If you've ever fancied growing a giant pumpkin, Thompson and Morgan not only provide seed taken from last year's record-breaking winner of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth's annual event, but this year have set the date to sow for you: 12th April.
Paul Hansord, T&M’s Commercial Director, who likes growing pumpkins himself apparently, revealed:
We get so many enquiries at the giant pumpkin weigh-in and around Halloween, when people are seeing pumpkins in the shops, asking how to grow them at home, we’ve decided to set April 12th as National Pumpkin Sowing Day 2017.
If people can buy their seeds and get ready to sow them on this date, we’ll support them with growing tips and hope that someone out there might grow a pumpkin to rival last year’s winner.
Personally, I've never felt the urge to grow ultra big (or even big, come to that). Too much feeding, watering, nipping off flowers. So I was more than happy to receive some plug plants of Honey Boat, one of Rob Smith's Heritage Collection from Dobies, last year - part of a surprise package from them.
Honey Boat promises a size just right for two - with super sweet, with firm, deep orange flesh - and productivity better than a butternut. There was only one problem - pumpkins and squashes don't like me. With the ardour of a teenager who can't read the rebuff from that good-looking boy down the road, I keep trying, but almost without fail I get a plethora of male flowers, followed by a few sulky females which show promise and then drop off, only for the plant to realise - rather too late to grow anything larger than a grapefruit - that perhaps it ought to answer Nature's call to reproduce.
My Honey Boat squash actually came up with loads of female flowers, but nearly all of them dropped off. When I gave a rundown of my experience with the Red and Yellow Currant Tomato plants from Dobies, I was despairing of seeing any squash at all. But - hurrah! - this was too pessimistic. Full harvest from one plant (the other never came to much - my fault, as previously reported) = two delightful little squash.
Please note that 'little'. The description that comes with Honey Boat is that each squash will feed two. Mine each offered something rather skimpy for one. However, they did taste lovely. They had sweet, dense flesh - just what you hope for. They have large seed cavities, which mean they'd be good stuffers, but I just cut them in half and roasted them with olive oil and garlic. Very popular at the Sunday lunch table, they were, even if there wasn't a huge amount to go round.
I grew the squash in a large planter, up a fence-wire support. This means you can see what's going on more easily, dead leaves are easier to pick off, and slugs and snails are less of a threat. Possibly it results in a smaller harvest but, given my track record, this for me is pretty much as good as it gets, so I'd say not. Feeding-wise, I'd added Thompson and Morgan's Incredicrop granules. Dobies' website recommends a mostly manure-filled hole around two feet square and 18-24 inches deep, so I really should think of extra feeding next time.
Despite last year's harvest, I liked the result so much that I've saved the seeds. You see, as far as squashes go, they just can't give me the brush-off. If you've got any tips on getting squash off to an eager start, do share them below!