March is a mad time in the garden – the best type of madness, though. Autumn is a glorious time to be out in the garden, sowing seeds for autumn and winter eating, harvesting the last of the summer excesses – pumpkins and spuds, in our communal plots, for example.
On the issue of rambling pumpkins, I’ve had a few queries about taming their wandering ways, or at least encouraging them to grow elsewhere. I never have the heart to prune, but this time of year if still producing flowers it is a good idea to nip out the new growing points to encourage growth back into the fruit. You can even nip off the female flowers (pumpkins bear separate male and female flowers) which are the ones with a distinctive round swelling at the base. Male flowers are borne on the end of long thin stalks.
One way to ensure purity of pumpkin seed is to hand pollinate female flowers that are on the verge of openings with a male stalk, ensuring the pollen is well dusted onto the female flower parts.
You’ll notice that a pumpkin tends to produce lots of male flowers early in the season and not many females and then the odds change in favour of the female. But generally you’ll only get three to five fruit per plant (except some of the more prolific varieties like butternut) so the later ones are a bit of wasted energy.
I have also had good success asking the plant to grow in a certain direction (away from the beans and up the fence, for example) and encouraging it to do so. Sounds whacky, I know, but try it! (And read ‘The Secret Life of Plants, if you are intrigued..) Just like us, plants do well with a bit of positive attention. Anyway, what did i say about Madness in March…. ?!
Check out the garden notes for slightly unhinged gardeners’.