Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a courtyard garden. Which edibles will tolerate less than ideal growing conditions. Discovering how veggies can grow in partial shade.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Pumpkin Dilemma

This is what I am aiming for this year! A beautiful big, round, red pumpkin. This is the variety I am growing this year Rouge Vif D'Etamps - seed kindly donated by Petunia (the shoes on the left! And so far it looks like all I am getting is this!

Here's the dilemma - I realise that my wonderful trailing pumpkin leaves cannot support an infinite number of mature pumpkins, but most of my little yellow pumpkins are just withering and rotting. A few weeks ago I counted a total of about 10 female flowers on one vine - I know they will not grow into 10 giant pumpkins, but who decides?
I've been watering and feeding the plants and the leaves and stalks look fantastic, but the little pumpkins nearest the root are withering and dying, the ones at the end of the growing tip seem to be OK. Are there rules to this phenomenon? Should I thin them out?


At 8:36 PM, Blogger Magic Cochin said...

I wouldn't thin them out, I'd wait. maybe the ones near the root of he plant get less light and air so a bit of rot sets in. And it will be damp as you've been watering the roots. The ones nearer the ends are in more open ventillated conditions.

If you find you have a good number maturing (fist size and bigger) and little ones are still forming along the far end of the stem them I'd stop the growing tip and remove the smaller fruit.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Debbie said...


I am not sure why some fruits rot and die off. I find it tends to happen with a few fruits on both pumpkins and courgettes but doesn't seem to affect the overall production in the end. Some will eventually start to grow, I hope! It may be because of the weather, it has been a bit damp and cold here, but you are down south- has the summer been better? Restrict pumpkin numbers once you are happy they are growing or they will not have time to ripen, 3-4 per plant. Hope that helps.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Soilman said...

I'm crap at squashes of all kinds, so this is probably rubbish... but I hear to get really big pumpkins you have to leave just one fruit on every plant to make it grow really big?

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Are you sure that they are all getting pollinated? I found that my buttercup squashes would yellow and wilt off like that when they weren't pollinated. I've taken to making sure but doing it myself.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Square Foot Hammer said...

My pumpkins (yet to be confirmed as still an unexpected suprise) are suffering from the same problems as yours.

I have cut the main growing stem off after a couple of fruit started to form, but most of these have since been eaten by slugs/rotten.

I have 2 that are still viable, so hoping that with some sun and some luck, one of them will grow!

At 11:01 AM, Blogger UKBob said...

Hi Matron, thanks for the comment on my blog, the pics will be coming very soon, hope you like looking at fog and rain! The choccie biscuits are good, they give you plenty of energy, especially when you add the odd Mars Bar. The beauty of it is you don't have to worry about it adding you your figure as you work it all off no trouble. As for the Pumpkins, I had similar happen to my melons last year, not sure why. BoB

At 3:24 PM, Blogger LoveAppleFarm said...

It could be pollination as Emily said. The way to hand pollinate is to take a tiny paintbrush or Q-tip, stick it into a male flower (those are the ones that don't have a tiny fruit forming at their base, they usually are on a nice long thin stalk), then gently brush the pollen that you've gathered into the inside of the female flower. OR the other thing that is happening is that you've got Diabrotica (cucumber beetle) or squash bugs preventing pollination. If the flower attached to the fruit shrivels up and turns black right away and the fruit withers along with it, then that might be the problem.

Cucumber beetles look like green lady bugs. They have a black stripes or black spots on a green body. Squash bugs look like flat gray cockroaches. Check for the Diabrotica inside the flowers; they are attracted to yellow. The squash bugs like to hang out at the base of the plant or under the foliage along the soil.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger MeadowLark said...

Thus goes the struggle of gardeners everywhere... which ones to eliminate! Good luck with your choices - not one I'll have to make.

Wonderful blog. I'm impressed with the climbing courgette. Is that the same as a zucchini or a cucumber?

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous mark said...

Was your seed from your friend's pumpkin? If it was it is unlikely to breed true unless it was many many yards away from any other cucurbit (the rest of the squashes including courgettes etc). Curcubits hybridise readily from windborn pollen and most results are bitter and inedible. And if the initial seed was from an F1 hybrid your plant will almost certainly not breed true.
Not breeding true could well be the problem here. The answer with curcurbits is always use commercially-grown seed unless you are totally sure you are at least 100 yards away from any other cucurbits

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Dan said...

I agree with Emily, it is probably rotting from poor pollination.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Matron said...

Emily - a good point, I will do some hand pollination just to make sure. I also had some advice from Scarecrow that pumpkins sometimes do this with a calcium deficiency, so I will get some calcified seaweed food.
Loveapple - your diagnosis seems to confirm what the general opinion is. Thank you.
Meadowlark - in the UK we use the name courgette for zucchini.
Mark - a good point! I have grown some strange looking hybrids for this reason you suggest. These seeds came from a packet so should come true.
Dan - This seems to be the general diagnosis! Thanks to all.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger James Dougan said...

OK stop bragging, we know you southerners have got it good. I planted 3 sunflowers, one withered and died and the other 2 are an impressive foot high with a tiny bud. Although my weeds are quite impressive! I also had the same problem with the pumpkins last year, it seems the more they grow out from the plant the first fruits seem to be sacrificed, so I cut it so it would put the energy into the fruits and fed with liquid tomato feed.


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