Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Grow your own Pumpkin for next Halloween

This weekend in the town I live in it is our annual Pumpkin Festival and it is a great weekend full of fun , fireworks and well Pumpkins. This time next year you could be growing your very own pumpkin to carve if you follow these tips.

How to grow Pumpkins

How to sow seed


  • Seeds can be sown in pots from April to June, in fact save your seeds from your store brought pumpkin this year by washing them and letting them dry on kitchen paper and storing in a seed packet. Fill a small pot with compost, place a seed in on its side about 1inch deep and cover.
  • Label, water and place on a windowsill or in a propagator. When roots begin to show though the bottom of the pot transfer into a larger pot.
  • Once seedlings have established, plant outside spacing them 2-3m (6-10ft) apart. Seeds can also be sown from late May to early summer directly into the ground or you can plant them in a grow bag - one plant per grow bag which is what I did.
  • Choose a sunny, sheltered spot and improve the soil before planting by digging in well-rotted manure or compost. Sow two seeds on their side about an inch deep.
  • Once the seedlings have germinated, remove the weakest one.

Looking after plants

  • Protect seedlings with mulch and feed with a good organic fertiliser or organic tomato plant food, watering regularly though the growing season, pumpkins are hungry plants.
  • If you're growing larger varieties use wire as a guide to train shoots as they grow. Remove some fruits before they develop, leaving two or three fruits on the plant. This will encourage the plant to put its energy into producing larger fruit.
  • As the fruits get bigger raise them up onto a piece of tile or brick to protect them from rotting. Remove any leaves shading the fruit as it needs maximum light to ripen.
  • If there's a risk of an early frost protect the fruit with cardboard and straw.

Harvesting and storage

  • Leave the fruit on the plant for as long as possible to mature and ripen. When the stem cracks and the skin is very tough, the fruit is ready to be picked.
  • Cut fruit off with a long stalk before the first frost. Pumpkins can be stored between four to six months.
  • Expose the pumpkin to sunlight outside for ten days or keep indoors at 27-32ºC (81-90ºF) for four days to harden.
  • Keep your pumpkin stored in a well-ventilated place at about 10ºC degrees (50ºF).

Five to try

  • 'Hundredweight' - true to its name this pumpkin is big, it has bright orange skin and needs lots of watering to grow evenly and to its maximum size
  • 'Crown prince' - more unusual in shape and colour, this grey skin pumpkin has orange flesh and is ideal for cooking with
  • 'Jack of all trades' - ideal for Halloween lanterns, this pumpkin stores well and also cooks well
  • 'Rouge Vif D'Estampes' - has a strong ornamental shape with red ribbed skin and moist orange flesh, also known as the 'Cinderella' pumpkin
  • 'Baby Bear' - a golden orange fruit, its seeds can be roasted and eaten. Also great for making pumpkin pie
After you have carved your pumpkins you can save the flesh for a tasty pumpkin recipe like this yummy pumpkin soup.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup


  • 1 large onion - chopped - Aldi 39c ( special offer)
  • The flesh of one large pumpkin but it also works with butternut squash - SuperValu €2 or free if you grow your own :) chopped up in a blender.
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock.
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil 
  • 2 tsp Gram Masala 
  • 1 carton single cream or natural yoghurt - optional.

    The How to Bit   

    1. Put the chopped Onion into a pan with the Olive oil and sweat the onions until translucent and soft.  
    2. Add the pumpkin and the Gram Masala (curry paste will do too) and sauté for a few minutes.
    3. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for 20 minute or until the pumkpin is soft.
    4. To make it creamier add the cream or yoghurt and stir in five minutes before serving.
    5. Serve with thick crusty bread and it warm curry flavour will take the chill off any October day.