Pumpkins Out Of Control
By Lois Hoffman
You’ve heard it said time and again that there is just something healing about digging in the dirt. There is a feeling of re-connecting with nature and soothing the soul. I have missed that for too long until this year.
When we first moved to our home 22 years ago, we decided to have a garden the first year. With everything else we had to do I don’t know why we decided to tackle this project, but we did. Instead of starting out small, we went whole hog and had a huge garden. Being the perfectionists that Jim and I both are, we were out there every night after work making sure there was not one weed to be seen anywhere.
Then, in August of that year, we got a horrible wind storm and the next morning the whole garden was flat. Jim decided that was enough and we haven’t had a garden since even though I begged and pleaded.
Not until this year. Perhaps he got tired of my begging or maybe I convinced him that homegrown is healthier because pesticide use can be controlled. Whatever the reason, he relented and had a neighbor rototill a 6-foot-wide-by-30-foot-long lot on the far side of the flower garden.
Although it didn’t seem large enough for what we wanted to grow, we managed to plant eight tomato plants, four cherry tomato plants, beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, okra, peppers, zucchini and pumpkins. We planted the zucchini and pumpkins on either end because we knew they would vine out.
The whole garden was amazing. Everything produced beyond our expectations and luck was on our side as we had no windstorms.
Apparently, the vining out is the only intelligent thing we knew about pumpkins though. We certainly weren’t prepared for how they took over, literally took over the garden and yard.
I don’t know if it was the year, the weather, or just our first-time luck, but we had pumpkin vines everywhere. Not only did they trail 12 feet out in the yard in every direction, but they climbed the pine tree and the wind mill and buried the onions. The idea was to have Halloween pumpkins for the grandkids. Then our education began.
We had so many blossoms that all the vines looked yellow in June. I started to have visions of a roadside stand to sell the extra ones. Then we noticed that not all blossoms produced little pumpkins. We talked to some friends who do have a large pumpkin patch and apparently there are male and female blossoms and only the females produce the fruit.
The next thing we learned is that you don’t plant them as early as you put in the rest of the garden. It was only July, and we had pumpkins turning orange. We knew they wouldn’t make it until October. Our visions of jack-o-lanterns were beginning to vanish.
Luckily for us, we had plenty of rain and the blossoms kept coming. So, we did have quite a few that ripened later in September. So, when Jim counted 21 on the ground and one growing in the pine tree we were more than satisfied. We still had an abundance of blossoms right next to the mature pumpkins, so when a friend from Ohio asked if he could have some we obliged. We couldn’t imagine why he wanted them until we sat down to lunch. If you’ve never tasted breaded and fried pumpkin blossoms, you are missing a treat!
Then we had our next shock. It was the third week of September and all the vines were dying so we went out to pick the pumpkins. They were all covered with little black bugs about a quarter of an inch long. It was an awful sight. That was our first lesson in squash bugs.They didn’t hurt the produce, there were just so many of them.
As we picked them, it was hard not to marvel that these huge orange specimens came from a tiny seed. I hear gardeners talk about this miracle all the time, but it never really hits home until you walk out on your own soil and pick the fruit from the one seed that you planted with your own hands. For all the work a garden takes, this one moment makes it all worthwhile.
As for the pumpkin in the pine tree, it is still growing. The jury is still out on that one, but my soul is soothed once again just for the sheer pleasure of digging in the dirt.
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