- Author: Erin Mahaney
I have never aspired to grow a giant pumpkin like those celebrated in Half Moon Bay, but I thought it would be fun to grow a few small pumpkins of our own for the children to decorate. For the past two seasons, I’ve experimented with different varieties in different locations, focusing on the very small varieties such as ‘Small Sugar’ and ‘Jack Be Little’ with extremely limited success. I’ve tried planting them in the limited, and thus precious, space of my small raised bed, tucked in out-of-the-way (yet well composted) areas of the yard, and in containers. I even tried growing mini pumpkins vertically, which really wasn’t very successful (although two minis are better than none, I suppose). The larger pumpkin vines have eked out a pumpkin or two, but really haven’t produced very well.
So this year, while I couldn’t give up entirely, I didn’t try very hard. I threw a few leftover seeds into a garden box next to my deck and promptly forgot about it until my husband asked one day, “Did you really plant a pumpkin THERE?”
Yes, indeed, we had a happy, healthy pumpkin vine growing in a small box with limited soil--it must have appreciated the full sun and regular water in that location because there wasn’t much else to live on. I can’t quite recall what seeds I threw down, but I believe it is ‘Rouge vif d'Etampes,’ also known as the ‘Cinderella’ pumpkin because its shape resembles the fairy tale coach. It is an heirloom pumpkin with beautiful deep orange-red skin. Although we lost the use of part of our deck for a few months, gingerly walking around the vines, it was worth it to watch one pumpkin grow to full size and to anticipate several others that were close to maturity.
But then pumpkin tragedy struck. All of a sudden, in mid-September, hordes of whiteflies descended. Whiteflies are small insects that are usually found on the underside of leaves in large numbers. If disturbed, clouds of them will arise from the plant. Two types of whiteflies infest cucurbits (the plant family that includes pumpkins and squash)—the greenhouse whitefly and the silverleaf whitefly. The silverleaf whitefly is relatively new to California, but it is a serious pest and has the potential to cause considerable damage to cucurbits. Feeding on the plants causes their leaves to turn whitish or silver, hence the name silverleaf whitefly. More information about whiteflies and cucurbits can be found on the UC Integrated Pest Management website at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r116301211.html.
Given that I didn’t anticipate my pumpkin plant would grow, much less be infested by whiteflies, I obviously didn’t plan for any cultural controls and I don’t care to use most sprays (mostly due to laziness). Insecticidal soap is a treatment option, but it requires frequent applications and full coverage when spraying. I simply don’t have the time or the patience to spray the underside of each leaf of a sprawling pumpkin vine multiple times. We harvested our one large pumpkin, cut the vines without small pumpkins in the hopes of reducing the whiteflies’ feeding area, sprayed the plant once, and cross our fingers that this would control the pests long enough to harvest a few more pumpkins.
But alas, clouds of whiteflies are not the company you want to keep when relaxing on a backyard deck, so I ultimately harvested one more pumpkin and hauled the infested vines to the trash. I didn’t even dare compost them since they were so infested. The harvested pumpkins are now developing dark spots – I keep telling myself that it is natural variability in their coloration, but I am a little worried that somehow the whiteflies have caused the pumpkins to rot. Time will tell. No fairy tale ending here for our ‘Cinderella’ pumpkins, but we did enjoy the story while it lasted.
- Author: Edward Walbolt
In modern America, pumpkins are the iconic symbol of the Fall season. Pumpkins are a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita from the family Cucurbitaceae and they are native to North America. The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word 'pepon' meaning large melon. Pumpkins date back to 5500 BC and were traced to what is now modern Mexico. They are monoecious, meaning that they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. Pumpkins are a good source of lutein and beta carotene. They are a warm weather crop most often planted in July and they grow best in soils that retain water well. Modern American uses during the fall season are to carve jack-o-lanterns, for pumpkin pies, or part of seasonal table top displays. The seeds from inside the pumpkin can be roasted and consumed, pumpkin can be used to fill ravioli, or be used to flavor brewed beers. Canned pumpkin can be effectively used to treat cats and dogs who experience digestive issues, as I recently had success with first hand. Inevitably most of us will consume pumpkins this Fall in some form or fashion so its nice to know some interesting facts behind the fruit.
- Author: Patricia Brantley
How much of an image does this phrase conjure up in our mind? Linus sitting in the dark field waiting for the “Great Pumpkin” to show up? The pumpkin (Curcurbita pepo) at this time of year comes into the spotlight as Halloween pumpkin carving and growing contests abound. It’s fun to see what our imagination can come up with from the traditional triangle eyes and jagged toothed mouth, to complete works of art and vignettes of these and other popular squashes. Just do a quick search on carved pumpkins and you’ll find more than your fill.
Alas, pumpkin at and after Halloween can become a bit like turkey leftovers at Thanksgiving though. What do you do with that decomposing candle charred heap on your doorstep?
Well, composting is a good idea if you have such a pile. At the very least get it to the green bin before the bugs attack or the bottom rots out leaving you with that wet, orange stain on your front walk until Christmas.
If you haven’t carved it, painted it, or otherwise decimated it in someway, I encourage you to give something new a try. Full of Vitamin A, there is a plethora of goodies to make, and you thought Master Gardener’s were just about growing stuff. Here you can surely find something to suit your taste buds from the savory to the sweet. http://ucanr.org/sites/CE_San_Joaquin/files/35479.pdf
Finally, don’t forget to save a seed or two for next year (before baking!) so you can have another try at growing your own great pumpkin!/span>
- Author: Karen Metz
It seems like every year there is one plant or crop that stands out, sometimes because of its success and sometimes because of its abject failure. This year the spaghetti squash has been the star of the show. I saved the seeds from a squash from a farmers' market and started them in little six packs. I was starting several other kinds of squash as well. This year's garden was slow to get started as we had a prolonged cool spring. By the time things started growing I had forgotten which squash was where. Most of the squash stayed politely where they had been planted, but the spaghetti squash took off running.
Soon it had grown through my tomato cages, escaped the bounds of my raised beds and started up the climbing roses. I would whack it back every now and then to leave room for the other vegetables. After it began flowering and setting fruit, I was amazed at the size of some of them. Some were like small watermelon. Now they have turned from green to orange instead of the expected yellow.
For those of you not familiar with spaghetti squash, it's a winter squash that when halved, seeded, and cooked, has flesh that can be separated into spaghetti like strands with a fork. Squash are famous for their ability to cross pollinate so I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a bit of pumpkin in this squash's background. I guess I won't know until I try and cook them.
When I went on the web to try and look up the proper timing of the spaghetti squash harvest, I had my first exposure to garden forum humor. When others had asked a similar question, the answers had ranged from when the water is boiling to when the meatballs are ready. Apparently the real answer is to let the color change from green to yellow and to wait til the skin thickens, hardens, and cannot be pierced with your fingernail. Then the squash will be able to be stored for months.