Pumpkins and Squash

We were delighted to welcome back Russell Attwood who had taken us through the principles of  “no dig” gardening last year.  Russell was so informative and entertaining during that session that we knew we were in for a real treat this month and we were not disappointed.  Russell is a very experienced gardener and retired Biology teacher.  He is secretary of the Kettering Allotments Society and is a very keen pumpkin grower.  Russell’s slide presentation was entitled “A Passion for Pumpkins” and he certainly demonstrated that.  We understand that he, not only grows them on his allotment, but he eats them every day.  Russell also showed wonderful examples of pumpkin carving undertaken by his wife at Halloween. 

The cucurbit family includes cucumbers, courgettes, squash, pumpkins and melons.  They are plants which sprawl across the ground and take up a lot of space so are more suited to allotments than smaller gardens.  Winter squashes are harvested in October and have a thicker skin than the summer fruiting courgettes and are therefore much better for storing.  Russell said his storage record was 18 months for a Crown Prince squash.  Female and male flowers are found on the same plant and the bees transfer the pollen.  Russell warned us against cutting open a pumpkin and sowing the seeds as they may not come true to the plant we have harvested.  Russell sows his seed in May (indoors) and then plants outside in June when all risk of frost has gone.  Russell is, of course, an advocate of no dig gardening and growing pumpkins and squash lends itself to this method of cultivation.  Once lasagne layers of green material and cardboard or newspaper have been laid down the pumpkin plants can be planted in holes spaced well apart  and there is no need for watering as the mulch inhibits evaporation. 

Pumpkins and squashes are very versatile – they can be used to provide a starter in the form of soups or a salad, a main in the form of curry, risotto, or stuffed and roasted and of course pumpkin pie for dessert.  They store well in a cold frost free place and once cooked can be frozen.  Russell very kindly brought us some of his home made pumpkin scones to have with our coffee and tea.  However, before that he led us in a sing song session.  Who would have thought that the whole audience would have joined him in singing the praises of pumpkins and squash to the tunes of  Over the Rainbow, Amazing Grace, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat, Jerusalem and the National Anthem.  Many thanks to Russell for sharing his expertise on all things cucurbita.  Our members and visitors had a really fun evening and if you weren’t there you missed a treat.

On Tuesday 19th March Peter Skeggs-Gooch will join us to give a presentation entitled “A complete guide to Clematis.”  Details can be found on our website.  As usual this meeting will be open to all members and visitors.

 Linda Truscott   

New members and visitors are always welcome.

For more information contact: Linda Truscott on 01234 270747

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