Name: pumpkin, Cucurbita species and varieties.
Height: typically 30cm, but with a very wide spread.
Plant type: annual
Climate: cold temperate, warm temperate, arid/semi-arid, sub-tropical and tropical.
Soil: prefers deep, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: yellow trumpet flowers. Fruits of various sizes, shapes and colours.
Feeding: regular feeding with a complete fertiliser.
Watering: regular watering is essential to develop good fruit.
The pumpkin is a trailing plant that will cover a lot of ground and even climb over fences and other structures. It has large round leaves held horizontally on long stems. It has female flowers, which have the small unfertilised pumpkin directly behind the trumpet-shaped yellow flower. The male flower is similar, but does not have the embryonic fruit.
The fruit comes in a large array of forms, from small balls to giant ones grown for competitions. Skin colour is often orange, but there are also blue and speckled ones. Shapes also vary considerably from round to pear-shaped. Pumpkin plants grow, flower, fruit and die in about twelve months.
People grow pumpkin plants for their gorgeous edible fruit. Certain varieties are grown for Halloween, but in the southern hemisphere our pumpkins ripen at the wrong time for this. But we can grow the largest pumpkin of all, if you want to enter a pumpkin weigh-in!
Pumpkin plants are very easy to grow from seed, which you can plant directly where you want them to grow. Alternatively, you can start your pumpkins early by sowing the seed in punnets or pots. Use a seed-raising mixture and sow the seeds about 12mm deep. Keep the seeds damp until they come up and then continue regular watering so they don't dry out.
With a little care, you'll have a healthy pumpkin crop in no time.
Sometimes pumpkins need a little help to pollinate and set fruit. This is best done early in the day by taking off a male flower and rubbing it into the centre of the female flower.
Your pumpkin plant is ready to harvest when the foliage is dying off and the fruits have developed good size and colour. You can also check ripeness by tapping on the pumpkin to see if it gives a slightly hollow sound.
A common problem for pumpkin plants is powdery mildew, which is a fungus that appears as a white powder on the surface of the leaves. Incidence of this can be reduced by ensuring you grow plants in a sunny spot with good air movement. Use a garden fungicide if the problem occurs early in the growing season.
Insects will attack the foliage, but this is not usually a serious problem on larger plants. Control with an insecticide if insect numbers build up.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Zucchini: easy to grow vegetable with a constant crop of fruit over the warmer months.
Watermelon: a scrambling vine with large oval fruit which is sweet and juicy inside.
Cucumber: a classic ingredient for salads, this is a climbing plant that can be grown on a frame.