If you haven’t heard, I’m running a contest this year to give away ARCs of The Turn, (Come back next week. I’ll have a cover to show you!) and since I’ve got a pumpkin patch this year, the winners will be chosen from those of you who correctly guess how many pumpkins I harvest. We’ve already had one round of entries, but I’ll be doing more both from FB and the newsletter over the next few months. You can double your chances by signing up to the newsletter and responding when the call goes out. (sign up is here: newsletter )
This year, the vines in my garden all came from three plants I started from seeds I kept from a locally grown pie pumpkin. I took a big chance that the original pumpkin would breed true, not knowing if it had been grown next to another variety of pumpkin, or even a zucchini, and so far, it looks like it is; the pumpkins on the vine are small, deep in color, and look perfect. They have a fantastic resistance to powdery mildew, which is a plague upon my garden. We’ll see how they cook up.
But if I want to have more seeds for next year, I have to take care to make sure there is no inter-species hanky-panky by way of the bees.
It’s not that hard to pollinate your pumpkins, but you have to be attentive, especially if it’s hot weather as pumpkins don’t set well in the heat and you have to make sure the flowers don’t cook in their protective, ah, condoms?
Chances are, you’ve got pumpkin condoms in your kitchen. So the first thing is to identify the boy flower, which is carried high on the plant, right at the top of the leaves. The one here is likely to open the next morning. You can tell from its faint orange color.
I’ve noticed that pumpkins put out a lot of males early in the season to train the bees to show up, long before any girl flowers appear, low and right next to the vine. If you’re unsure if you’re looking at a boy or girl, the female flower has a miniature fruit at the base of the flower. The one here probably won’t open for a few more days, but it’s got a nice ovum.
Pumpkins open their flowers early in the morning, then close them in the afternoon, so if you go out the night before, you can usually identify which flowers will open the following day. They will have a nice orange color in comparison to those still developing.
Pop a condom, excuse me, paper bag, over the unopened flower, both male and female, and tie them closed so bees can’t find their way in. You have to cover the male flower as well to prevent any pollen being brought in from a bee or wind. Paper bags work, but this year I used a shoe cover I got with a new pair of boots. The open mesh helped to keep the flower cool.
In the morning, go out and just pluck that male flower right off the vine. Find the female flower you covered the night before, open it up, and be the bee. Just smear that male flower all over. Some people even go bzzzzzz when they do it.
You can throw the male flower away, and carefully re-bag the female. This is where the heat can become a factor, because I’ve had fruit fail to set because it got hot in the bag. This year, I put an umbrella up and shaded it. It seemed to help.
You can take the bag off right around dusk, but be sure to tie a ribbon around the stalk so you can find it at the end of the season and collect your seeds for next year from it.
This should give you a true-breeding pumpkin seeds.
Come back Monday for the first glimpse of the cover for The Turn. It’s really something.