Native to North America pumpkins are similar to squashes and belong to the cucubitaceae family. The word pumpkin originates from the Greek for 'large melon'.
The fruit is defined by a thick, ribbed skin which contains the pulp and seed. They are usually coloured orange or yellow (although some are coloured grey, red, green or white). Pumpkin stems are angular and rigid, in contrass to the softer, rounded stems of squashes. Pumpkins bear short lived and brightly coloured flowers, with both male and female flowers appearing on the same plant.
Pumpkins vary greatly in shape and size, and can weigh from less than a pound to over 1000 pounds. The largest species of pumpkin is Cucurbita maxima. Competitions to grow giant pumpkins are popular. The world record for a giant pumpkin is held by Chris Stevens and weighed a whooping 1,810 pounds!
If you wish to grow giant pumpkins, it is important have plenty of space - allow at least 3 metres between plants. Select the right variety of seed, Cucurbita maxima. This variety has been breed for size rather than taste.
Plant your seeds in early April, keeping warm and well feed during the growing season. Restrict the plant to three fruits, removing any additional flowers. Later, select the best pumpkin to keep, and remove the other two.
Pumpkins rot quite easily on the ground so sit your pumpkin on a pallet or pile of straw to prevent damage. Ensure you protect against slugs too. Lift the pumpkin in the autumn, ready for Halloween and all those giant vegetable competitions.
For related articles click onto:
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