Living Columns & Blogs

How to grow giant pumpkins and avoid rot in squash

Cloud Mountain Farm Center intern Eli Gunn-Hirsch, left and farm manager Chris Testa roll over a large pumpkin at the farm south of Everson,on Sept 30, 2014. If you’re looking to grow a giant pumpkin, the seeds are available now.
Cloud Mountain Farm Center intern Eli Gunn-Hirsch, left and farm manager Chris Testa roll over a large pumpkin at the farm south of Everson,on Sept 30, 2014. If you’re looking to grow a giant pumpkin, the seeds are available now. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Question: Last year I had great success growing pumpkin and squashes, and in fact have just finished eating the squashes. However, among the successes I grew, there were some that were rotten on the bottom. What causes that, and what can I do about it?

Answer: You’ve got an easy solution to your problem. First, as to its cause, squash and pumpkin lying on open ground can be host to any number of insects or microorganisms that might cause rot to begin. A small puddle of water under one of these vegetables could cause rot.

So the solution is to elevate the squash or pumpkin so it doesn’t touch the soil. There are as many ways to do that as there are gardeners who grow these vegetables. I find the easiest way is placing a paving stone under each fruit. Then not only is the future crop ensured, but the heat collected by the stone during the daylight hours will increase the amount of heat near your plant. That causes early and successful ripening.

If you have children or grandchildren, give a shot this year at growing a gigantic pumpkin. It isn’t at all difficult, though you wouldn’t believe the extent people will go to grow the 1,000-pound monster pumpkins that get entered in competitions.

If you want gigantic pumpkins, the seeds are available now. Start a few inside or in a greenhouse, and when you plant it out, cover it for a few weeks, making sure to keep the plants well watered. Fertilize regularly. As it grows, have the kids measure it and record its growth.

Learning math is fun when you don’t know you’re doing it!

Reader tip: I make cards decorated with flowers that I grow and dry, and have discovered the perfect way to dry them. I pick them early in the day, when they are fully opened. I only do this on days that have been forecast to be warm and sunny. I then carefully place them, well spaced apart, on a cutting board or cookie sheet lined with paper towels. I then put the board or cookie sheet in my car, parked in the sun, with all the windows closed. I make sure that they are placed out of direct sun but have the full benefit of the heat of the car. You would be amazed how quickly the flowers dry.

I hope that some of your readers who like dried flowers will have success with this method.

Q: I need some nice pots of plants/flowers in my entranceway but was stunned at the high prices for buying preplanted pots. Nice though they are, I want to create my own. Any pointers?

A: Now’s the time to think about some new pots, so your timing is good. You’ll be able to create some lovely combinations, though don’t think it will be the cheapest thing you’ve ever done. Plants take time to raise, and nursery prices reflect that. However, you will save a great deal of money doing it yourself.

The basic knowledge for creating an attractive pot is the three-shape rule. First is the focal point with something tall and spiky.

Second, add mass with something round and full. Third, soften the edges with something trailing or cascading.

Choosing from these three groups make for a more appealing and dynamic design. In fact, you could even consider choosing plants that never bloom. Leaf shape and color has its own appeal, and many great designs have no flowers in them at all.

When you’ve chosen your plants, make sure you use a good container-soil mix. Add fertilizer to the soil before planting. Play with the arrangement to determine the best plant positions before planting.

And think about the final resting place for the pot. It will be heavy, so you might think about planting it in its final spot.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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