When I was a kid, my parents planted a quarter-acre to cow pumpkins, those gigantic orange ones that can weigh 100 lbs. or more. The field was on a sidehill where nothing else would grow. But, we raised monster pumpkins without any difficulty.
Over the years since then, I have had little to no luck in planting pumpkins. No matter where I have lived, or where the pumpkins were planted on the farm, I couldn’t raise a pumpkin that would amount to anything. It is always too dry, too wet, too weedy, or there are too many bugs to allow my pumpkins to make it to maturity.
My children are unhappy about this fact. They know that I grew corn and soybeans, oats, wheat and alfalfa for 25 years, but I can’t seem to raise a decent pumpkin. Around Halloween time, when we should be able to walk to our garden and pick from a large selection of homegrown pumpkins, the place where we plant our pumpkins is normally barren, like a Halloween holiday wasteland. It is pitiful.
The only year that we were able to carve pumpkins that we grew ourselves was a year when I didn’t manage the plants at all. We planted pumpkins in our garden that season, but like usual, they didn’t grow. However, I had dumped old hamster feed from my son’s hamster cage, into a flowerbed near the house. Hamster feed is a combination of sunflowers, pumpkins, milo and other assorted seeds. That spring, the pumpkin seeds germinated in the flowerbed and we made a special effort to protect them. They grew up, developed pumpkins right on schedule, and we were able to use our own produce for jack-o-lanterns that season. To my own dismay, I couldn’t take any credit at all for the crop, other than being fortunate enough to have dumped the old seed in the right place at the right time purely by accident.
This season, like always, our pumpkins died on the vine, so we had to go out and purchase our jack-o-lantern pumpkins from another farmer. I’ll keep trying to plant pumpkins in hopes of one day figuring out the formula, but my best bet is probably to continue to dump random hamster feed in the flowerbed and enjoy the bounty of the harvest.
Here is this week’s discussion question. What are your secrets to raising high quality pumpkins on your farm? You can share your pumpkin growing experiences or jack-o-lantern stories here.
Be sure to watch Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on this year's harvest. You can follow me on Twitter at Husker Home Place. Watch this blog this upcoming Friday for a special report on another family raising our food. Be sure to pass it along to all of your urban friends.