Pumpkins are a passion of mine. More specifically, I enjoy growing the funky looking gourds and squashes that are used primarily as fall decorations. My interest in gourds stems (pun intended) from the time that I started taking my two youngest children to a small, local pumpkin patch. While they certainly enjoyed feeding the goats, petting the sheep, and navigating the straw maze, they expressed a singular delight in choosing a few small pumpkins to take home with them.
My girls were captivated by the varying shapes, sizes, colors, lumps and bumps and their excitement was contagious, so one year I decided there was nothing to lose in keeping a few seeds from our favorite specimens and trying to grow them ourselves. The rest is history, and in the last decade of growing pumpkins I've learned many things.
I've learned that pumpkin vines are hostile and, once established, will take over any given garden space; they like to spread out and stay a while. I find this feature somewhat endearing, as the plants snake up our burning bush, trample over unassuming zinnias and seem to laugh in the face of gates and fences.
Another exciting discovery is that no two years are the same. This year I waited until the first of June to stick seeds in the ground, ensuring that all threat of frost would be gone. The seedlings broke the surface within a week and slowly took root. An unprecedented storm a few weeks later dumped an incredible amount of rain on the garden and, I think, stalled the production of blossoms. There were no blooms until mid-July, and even then they still took a few more weeks to really get going. While I've been able to harvest gourds by mid-July in the past, this year there wasn't a single fruit even started. Now, towards the end of August, I have many fruits ripening and I think I'm in for a good haul within the next month.
Gourds are fall's snowflakes; no two are alike. Every year I'm as captivated as my girls once were, peeking under giant green leaves, checking daily for more flowers and fruits, excited about my plants' belligerent growth. I encourage everyone out there to give pumpkin growing a chance. The rewards are great and it's so fun to proudly say "yes" when people inevitably ask, "You GREW that?"