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Sow pumpkins this weekend in time for Hallowe'en

Pumpkin 'Snowman'
Pumpkin 'Snowman' Credit: Philip Bird / Alamy 

It dawned on me this week, when I found all my lettuce eaten by slugs, that I’m unlikely to become self-sufficient in veg in just two hours a week, with a full time job and my allotment such a distance from my flat. It’s the regular pampering and slug surveillance that vegetables need that’s difficult to provide. But I love the process and every year I produce more food by learning new tricks and growing generally carefree crops, such as pumpkins.

Ghostly white ‘Snowman’ pumpkins (chilternseeds.co.uk) sown indoors last month have, for whatever reason, rotted. Luckily there is just enough time for me, and you, to sow direct outdoors this very weekend (June 15&16). ‘Evergold’ (thompson-morgan.com) is a reliable orange cultivar I recommend. One year, it produced so many fruit that I gave lots away.

Like courgettes and squash, pumpkins need rich, damp soil in full sun, best in a prepared pocket of soil mixed with compost, to 30cm deep. Space each pocket 2m apart because pumpkin plants are absolute whoppers. Sow three of the smooth seeds 3cm deep on their sides in the middle of each pocket. Water in and cover with a glass bell jar until you see the plants are growing strongly.

Nip out the two weakest seedlings and keep the survivor covered for extra heat to speed growth during this early stage until leaves almost fill the jar. Water and feed with an organic tomato fertiliser fortnightly until, hey presto! In autumn you’ll have a crop of pumpkins to harvest.

I find the ritual of growing pumpkins for Hallowe’en rewarding, not least because of the pumpkin cake, soup and pie. The space-hogging plants don’t particularly help my self-sufficiency plans, but who said gardening shouldn’t be varied and fun, too?