Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Survivor: Pumpkin Edition.

Last month we filled you in on our quick little side porch renovation which included the deets on our new veggie garden.  As we have learned throughout our renovation adventures, one project can lead to another project, which can lead to another project, and so on and so forth.  Our quickie side porch project is no exception to this trend... 


About a couple of weeks after we planted our veggie garden, I noticed a couple sprouts that had apparently hitched a ride on our gardening process.  At the time I didn't know what the whale-tale-like sprouts were, but I recognized that they were not a weed so I let them be.  When my Aunt came over to help me spring-ify the front garden, she confirmed that the hitch hiking sprouts were not a weed and appeared to be of the melon family.  And then it dawned on me - when we tore out those wretched bushes to make way for our new garden, we discovered an overlooked pumpkin from the fall that never quite made it to compost bin.  So in a last ditch effort of survival, we had a pumpkin successfully deposit some seeds in our new veggie garden.  I thought this was awesome, and even though I didn't have a place to plant my baby pumpkin sprouts, I really liked the idea of keeping them.  Enamored with the idea of a slew of free pumpkins come harvest season, I decided to extend our veggie garden outward to make room for a mini pumpkin patch.  And since this feat was basically unplanned, I was also determined to make this project as cheap as possible.

As any good gardener should, I did some interweb research on how to grow pumpkins.  From what I've heard and read they're relatively easy to grow, but will pretty much own your garden as they are a vine that likes to spread out.  I decided to construct a garden space just for my pumpkins on the other side of the tomato bed.  In order to keep the pumpkin vines from crawling into my tomato garden, I planned to put some sort of trellis divider between the two beds.

I enlisted the help of my husband to locate some wood boards that we could use as a garden border, and to help me dig up the grass where the pumpkin patch would be.  Once the grass was out of the way, I loosened the soil with a shovel to make sure our pumpkin roots had room to grow.  Next, Chris drove some metal steaks into the wood boards to keep them in place -- he pre-drilled a hole and then hammered each steak in.  Ta-daaaa, new garden space!





Since pumpkins need a lot of nutrients, we purchased (3) bags of garden soil to fill our newly laid out garden bed.  To go the extra mile, I also mixed in some veggie garden food into the soil (which our tomato plants seemed to benefit from).

Then it was time for our pumpkins to make the big move to their new home.  I carefully dug up each pumpkin plant out of the tomato garden, being as careful as I could not to disturb their shallow and fragile root system.  I dug up about a dozen (give or take) pumpkin plants and evenly laid them out in the new garden space.  Keep in mind that I did not plant them as far apart as they are suggest to be, as this project is sort of an on-the-fly experiment.  I also decided to plant all of the pumpkin plants that sprouted up in case some don't survive the transplant process.  If you would like to plant your own pumpkin garden, you should plan on planting each pumpkin plant about 2-3 feet apart.  Mine are about 1 foot apart, so I expect a lot of overcrowding.


In order to loosen the soil for root growth, I dug a hole deeper and wider than each plant's root system before planting, refilling the dirt to accommodate the size of each root ball.  Once they were all planted, I gave the pumpkins a good watering to allow the roots to relax.  Transplanted plants usually need a lot of water to keep them from going into shock, so I'll likely be giving them a good drink every day as needed.


The last step in our pumpkin patch project was to install a trellis-like divider between the tomato garden and the new pumpkin patch -- I needed something to keep the pumpkins away from the tomatoes.  Instead of buying lattice or a tall trellis, I found some 18" pieces of picket fence garden trim at Home Depot.  The price wasn't too bad, and I only needed three of them so they were a good option for us.  Plus the little fence looks cute in the garden.  Hopefully the our improvised trellis will do the trick, but I'll keep you posted.

Here's the price breakdown for what we spent on our teensy pumpkin patch:
- 6 cubic feet of garden soil -- $24 (we used 3 bags of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil)
- 54" of white picket fencing to serve as a trellis barrier between the gardens -- $15
- Salvaged wood border -- FREE
- Manual labor -- FREE
- Pumpkin plants -- FREE (thanks, Nature)
TOTAL: $39

I'm no pumpkin expert, so we'll see how this summer goes!  I'll keep you posted with periodic pumpkin updates until harvest season rolls around...fingers crossed!  Here are some pumpkin tips 'n tricks that I learned throughout the process so far:

- Pumpkins like full sun (6+ hours).
- They need a lot of nutrients, so compost and fertilizer is a must.
- They need to be planted in soil that drains well.
- They need a lot of room to spread out, so be sure to plant them far apart from each other. 
- Mulch or straw will help keep weeds at bay and retain soil moisture in the warmer months.
*I found this website to be especially helpful for pumpkin education.

Like any other plant, there's no guarantee that my pumpkins will survive or produce many pumpkins.  However, I'm still going to spend the summer crossing my fingers for a conclave of jack-o-lanterns come autumn.  You never know, we could end up with something like this:

Now seeking part-time jack-o-lantern carving artist.  Will pay in pumpkin seeds.
UPDATE: The first day after we transplanted the pumpkin plants, they were not lookin' so hot; they were really sad and wilted.  I gave them a healthy watering and within a few hours they were looking much more sprightly.  Water, water, water!!

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