Archive for April, 2014

The Start of a Pumpkin Patch

April 25, 2014

Well it’s that time of the year again. The pumpkin patch has been planted. Now let’s hope something actually grows! MaryEllen is a huge gardening help so far, so I actually have some hope.

Pumpkin harvest of yesteryear.

Now I have some pretty old seed that I just can’t bear to throw away. So, there are a few hills that we’ll keep an eye on. If nothing grows in two weeks, we’ll put something else in them. One that I’m pretty sure will not grow is King of Mammoth. This is the largest variety that I’ve ever grown. They are not as large as the modern giants, but that is OK with me. I’m not going to spend that much time on feeding the thing extra to make it a giant. The King of Mammoth pumpkins are more round and not as ribbed like the typical pumpkins that we’re used to seeing around Halloween. I obtained these seeds years ago from Baker Creek Heirlooms seeds, but don’t recall seeing them in the last few years. This variety dates back before 1824.

We planted one hill of old Rouge vif D’Etamps which is also known as the “Cinderella” pumpkin. I haven’t bought any more of this seed in the last few years because it wasn’t the best tasting pumpkin that I’ve grown, but it did grow well. I really don’t think this seed will grow either due to its age.

Charlotte several years ago with a squash plant.

Another very old seed that I planted on hill of is Kikuza. I obtained this seed years ago from Seed Savers Exchange. This is a tan ribbed pumpkin that I can’t recall ever successfully growing (I’m sure that is not the fault of the seed). But, just can’t stand not to give the seed a chance.

In 2011 I bought some seed and never used it. So, I planted a few hills of North Georgia Candy Roaster. This seed came from Southern Exposure. The descriptions say it has an elongated banana shape and makes great pies.

On to the new seed….

I am really excited to try and grow Amish Pie Pumpkin. This seed came from Seed Savers Exchange. A few of the things that attracted me to this variety was that it is said to be an excellent keeper, has minimal pest problems, and grows well during dry spells. They say it comes from Maryland, but we’ll see how it does in Tennessee. The pumpkins typically grow about 15-45 pounds.

A squash plant from a few years ago.

This year we planted some blue varieties which are popular in Australia (so I’m told.) Each year, whether anything is planted or not, I pour over a few seed catalogs. My favorite is Baker Creek because of their pumpkin and winter squash section. It was very difficult to narrow it down to 3 blue varieties. So, here they are.

First of all the Blue Hubbard Squash. I have been wanting to stuff a hubbard for Thanksgiving for years now. Perhaps this year I’ll have one to stuff. These are expected to be 15-40 pounds. They are from the north east, so I’m not sure how well they’ll survive the heat and abundant squash bugs. The seed was obtained from Baker Creek.

A baby pumpkin from several years ago.

The next blue variety is Crown. This is suppose to be a very sweet variety. It is expected to weigh about 12 pounds and is sort of a flatter shaped pumpkin.

A third blue squash is called Queensland Blue. The pictures I have seen of this look like it has an interesting shape and it should grow to about 12 pounds as well.

In the typical pumpkin category, it was a toss up between Connecticut Field Pumpkin and Howden. I ended up purchasing Connecticut Field Pumpkin seed from a new-to-me seed company called St. Clare Heirloom Seeds. This grew well in our first pumpkin patch in 2007, so I’m hoping it does well this year for us too.

If memory serves, this plant is a Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash plant.  They grew really well here, but I was afraid to try them, as “The Complete Squash” listed them as good for cattle feed.

Next is Greek Sweet Red from Baker Creek. When I first grew this in 2007, there were no pictures to be found. Now there are. This is suppose to have excellent flesh. I don’t remember getting any the last time, but we’ll just chalk that up to inexperience and hope for the best this year. The thing that really attracted me to it, besides being yummy is that it is said to be very resistant to the squash beetles! Lord knows we need that around here. Another source said it is resistant to vine borers. I’m hoping the prolonged cold this year helps that bug situation, but I have my doubts.

The pumpkin patch a few years ago.

Even though we have Blue Hubbard seeds, St. Clare’s made the True Green Improved Hubbard variety too good to resist. This was introduced in the 1840s, so that is a plus. (I have this dream of having a War Between the States Era garden. Maybe someday.) It says it’s an easy grower and and excellent keeper. Also, Baker Creek had a wonderful picture of it in their Seed Year Book. If only we could grow a Hubbard like that!

Oh yes, Long of Naples!!! My daughter keeps asking me about the flavor, and I keep telling her that I don’t know. We grew a few of these babies one year, took pictures, put them in the barn, and then left for Ohio the next day. When we got back home, some other creature(s) had gotten to them. So, we are hoping to try eating them this year! big-squashThis is from 2008 or 2009.  Long of Naples.

New this year is the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash. We use a lot of Butternut squash around here and this is suppose to be very similar to it, but with more flesh in the crookneck. It is said to be a favorite of Amish and a favorite of Baker Creek.

Of course, we cannot plant a “pumpkin” patch without Waltham Butternut. These grow for us every year, whether we plant them or not! If we don’t have a garden per say, they grow out of the compost pile. They get used quite a bit in this household.

Winter Luxury Pie pumpkins did well in our first pumpkin patch. There is a book called “The Complete Squash” by Amy Goldman that I have read several times. Ms. Goldman has nothing but good things to say about this pumpkin. I personally love them myself, just for looks and for pies. They have a white netting on them that makes them look a bit unique.

Pumpkin plants from years gone by.

The last thing that makes up our little patch is small squash. Delicata and Sweet Dumpling Squashes are both so little and yet so sweet! What a treat. I have grown a few Delicata before, but the sweet dumplings are new to our garden.

The last little one may or may not grow due to the age of the seed is New England Sugar Pie Pumpkins. They are about 4 or 5 pounds. We’ve not grown them before either and if they grow, I’ll be very happy to see how they do. They were introduced in this country in 1865.

A squash or pumpkin blossom from a few years ago.

Oh, and last but not least, is Kabocha Squash. These are little green pumpkins with very sweet flavorful flesh. They are a staple in our kitchen. The last time we had one about a month ago, I saved the seeds. We planted a few hills of those seeds.

That about wraps up our Pumpkin patch preview. In choosing these varieties, I study the seed catalogs and the book The Complete Squash. Winter squash and pumpkins are some of my favorite things to grown. How about you? What varieties do you like?

Some of the harvest from our first pumpkin patch in 2007.