Sunday, 22 July 2012

The giant pumpkin #1

I had big plans this year. I have always wanted to grow a Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkin. I love everything about pumpkins, from their lurid traffic cone colour to their partnership with my favourite festival, Halloween. When it comes to holiday rituals carving pumpkins is up there with decorating the Christmas tree. Turning the lights off and watching each glow or twinkle is the seasonal thrill of autumn and winter respectively.

I even like pumpkin pie (made with a can of Libby's not a pumpkin - and certainly not a giant pumpkin) and I really, really like pumpkin and chocolate chip loaf from Baked's New Frontiers in Baking and occasionally throw some chunks of pumpkin into an apple crumble from an early Nigella recipe.  So growing a giant pumpkin (however tasteless and therefore useless in the kitchen) is really a fan's monument to his favourite vegetable.

But big, has got off to a slow start this year thanks to the weather. I planted the seeds on a windowsill indoors in March (about three) with no problems germinating. Then I planted one plant out in early May, but a slug with an atlantic-sized appetite ate it. So a second one was planted in its place. This time said slug would have encountered a strange alien terrain of blue rubble - a £6 ring-fence of organic slug pellets - enjoy! But from then on things have been slow to get going.

Only now is the vine making a sprint forward and a golf ball size fruit has appeared (above). I've read the fruit needs to be pollinated before the end of July, so it 'sets' and grows large enough before the end of the season. Apparently there needs to be at least 100 leaves on the vine in which to support its rapid growth, but hey, who's counting -- not me?

I'm told I have to pollinate the female flower (attached to the golf ball fruit) with a little bit of magic dust/pollen from a male flower (here's a video tutorial). But I can't work out whether this pumpkin (rumpy) pumpy has already occurred naturally. I'll keep an eye on it and report back with another post.

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