Last year I joined the Memphis Area Master Gardeners. I don’t go around advertising this much because the title “Master Gardener” implies that one knows everything about horticulture and I certainly do not! But after 14 weeks of interesting classes taught by local professionals, I can legitimately claim to be a lot less ignorant.
At a meeting last spring, someone gave away some extra pumpkin seedlings. I brought one home and planted it in the same bed with the surprise watermelons and cantaloupes. It took off right away, developing a thick vine with huge leaves. It also grew large, yellow male flowers on long stems. Every morning, flowers from the previous day were on the ground as if they had been cut off deliberately. A little googling revealed that these blooms last only one day, then close and fall off the plant.
I checked for little pumpkins every day without success. But then one morning, I spotted this
I forgot to write down the name of this variety, but it has a pear shape. It grew fast and I loved its deep green color.
Then a bit of orange appeared on the bottom of the pumpkin and traveled up the sides until the whole thing was transformed. Here you can see the progression.
This pumpkin will be ready to harvest after the vines have been killed by frost and the stems are dry and shrunken. Apparently, growing pumpkins in the south is difficult because of heat, humidity and disease. So far this one looks happy and healthy, but other parts of the plant are looking puny. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, however, so we shall see what happens. Even if the vine is doomed, my expertise on growing pumpkins has been significantly enhanced.
My pumpkin is a loner right now. The other female flowers won’t open, and the tiny ovaries just shrivel up and drop to the ground.
I intervened by trying hand-pollination. I picked up a closed male flower to harvest some pollen, and a trapped bee flew out! After a little jumping and screaming, I collected pollen with a paintbrush, then opened a female flower and deposited the yellow grains inside. I hope the poor things did not feel violated. It’s too early to tell if this worked, but so far none of the fruits have withered. This is what the female flower looks like.
In other horticultural news, I am sorry to report that my last watermelon split before it was ready. I cut it up, slicing a finger in the process, and composted it. Only a few bean plants have sprouted so I will start some more in pots. Both of these setbacks are probably due to our recent record-setting high temperatures that are also causing ME to wilt!