If you think of pumpkins as the ultimate fall crop, Monty Don may change your mind. In an episode of Gardeners' World, the gardening guru says that pumpkins are 'very much a plant of high summer: they need heat and preferably moisture and nutrition – and lots and lots of it.'
So, successfully learning how to grow pumpkins is all about providing these strong growers with what they need between now and October, when it's time to harvest them. Best of all, you can even grow them in a smaller garden, with the help of Monty's top tips.
1. Grow them vertically
This may surprise you if you're used to seeing pumpkins on the ground – that is the traditional way of growing them, after all. However, Monty prefers training his pumpkin plants up a network of strong pumpkin climbing frames. 'They're going to have to take a lot of weight,' so you'll want to build yours from thick tree branches or wooden planks – even the best climbing plant support ideas will have to take into account the sheer heaviness of these vegetables once they're big.
'The beauty of growing them up a support is that you can grow half a dozen different pumpkins in an ordinary bed, where normally you need to leave two or three meters between each plant. So it's really the only practical way to grow them if you're at all limited in space.' One of Monty's small vegetable garden ideas to treasure, we think.
2. Feed them
'The ground has been really well manured, I've put in loads of garden compost,' stresses Monty, as pumpkins and squash are heavy feeders. It's worth leaning how to compost just for the sake of providing adequate nutrition for your pumpkin patch.
3. Never allow them to dry out
'Make a doughnut around the plug plant' once you've put it into your bed, Monty recommends – 'so that when I water it, that will fill. That way the water will go to the roots, and they must never be allowed to dry out.' This applies equally to pumpkins and squashes – under watered plants will wilt and won't bear quality fruit.
Monty's favorite squash and pumpkin varieties
Monty likes some of the more unusual varieties. He praises 'Blue Hubbard' for cooking – 'the skin is blue but the flesh is orange and very good'. Another long-time favorite is 'Musquee de Provence', which has got green skin. He also recommends a variety called 'Blue Kuri', which hails from Japan and is, 'smaller and much better for storing, and absolutely delicious'.
Anna writes about interior design and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.
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