"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Growing pumpkins / butternut 2016

Bill - this one's for you :)

This summer I tried a different way of growing my pumpkins / butternut.

Previously, I have dug a ruddy great hole in the ground, filled it with compost (or more recently alpaca poo) and then added my pumpkin / butternut seed.

But, the plants spreadeagle themselves everywhere, making mowing round them a nightmare.  Which is a problem, because we like to try and keep the vegetation as short as possible in order to prevent any snakes taking up residence / camouflaging themselves in the undergrowth.  Plus, the plants always succumbed to downy mildew before the season was finished.

I had seen a pumpkin growing concept I forget where, where the pumpkin plants were encouraged to almost grow over an arbour, with the fruit easily visible hanging down from the plants.

Now, I don't have an arbour, nor am I ever like to have one.  But, thinking laterally, I did have a half finished shade cloth veggie patch which I reckoned could be amended to fit the bill.

This took some planning - 8 months in advance.  And that was because I used alpaca poo.  Using straight compost wouldn't entail such forward planning ;)
The tyre towers were placed roughly 1.5 - 2mtrs
(4 - 5 feet) apart
What I did was take the used tyres that RMan scored on the auction many, many years ago, place them at reasonable distances apart round the unfinished veggie patch, fill them with alpaca poo - then allow the winter rains / worms to do their bit.
The pumpkin stems are encouraged to grow along
the wattle pole fence
Come August 2015, two seeds were sown in each tyre tower.  Clever that - because it turned out I had cutworm in two of the tyre towers - how they got in I'll never know.  But, thankfully (and with a bit of repeat sowing) I managed to get a seed (or two) growing in each tower.
I didn't succeed with this tyre - it had too many
 cutworm inside, which I only discovered when I
emptied out the alpaca poo.  The chickens loved
 their easy meal though :)  I have since planted a
 sweet potato in this tyre and it is doing well. That
 too will be easy to harvest when it is time
As the plants grow, I merely encourage the stems to suspend themselves on the horizontal wattle poles every time I water the plants from the rainwater tanks - which is roughly twice a week.  Once the plants were established, I also added mulch to the top of the decomposed alpaca poo - to prevent evapouration from the surface.
Harvesting the pumpkins / butternut will be a breeze
As the fruit is developing, it hangs visible on the wattle fence - which will make it easier to harvest, and prevents it from being attacked by slugs, etc.
No sign of downy mildew on these
 pumpkin leaves :)
The plants are all healthy.  They are producing fruit madly.  And there is absolutely no sign (thank God) of the normal downy mildew which has plagued my pumpkin / butternut plants in the past.  Obviously, the air that is able to waft passed the leaves helps in that regard.  I have only had two days where the leaves have wilted slightly from the heat / insufficient water.

And, most importantly, the stems / leaves are not cluttering up the land making mowing impossible.

This system of growing pumpkins / butternuts has worked so incredibly well,  I am definitely doing this again next year :)  Probably the only change I will make is to paint the tyres white - that should help to keep them / the compost inside them that little bit cooler, especially if we hit extreme temperatures similar to those we have seen this summer so far.


kymber said...

Dani - congratulations on your beautiful looking plants! we've had zero success with pumpkins/squash/melons so i will be definitely trying your method this year! we keep our tires black to keep the soil warm for as long as possible - we don't harvest our full lot of potatoes until december because the sun heats the tires and keeps them warm even if it is cold outside. but i agree with you - you should paint yours white to keep them cooler. and oh - to have that alpaca poo - deevine!

sending much love, as always. your friend,

Vicki said...

What a great idea. I have seen where people train cucumber and small melon vines similarly, but hadn't thought about pumpkins and squash. Look forward to seeing how your harvest goes.

Dani said...

kymber - Perhaps try and find some animal poo - anything that you can put in a tyre now to start decomposing for the start of your next summer.

Lol - cold is not something we have to worry about... :D

Dani said...

Vicki - I'll let you have a pic when I harvest ;)

possumqueensa said...

