Grow pumpkin in your own garden or on the balcony

They belong to Halloween like creepy costumes and disgusting decorations: pumpkins. In autumn they are not only a decoration and a culinary highlight, but also an eye-catcher in the vegetable patch. A large bucket is enough to pull the trendy vegetables yourself.

The pumpkin has recently grown in popularity. “In the past, pumpkin – pickled or compote – caused little enthusiasm at the kitchen table. Thanks to Halloween, it has now developed into a trendy vegetable, so that varieties such as Hokkaido and Butternut are available in every supermarket, ”says Thomas Wagner from the Federal Association of German Gardeners. Growing it in your own garden is still worthwhile: “Pumpkins are quite expensive. They are easy to care for and guaranteed organic when you grow them yourself. “

The most popular types of pumpkin

But be careful: not every pumpkin is edible. “Ornamental pumpkins are there for decoration and are not edible,” emphasizes Stefan Hinner, organizer of the pumpkin exhibition in Ludwigsburg. These pumpkins from the Cucurbita family are particularly popular:

1. In this country are most widespread Giant pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) like the Hokkaido. “Giant pumpkins originally come from the higher regions of America,” explains Hinner. “The temperatures there correspond roughly to our Central European temperatures. Pumpkins of this genus are therefore perfect for growing here. “

2. Musk gourds (Cucurbita moschata) like the Muscade de Provence come from the warmer regions of the American continent. They generally need higher temperatures and are mainly grown in southern countries.

3. The origin of the Garden pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo) lies between Peru and Texas. “The variety of colors and shapes is particularly high in the garden pumpkins,” says Hinner. In addition to spaghetti and accorn pumpkins, they also include summer pumpkins – varieties such as zucchini, rondini, crooknecks, patissons and marrows that deliver fruit after a short time. “My favorite pumpkin is sweet dumpling,” explains Hinner. “Raw it has a nutty taste, when cooked and baked it has an intense chestnut aroma.”

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Growing pumpkin yourself: this is how it works

Regardless of which variety you ultimately choose: The pumpkins hardly differ in their preferences for location and soil. “Pumpkins like it sunny to partially shaded and need a lot of space because they form long tendrils,” explains Wagner.

The cucurbits do not make any special demands on the nature of the soil – as long as they are adequately supplied with nutrients. “Pumpkins are heavy eaters, so they have to be fertilized a lot,” emphasizes Wagner. In the crop rotation, therefore, less hungry plants such as eggplant are ideal. Dill or beans and corn are suitable as mixed cultures – as is practiced in the Central American mixed culture Milpa.

Pumpkins do not tolerate frost. “The plants should only be exposed after the ice saints from mid-May,” advises Mechtild Ahlers, specialist advisor at the Lower Saxony Garden Academy. “When there is a cold spell, it is better to keep them inside for 14 days longer and wait until the weather is stable.” However, to get the plants used to sunlight, it is advisable to put them in a sheltered place for a few hours during the day.

It all comes down to the right seeds

As a rule, young plants are rarely available in stores, as the young shoots are considered to be quite sensitive. To do this, the plants can simply be grown from seeds: From mid-April, cover one seed per nursery pot with soil, keep it well moist and place in a bright, 20 degree warm place. It takes about four weeks for the young plant to develop and to be released.

When it comes to seeds, hobby gardeners should better fall back on the range available from specialist retailers, advises Ahlers. “Pumpkins cross easily with each other. So you shouldn’t eat fruits that taste bitter: they contain poisonous cucurbitacins. “

Extension on balcony and terrace possible

Pumpkins usually take up a lot of space in the bed because they produce many tendrils and large leaves. But they can also be grown in large pots and in sunny locations on the balcony and terrace. The expert Hinner recommends planting Hokkaidos in the mini forms Green, Red and Blue (Cucurbita maxima) as well as Mandarin and Baby Boo (both Cucurbita pepo) – also because they are very decorative. “Small pumpkins are also easier to care for, to harvest and easier to process.”

Apart from the fact that it has to be adequately fertilized and watered, the pumpkin is a very easy-care vegetable. As soon as the fruits develop, the expert Ahlers recommends laying straw, a board or a roof tile under them. “The pad not only prevents the fruit from rotting. Snails are also easier to collect. ” Powdery mildew can also be a problem, especially in rainy summers and in places that are too shady. “The best thing to do is to remove the leaves completely,” recommends the consultant.

Recognize ripe pumpkin

Maturity cannot be recognized by knocking, says Wagner. Other characteristics are much more revealing: “The leaves die, the skin becomes hard, and the stems dry up as soon as the last nutrients have been pumped into the fruit.” Pumpkin expert Stefan Hinner compares this process to corking a wine bottle: “The stem becomes woody and is then hardly flexible. It closes the pumpkin and thereby also makes it durable. “