After Halloween our pumpkins perched happily on our porch grinning fiendishly at passersby. As the days drew on they almost appeared to melt; shifting and shrinking until our pumpkins' smiles started to curl in so that they resembled little old men without their dentures. They also began to develop a strong odor. At this point I would usually toss the pumpkins in the trash.
Last year we were dealing with a marauding herd of deer who were using our garden as their personal salad bar. So I told the kids to take the pumpkins and smash them in the woods. First off, smashing pumpkins is fun. How many times does your mom tell you to take something and destroy it? Especially something messy like a pumpkin! The second thought was that the deer might come and munch on the pumpkin if it was broken and easily accessible, and that it might distract them from the other plants growing in our yard. I had a tiny seed (a pun!) of hope that the pumpkin would rot into the ground and surprise us with pumpkins the following year. It was a very small seed of hope. You see, soon after we smashed the pumpkins the bulldozers and heavy equipment came to begin the grading process for our pool. The pumpkins disappeared, and I held out little hope that the seeds would survive the soil compaction that inevitably results from heavy machinery.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered a pumpkin seed had weathered all of the chaos in the yard, and actually managed to sprout! I nurtured it with hand watering and fertilizer for a few weeks, and the sprout became a plant. But again, I was not optimistic about the pumpkin's long term prospects. There is no irrigation where the pumpkin is growing, and we were leaving soon for Montana. And Canada. And it was surely going to be really hot while we were away.
When we returned I took stock of my fruit trees and flowers, and I was stunned to see this gorgeous healthy plant that had flourished in our absence. In light of the fact that the pumpkin has survived my children, heavy machinery, and high heat I decided to protect it and see if it can grow to maturity. I've given it another shot of fertilizer, and even installed a little umbrella to protect it from the wilting afternoon sun. I water it religiously! We have five little pumpkins to date, and one that looks like it could become BIG, or at least medium-sized!
There are still quite a few blooms on the plant. I am debating whether to pick these blooms so that the plant's energy will be funneled into the existing fruit, or let them all grow and achieve quantity over quality. I'm leaning towards the quantity approach at this point. This way if something happens to the first pumpkins we'll have spares!
Here's a shot of the girls at the pumpkin patch last year. One of those pumpkins is the parent of the plant growing in my yard!