Accidental Pumpkins

IMG_1264 At some point in early June, having been the recipient of a good number of variegated liriope from my friend Lou Ann, I decided to reinvent the front area of my yard next to my mailbox.

This small plot of land has few redeeming qualities aside from being the only place in my yard that receives full sun for more than an hour a day.  It was originally home to a wiry, ugly mess of juniper which I ripped out almost immediately upon moving into the house.  Juniper does an excellent job of absolutely nothing but fiercely trapping rotting leaves.  Sure, it’s a good ground cover on a hill.  An ugly ground cover though.  We tried some camellias that wouldn’t grow, and then eventually grass, which struggled.

When PSNC decided to dig up the area a few years ago as part of their process of installing a gas line in our court, they seemed to leave nothing but rocks and clay in their wake. Some decent soil and a sod installation thrown in as a thank you for letting you tear up our grass would have been really nice, but no.  Thanks PSNC.

So … this year, I (attempted to) till and amend the horrible soil and plant the thirty or so liriope that I divided (hacked with a shovel up in a fit of frustration) from the three larger plants I was given.  I have found some plants will grow anywhere, and liriope is one of them.  When I was done, I figured I’d also go ahead and throw out some leftover flower seeds that had been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last three months.  I was feeling guilty for not having planted them and this way, I could at least say that I did.  What did I have to lose?

Well.  Who knew?  Who knew all you really need to get things to grow was an ample amount of sun???  All this time, the cause of my struggling little flower beds had little to do with poor soil and lots to do with the overabundance of shade from the Amazonian hardwood forest that is my yard.  I am sorry for blaming you all these years, dirt.  It was not your fault.

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Here it is, late July, and the liriope is doing fine, but the nicest surprise is the flourishing clump of zinnias in the corner of the bed, as well as a huge, healthy patch of pumpkin vines.  PUMPKINS!  Yes, folks.  It appears I also unwittingly threw out some pumpkin seeds.

I love pumpkins because I love Halloween, so I really couldn’t be more thrilled by this turn of events.  At first, I wasn’t sure what I had out there – it could have been zucchini or cucumbers – the vines look similar, and as I said, I just flung a bunch of seeds.   I didn’t think anything would grow!  But, after a bit of research, it is definitely my very own pumpkin vine and I learned some other interesting tidbits.

For example, there is both a male and female flower that forms, with the male flower dropping off after a day.  IMG_1265 I was glad to know this, because I thought I just had some serious blossom drop.  I learned that the female flower is distinguished by the bulbous growth under it that will eventually become the pumpkin if properly pollinated.  I have plenty of bees out there, so I’m thinking I’m good with that.  I will not have to self-pollinate which is good because I don’t know how and it just sounds wrong.  I learned that I must put cardboard or something similar under a forming pumpkin to keep it from falling prey to rot, and I learned that they need a fertilizer with more phosphorous than nitrogen.  As we speak, I currently have many little female flowers / burgeoning pumpkins forming.

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Now, given my luck with growing veggies, I have already come to terms with the fact that nothing may come of my little pumpkin vine.  In fact, one of the little guys already turned to smoosh and returned to the earth from whence it came.   My neighbors surely think I’m crazy due to my OCD habit of checking the progress every single day, and I’m a little worried about the growth rate of the vine.  Since I haphazardly tossed seeds with reckless abandon, the plant is a bit too close to my neighbors driveway and is currently threatening to invade their pathway.  I’m thinking a small boundary of some sort will soon be in order to encourage the vine toward the opposite direction.IMG_1263

I don’t know what will come of all of this.  If the pumpkins do grow, I’m worried about how large they might be and whether they are going to have room.  It makes me grateful for the lack of an HOA in my neighborhood, because I’m not sure a pumpkin patch at the edge of the yard would be approved.  I wonder how many I might get and whether I should invite the neighborhood kids to come pick their own.  I wonder if there’s a way to encourage them to have funny shapes that I can utilize in a slightly inappropriate holiday display.

If, at the end of the growing season, I don’t have any bright orange pumpkins at all to show for my (minimum to nonexistent) effort, I will be sad as my visions of the Great Pumpkin will have been dashed, but I will also be hopeful, because there’s always next year and I now know something will grow there …  More updates will follow in the coming months because if there was ever a reason to follow up on a post, surely this is it.   Until then, I’m off to check on the vine.



Categories: Piedmont Gardener

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