Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

‘Not too late’ to make the most of pumpkins

While many pumpkins may have been picked and carved up for Halloween displays by now, gardeners could still be keeping some aside for culinary purposes.

These are likely to still be growing – and there are plenty of tasks to be getting on with for green-fingered enthusiasts if they wish to make the most of their plants in the fall.

Professional gardener and author of Keeping a Few Hens in Your Garden Francine Raymond said that her own selection of the squashes this year have been five Crown Prince plants.

In an article for the UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, she added that they went out to seed from June and have been attractively lined up along the fence and compost heaps at the bottom of her garden.

Greenhouse growers are likely to be familiar with this process, as pumpkins are ideal for growing in this kind of controlled environment.

They are best left outside on top of a planting pocket in the early part of June, as this gives them a chance to acclimatise to the conditions. They can then be moved into a coldframe for a week or so, then bringing back in at the night time for another week.

Ms Raymond said that they are relatively speedy growers, so they will need to be given access to soil that is rich in manure, as well as plenty of water.

For those who want their pumpkin to be as large as possible, it is best kept away from any competition so it can take in as many of the nutrients as it can without interference.

In order to gain protection from damage wrought on the plants by the likes of slugs and snails, the fruits can be propped on an upturned terracotta pot. The plants will continue to ripen throughout October and possibly into November – but it is important to remove them and bring them undercover before frosts start to set in, as this will give them a chance to color up.

"If the weather has put paid to your harvest, all's not lost: the shoots, tender tips and flowers of squash and pumpkin plants are eaten throughout the world, according to television botanist James Wong, in his new book Homegrown Revolution," Ms Raymond remarked, adding: "He advises us to snip off the shoots after a few fruits have formed and then cook like any leafy green."