I'm trying a three sisters garden, mealies, beans to grow up the mealies and pumpkin in the front. For some reason I only get one mealie every single time. One single solitary lonely little mealie.

Dani said...

pqsa - I tried that once too, but found that the water demands were too great for my area. Both mealies and squash are VERY water thirsty - one to the detriment of the other. It would probably work overseas where rain is more plentiful...

How many mealies were you planting? The smallest area should be 8 rows by 8 rows square in order for cross pollination to occur.

possumqueensa said...

That's probably why, I only have one row, it's a small bed. I'll try them in my next new bed. Thanks.

Rosemary said...

It looks great Dani - I love what you have done here. Does the pumpkin not get too heavy for the stems? We are in the process of planning our veg garden and will definitely take this into consideration so will be adding tyres to my wish list .... along with pallets :)

Marlene aka Ouma Miaau said...

Super idea! Funnily I had a gem squash coming up with my kale and tomatoes which I also trained onto a netting wire frame I attached to a wall for the tomatoes! The fruit is hanging down and amazingly is not too heavy for the bush. Get so much more from our small veg garden if we go vertically!

Dani said...

Rosemary - No, it doesn't get too heavy. Somehow the plant manages to hold onto the fruit even when it's suspended in mid-air :)

Would love to see your veggie garden as it progresses - do you have a blog?

Dani said...

Marlene - It's great how the plant adapts, isn't it? Yeah, going vertically will certainly expand your garden - we don;t have a space problem here though lol

Chickpea said...

Oh wow, you certainly have green fingers, my squashes all turned to mildew and died last year. Couldn't even grow courgettes and they are meant to be easy.

Dani said...

Chickpea - I also had that happen to me previously. I understand that the reason mildew occurs is because there isn't enough air movement round the leaves. "Hanging" the plant seems to obviate this problem ;)

Dawn McHugh said...

I do like the idea of vertical gardening, might nab a few tyres from next door and try some along the fence this year, I am losing some raised beds as we are putting in another poly tunnel thanks for the idea :-)

Dani said...

Dawn - You're very welcome :D

Like me, you'vs got the 'packs poo. Suggest you get it into tyres pronto so that the worms / wet weather has time to break it down before you need to sow your seeds. I filled the tyres in mid-March last year - and sowed the seeds in mid- August.

Sharon in Surrey said...

An old neighbor used to grow pumpkins & other squash next to his apple trees. They grew up the trees & hung like apples. I grew mine in tire stacks to extend the season & let them grow up the old grapevine arbour - I did use old pantyhose like slings to hold those big ones on the vine when they got big though. It also kept the squirrels away.

Dani said...

Sharon - Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

Using pantihose for support is a good idea. I tend to harvest lots of smaller pumpkins (as opposed to show-stopper giant specimens lol) RMan and I are only two, and it would take us ages to eat through a large one ;) Plus, with lots of smaller ones, I can share our harvest with neighbours.

Sol said...

what an excellent post and idea. I think I will be putting my squash in over the top of the wood store now. I had thought about it, but now I have seen your idea it has spurred me on! Thanks!

hope you are well.

Dani said...

Sol - You're very welcome :) I'm ecstatic at how well it is working.

Leigh said...

Excellent system Dani, and aesthetic too! I love looking at your garden.

Rosemary said...

No Danie, no blog ..........yet :)

Bill said...

Well I am FINALLY getting around to seeing this and I think it's brilliant! Not only do you conserve space, but the plants are healthier. I'm going to think about whether it's possible for us to do something like that here!

Dani said...

Leigh - My apologies - I don't know how your comment missed my attention. Leigh, it worked so well!! With the air that was able to circulate round the leaves I had no powdery mildew on the leaves for the first time ever :) And the harvest / yield was double what I normally get - with NO slug damage!!

Dani said...

Bill - I'm so relieve to hear from you. I was concerned something had happened. Although Cherie hadn't mentioned anything, you did say you would be off air only a short time. Bill, this has worked so well, I am definitely growing my pumpkins like this in future :)