New World Little Gardens

butternut pattern
butternut

Pumpkin

Cucurbita moschata

The butternut pumpkin 'Waltham' takes up a bit of space in the garden, but they’re easy to grow and delicious in lots of sweet and savoury dishes. Pumpkins love heat and won’t survive outside if it’s too cold, so plant inside and don’t move into the garden until Labour Weekend at the earliest.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Getting started

  • Put the soil tablet on a saucer and pour 50ml of water over it.
  • Put on gloves and mix the water into the soil with your hands to make a wet mixture. Watch the soil expand.
  • Use most of your soil to fill up the pot to around 2cm below the top.
  • Carefully tear open the sachet and place the seeds on top of the soil (take care not to press down too hard).
  • Now use the rest of your soil mixture to cover the seed mat.
  • Remember to wash your hands when you’re done!

How to keep your Little Garden healthy

  • Place the pot on a clean saucer in a place with enough light, but not directly in the sun.
  • Check the soil in the morning, and before bed. If the soil feels dry and crumbly, pour a small amount of clean water over the surface.
  • Within 1 week you should see a little plant appear from the soil. That means the seeds have germinated and will be ready soon to move into a bigger pot or garden.
  • If more than one little plant grows, you can thin your pumpkin seedling by choosing the strongest-looking one and removing the others.

When your seedling is ready to go in the garden

  • When your pumpkin has 1-2 sets of true leaves (after 2-3 weeks), it’s ready to shift into the garden, but only if the weather is reliably settled and warm (no risk of frost).
  • Get your pumpkin used to life outside: You can harden off your pumpkin seedling by putting it in a warm and sheltered spot for 1-2 hours a day and return inside for the night. Do this for 4-5 days, leaving it outside for a little longer each day before you shift it out into the garden forever.

Planting best practice

  • Pumpkins are heavy feeders, so give your pumpkin a sunny spot and a really rich soil: dig through some compost and sheep pellets a few weeks before planting.
  • These are a sprawling plant that needs a lot of space. Keep it at the edge of the vege bed and keep moving the vine over the side so it doesn’t overwhelm any nearby crops.
  • Pumpkins can grow next to your compost heap, or at the base of a wall or trellis. It will climb with a bit of encouragement (pick up and drape the vine towards the wall – eventually it should attach itself and start growing upwards), but you will need additional support when the heavy fruit starts to form.

Look after your plant while it’s growing

  • Water regularly while the plant is setting fruit: water only at the base of the stem and avoid wetting the leaves as this can spread fungal infections such as powdery mildew or downy mildew.
  • When the vine is about 1.5m long, you can thin your pumpkin by pinching off the growing tip of the main shoot. This will encourage more of the fruit-bearing side-shoots, and so hopefully increase your yummy harvest.

Harvest time

  • In 3-4 months you should have 4-5 good-sized (about 20cm long from top to bottom) pear-shaped fruit on each plant. The skin on each fruit should feel thick and hard.
  • Carefully cut each fruit off the vine with a sharp knife, leaving as much of the stem as possible attached to the fruit.

Watch out

  • Slugs and snails will nibble on young plants, so create your own pest protection, lay out bait or pick off these slimy pests.
  • Aphids can be a problem, particularly if the plant is kept too dry. Check for these pests frequently; squash them with your fingers or blast them off with the hose as soon as you notice them. Don’t let these guys get comfy on your plants.
  • Later in the season pumpkins can be affected by powdery mildew, a fungal infection that causes a white film on the leaves. If you notice this, remove affected leaves and spray the plant weekly with a milk and baking soda spray.

Pumpkin in your gardens