Thursday, May 21, 2009

Turning into a pumpkin

A departure from our usual spring traditions: We are NOT planting tomatoes this year. (Well, at least not the big boys -- cherry tomatoes, Sweet 100s to be exact, did made the cut.) Based on the dismal results of summers past, we are conceding defeat -- the growing season is too short. . . our "tomato spot" isn't perfect. . . and we can support the local economy by buying fresh at farmers markets (not too mention mooching off generous family members with far better and extensive vegetable gardens).

But what to do with that extra whiskey barrel? Damn. An empty patch of dirt in my garden is truly an offense against nature.

The answer presented itself at a local nursery last Sunday as I was picking up bedding plants for my pots -- of course! why not? eureka! A pumpkin. What could be more satisfying than watching this humble, tiny little plant transform itself into fat blossom and sinuous vine, then robust orange orb ready for carving at Halloween? Sold.

Until I hauled out my Sunset Western Garden Book:

PUMPKIN (cucurbitaceae)

"Fruit varies in size" -- Uh oh. Note to self -- check tag. Do we have a "Wee-B-Little" (please, God) or "Atlantic Giant"? Tag is no help whatsoever, so on to the Internet. A quick search tells me "Orange Smoothie" is an award-winner, children will be infatuated, weighs in at 7 to 11 pounds -- and one plant produces 3 to 4 pumpkins. Perfect -- two for the front porch , with a couple left over for 7- to 11-pound hostess gifts this fall.

"A single vine can cover 500 feet" -- Uh, right. We're talking a whiskey barrel here, tucked in the far corner of a urban backyard -- not a naval shipyard. This could be interesting.

"Vining pumpkins -- plant deep in hills 6-8 feet part / Bush pumpkins -- plant in rows 3 feet apart" -- Ha! How much space does one little old plant need? I say, Pull up your pumpkin party pants and be happy in your 36-inch wide barrel.

"Pumpkins are ready to harvest 90 days after sowing, when shell has hardened. Pick after first frost kills the plant." -- Ooh, the pumpkin end game is kind of harsh. Plant dies, hack off the fruit, bake it or carve a face in it. Somehow, this feels right for Bermtopia.

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