First pumpkins!

Last week was busy with the harvesting of the productive garden volunteers that were not knowingly cultivated. Amongst those plants was the first batch of pumpkins.

Along with the corn, something also dragged a small but ripe pumpkin off, likely a raccoon but maybe a groundhog. It is a safe assumption that it had grabbed it by the stem, either with digits or by mouth regarding the two suspected pests respectively, to haul it off as I found the pumpkin itself laying stemless in the pasture.

Potentially due to the lack of rain and possibly due to my relentless hacking of the pumpkin foliage to keep the plant from smothering the blueberries and asparagus, one of the pumpkin plants yielding 14 small fruit had turned brown and with the stems and foliage being reclaimed by the soil beneath. It was time to claim those fruit before something else did. After adding a few scarred or slightly soft pumpkins to the compost pile, the total count harvested was 11:


Excitingly, two other pumpkin plants bearing huge mostly green fruit are still developing. Even more interestingly, those plants are still blooming heavily. As such, the practice of combating aphids and leaf eating pests with neem oil sprays  are kept well away any blossoms on the farm. Even though neem oil is a very safe organic spray, bees can still carry contaminated pollen from treated flower back to the hive resulting in the poisoning of their brood. Thus even organic -icides are used strategically and in a manner that protects the human food as well as the creatures that work to provide it.


The comical downside to using composted farm manure

Finally, the answer to the quiz post from last week along with the solution to the mystery!



3 unplanned pumpkins in the background here:


In May, I noticed a weed unlike any of the native plants that was also very familiar. Pokeweed was the native plant that showed the closest resemblance to the seedling in question. Unlike pokeweed however, the leaves were not entire. My typical response to situations like these: Let it go and see what happens!

By June the plants had developed massive leaves, spiny but short stalks and were developing huge orange flowers. It was clearly in the gourd family which as far as I know is not native here nor is any of its ancestors. The seeds had to have come from somewhere with human influence. Cucumber, squash, pumpkin, zucchini?

Then it hit me, the farm from which I sourced the manure had a pick-your-own pumpkin patch last year. I remember them feeding the unsold pumpkins to the pigs and chickens at the end of the season. I’m sure that manure wound up in the big compost pile that is otherwise 95% from cleaning the stalls after horse shows (Hence why all my blog posts state that I am using composted horse manure).

So I contacted the manager of that farm who is a friend of mine. Apparently my observations were not unique as he reported having pumpkins popping up in his crop and hay fields where he had spread his manure. What a hardy plant!

Mystery solved!

I also eliminated a groundhog I allege to have eaten some of my blueberries. Rabbits normally would be the suspect, but they would have to cross 200 yards of mowed pasture from the nearest brush to get to the garden. With the coyotes howling, foxes barking and hawks/owls performing aerial reconnaissance at day/night respectively, I doubt the rabbits would be motivated to take the risk. These pumpkins may appease any future groundhogs from going after the planned crops!