Plant of the Month: October

There is something quite enchanting and mysterious about the plant I have chosen for October. Perhaps it was the way this plant has been captured in stories that not only mesmerised my younger self but also inspired me to grow them later in life. Now, I’m fully aware that the fruit from this plant can’t really turn into a carriage fit for a princess yet as a gardener I am still completely in awe by the fact that it can grow into an enormous fruit from a small seed.

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The plant I have chosen for October is the pumpkin plant. It would be wrong of me not to particularly as the pumpkin is at the height of popularity for Halloween. Over the years, I have enjoyed carving a pumpkin yet for me there is so much more to these giant fruits and it is the process of growing them that brings the greatest joy!

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If you have ever grown pumpkin plants, you will already be aware that they need space to grow. Pumpkins come from the same family as squash and for those of you with smaller gardens, there are indeed many different varieties of squash and pumpkins that you will indeed find one that is perfect to suit the size of your garden. I love the fact that there are so many different sizes, shapes and colours; a vast selection to keep you entertained over a number of years in your garden.

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My pumpkin last year grew so big I had to cut it from the plant, before it got stuck under the fence!

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My Sister-In-Law took this photo of their squashes and I love the fact that nothing will deter them from growing, not even a bench!

Pumpkins and squashes are very clever and can grow either horizontally on the ground or vertically on a trellis so even if you don’t think you can dedicate space to one of these plants, you always have the option to grow upwards. If you’re like me and love a challenge, why not? I also like to set myself a challenge each year to try and grow a bigger pumpkin than the year before. This is a great idea for those of you wanting to share your love of gardening with your children. They will enjoy watching their pumpkins increase in size and in turn they will learn about what a plant needs to grow.

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My first ever pumpkin, 2013.

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A different variety gave me more pumpkins, 2014.

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My biggest pumpkin to date, 13.8kgs, 2015

It is true to say that pumpkins are very greedy when it comes to nutrients in the soil and water. In order for them to increase in size they need to be fed and watered regularly during their growing season. They are definitely a plant that like to keep gardeners on their toes but the end product is well worth all the effort. It has in the past crossed my mind that sometimes as gardeners we can perhaps mollycoddle and be too protective of our plants. I know of someone who had not noticed they had pumpkin seeds in their green waste for the compost bin and were in amazement at the end of the following Summer to discover an enormous pumpkin growing in their homemade compost. It is equally not unusual to hear of some gardeners purposely putting pumpkin plants in their compost bins due to the richness of nutrients and moisture that can be found there. This will certainly encourage a steady growth of their plants.

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Family portrait – pumpkins and butternut squash.

By helping them to grow bigger, you will be left with a fruit that will keep you and your family fed for a lengthy amount of time. If you are wondering why I keep calling pumpkins fruits and not vegetables, my previous blog post, that you can read here, will explain it all. The fleshy part found inside pumpkins can be used in a number of different ways in the kitchen from baking into cakes or pies, roasting, mashing, making soups, turning into chutneys… the list is endless. The seeds you remove from the flesh are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as being a good source of fibre. Some people like to roast them with various spices, salt or honey after a short time of boiling them in order to soften them first.

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I spy a pumpkin pie!

The remaining orange shell of the pumpkin as we already know is ideal for carving but I have also seen it used as a decorative, autumnal ‘vase’ by placing chrysanthenmums into the empty fruit shell. Be aware however, that this ‘vase’ will not last long and could easily turn mouldy. I personally would only use this as an outdoor decoration to prevent damage to furniture or flooring. When I’ve seen this type of decoration it has been outside the front door or in the back garden.

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I love this pumpkin shaped dish to serve my pumpkin soup in.

It has to be said that the pumpkin plant is definitely worthy of this month’s title! From the number of ways the fruit can be used, to the amazing journey of growth over the Summer to indeed give a great Autumn showstopper for both gardeners and spectators alike!

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