Pumpkin growth, pruning & the essential pollination of pumpkin flowers
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The giant veggie vine of a pumpkin has shallow roots and grows 15 to 20 feet per plant. It's vine contains runners/side shoots and secondary roots. The long stretches of vine carry water and nutrients by it's long irrigation to the fruits away from the base roots. The pumpkin's flowers are beautiful but don't self pollinate. Bees and or even intervention by hand is required within the narrow opportunities (6 hours), for successful pollination of male to female flowers for the female flowers bare the fruits.
The pumpkin is easy to start from seed however does require some knowledge and or experience for a successful and or successful year after year harvests. I have made a few errors myself in the past including this years batch. Namely not training things early on (been a busy year thus far and many distractions) and not routinely spraying with a baking soda formula to nip any coming mold in the butt. So we will see if any of the girls bear fruit this year. Meanwhile the vine is beautiful cover with saffron yellow magickal pentagram flowers that represent Venus herself. The flowers also remind my of Lugh hence the season of their main fruiting/growth being Lughnasadh. This is a post of pruning vines and successful pollination and more pumpkin posts will be coming. If you have missed the starting from seed post, please refer to link to that post at the end of this blog. There will also be a vlog on this post there. From the chapter 'Botany N to R'
Runners, or secondary vines, grow all along the main vine and should be allowed to. A big caution here is the space needed and I so miscalculated the space I needed this year. I will need to lengthen a garden bed over a path, which is fine due to the pumpkins shallow roots/anchors. It's best to train the vines to grow;
The definition of secondary roots is 'Any plant root growth not at the main stump or tap root'. The latter being the place where the main vine of the plant comes out of the ground. These secondary's remind me of octopus teeth anchoring and biting down into the earth. These root nodes develop on the vine at the base of each leaf stem. Where possible allow these to anchor to the earth. In some parts of the vine this may not be possible but where it is, it is a good practice to cover these nodes with some extra soil. These nodes will;
Cover the vine - the area where the leaf stems meet the vine or even the entire vine with an inch of rich soil and leave the soil moist. This will also cut down on possible insect damage. Make sure to;
A pumpkin patch will grow at an amazing speed and rampant all over the yard including pathways (My latest 'unchecked' experience)
At some point, prune the vines to stop their growth for vine management and to devote more water/food to the fruit growth. Prune;
After pruning the vines, there will be a healthy proliferation of new vines and leaves. There will be new runners off the main vine and new runners on the runners. It will be consistent daily work to keep up in the growth of vines but eventually the plant will turn it's energy towards fruit growth. Also, a little extra potassium (mostly used by the fruits) and a little less nitrogen (mostly used by the leaves) will further encourage the fruit growth over vine and leaf growth.
Pollination and the Boys;
The first flower blooms to appear are male and they remain on the plant for a day before falling off (Don't freak out about this like I did, it's a natural abortive process of the plants cycle) That being said dropped male flowers can still be eaten/cooked. The boys produce nectar and pollen.
Pollination and the Girls;
The female flowers bloom within the week or so and males will also continue to bloom. Pumpkins do produce short lived male and female flowers that open early and close by mid-morning (around a 6 hour window). Female flowers open above the swollen, distinctive embryo and the embryo is where the fruit is formed. The girls have higher quantities of nectar but no pollen. Native and honey bees are 'Normally' able to complete pollination, by visiting the boys where the large, sticky granules of pollen adhere to them. The bees then move on to the nectar produced by the females, completing the transfer/pollination.
How to Hand Pollinate Pumpkins
A paintbrush and early morning will be required;
By Druid & Witch, Ravenmor Fox
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