophyll in leaves declining allowing us to see the other chemicals present but it's a nice story!

    Regardless of its origins Autumn is when the mercury drops and we can think of soup.  Lovely thick soup, warm chunky bread and melting butter. And if you have pumpkins stored in your Haxnicks Veg Sacks  its time to get one out an warm up the advancing winter.

    And what better ingredient than pumpkin?  It is perfect for adding body and a creamy texture to soup.  It is also low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol and high in fibre not to mention it packs a punch in cold fighting super heroes like Vitamin C.    An all round super food so here is my very simple to make take on the recipe.

    Pumpkin Soup

    Preparation: 30 – 35 minutes Cooking time: 45 – 55 minutes Serves: 6 – 8

    Ingredients:pile_of_pumpkins

    2lbs (900g) pumpkins

    2 medium sized onions

    2 tbs olive oil

    1 1/2 pints (700ml) stock

    6 floz (150ml) double cream

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Sprig of parsley to decorate

     

    Directions:

    1. Chop and fry the onions gently with the olive oil in a pan large enough to take the entire soup.
    2. Deseed and chop the pumpkin into little chunks, add these to the frying pan. Cook gently stirring occasionally for a further 5 – 10 minutes.
    3. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
    4. Add the cream and boil again.
    5. Now put the whole lot into the liquidiser and whizz until smooth.
    6. Serve with a few parsley leaves placed on top, hot, with delicious fresh bread on a cold winters day.

    For a printable PDF click here Pumpkin Soup 

     
  • Halloween special... Pumpkin Pie anyone?

    From the pictures on Social Media it appears that this was a bumper year for pumpkins and squashes.  I am sure that this was not without its difficulties, particularly keeping them watered in the long hot summer.  Not something we have cause to worry about often!  But the results speak for themselves so I am sure that there are many of you in need of another pumpkin recipe so here it is.

    Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

    Some say pumpkins are not that flavoursome however, after spending hours hollowing them out at Halloween you can’t possibly let all that free food go to waste! So I have this recipe for a sweet pumpkin pie that makes a change from what you eat during the year.

    This pie can be eaten hot or cold, and is rather nice with cream, ice cream or crème fresh. Delish!

    Ingredients

    Filling                                                                                           Pastry

    2 eggs                                                                        6oz 170g plain flour

    2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar                                  2oz 50g icing sugar

    1 can sweetened condensed milk                                         5oz 140g salted butter

    400g pumpkin flesh                                                                  1-2 tbsp. cold water

    50g plain flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    100g pecan halves broken into little bits

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Serves: 6-8

    1. Firstly make the pastry: Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make a good dough, do not overwork the pastry.
    2. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for 15- 20 minutes.
    3. Grease a 9”, 23cm diameter pie tin and place in fridge.
    4. Turn the oven on to 190°C, gas mark 5.
    5. Now for the filling. Cut the pumpkin flesh into thin slivers or little squares ½ cm x ½ cm.
    6. In a separate bowl place ALL the other ingredients and mix hard with a wooden spoon until you have a gooey consistency.
    7. Add the pumpkin pieces and mix in.
    8. Get the pastry and tin from the fridge. Roll out the pastry to fit the tin then add the filling ingredients - If there is too much mixture you can always bake it in a little ramekin and cook separately.
    9. Lastly, put your pecan nuts into a bowl and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are the size you want them.  I like little chips.  Then sprinkle them on top of the pie and place the pie into the oven for 35-45 minutes.

    For a printable copy click here Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

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