Giant pumpkins

Regular readers may recall that after every Halloween, we pick up unwanted pumpkins from local stores. There isn’t anything as outdated as a pumpkin after that holiday, and often the stores will let us have them simply because we are willing to take them all and clean up the area when we are done.

Last year I was lucky enough to snag one of those giant pumpkins that weigh over one hundred pounds. I have no idea what ours weighed, but it took both my helper Seth and me to get the thing out of the pickup and out into the field for the ewes to demolish. At the time, I was hoping to collect some of the seeds in case these giant pumpkins were not a hybrid. I thought I might plant them this past spring and see what came up. I also thought it might take the ewes a bit of time to get into such a large orb, so I wasn’t in a hurry to get into the field to collect my seeds. I parked the truck back in the garage first. By the time I returned to the pasture a few minutes later, the giant pumpkin had disappeared, and in its place were small pieces of mauled pumpkin and a few overlooked seeds nestled into the grass.

Determined as I was, I dug into the grass and collected the seeds I could find, about thirty in all. This past spring, I planted my seeds in little peat pots, and I was so proud of myself! I have many great plans, but so many times these plans never materialize. I had twenty or twenty-five peat pots but more seeds than that, so I planted a single seed in about half of the pots and two seeds in each of the rest. Interestingly, the seeds that were planted two to a pot all came up first — the single seeds didn’t sprout for an extra week. I have no clue why.

In the end, however, every pot sprouted its seedlings and it wasn’t long before I planted them outside. I wasn’t sure whether they would produce giant pumpkins, but any pumpkins would be better than none. The sheep wouldn’t be picky about size! They needed to be planted about eight feet apart. Since we have three eight-by-eight-foot raised beds, each got a pumpkin peat pot. I planted the rest in various patches of dirt in our many pastures — if they lived and produced, great! If not, then I’d lost only the price of a peat pot. Little did I expect the pumpkins to take off as they have!

Giant pumpkin vines have taken over, covering the eight currant bushes and invading the lawn behind the house.

Giant pumpkin vines have taken over, covering the eight currant bushes and invading the lawn behind the house.

The plants in the raised beds have long since left the beds. They are now totally covering the compost bins and have taken over half of the wood shed. They have also twined along the side of the stairway to the Storage Barn and totally covered our eight currant bushes. Not only have the vines taken over, but there are pumpkins everywhere! The biggest pair sit within inches of each other, each growing at least an inch in diameter every day. Both are huge!

Many of the pumpkin plants in the pastures are also growing, although much more slowly. The raised beds are filled with years of compost from our chickens and sheep, so I’m sure there is great soil there. The vines in the pastures must fight the grass and weeds for moisture, and every few weeks, the sheep likely trample them as they forage for their favorite plants. Surprisingly, many of these plants are growing well, and we may end up with pumpkins from them too!

I didn’t follow any of the recommendations that I read online for pumpkin plants. I didn’t feed them anything extra, I haven’t watered them except immediately after planting, and I did not reduce the number of pumpkins to one per vine. Honestly, I’m way too busy to have to attend to pumpkins. What we get is what we get. I worry enough about my sheep — I’m not going to worry about the pumpkins too!

So it looks as if giant pumpkins will be on the sheep menu this fall. I’ll update you when they reach maturity to show you how they did.

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