Pumpkins (squash) are usually picked in autumn after more than four months soaking up the sun. But this year it came right down to the wire; pumpkin-picking happened on the very last day of the Australian autumn, on Saturday the 31st May.
Warm weather and family pressures didn’t help the business of getting underway but that’s not a problem for pumpkins; after the fruit has formed the tough skin makes them fairly impermeable to attack from birds, insects, rats and disease while they lie about on the ground. The vines have all but disappeared and the stalks have withered, hardened and browned off so that the pumpkins can just be picked up from the ground or gently broken away from the remains of the vine.
Nevertheless, I need to get the onion crop into that bed and there’s all the usual preliminary work still to be done of pulling the bigger weeds and turning the chicken flock in to clean up insect pressures.
I’ve grown the usual small sweet Butternut pumpkins but ‘something new that’s old’ as well; Triambles. This three-lobed old heirloom variety of pumpkin has all but disappeared from the greengrocer’s shelves since I was a lad and I’d had to shop around to find seeds.
The results have been poor; poor germination and poor fruiting. In fact, I’m not convinced that three of the five ‘blue pumpkins’ that resulted aren’t in fact ‘Queensland Blues’. So I will save seed from the two that have the distinctive ‘three-lobes’ and try again next year.
In the meantime I need to store the barrow-load of pumpkins just harvested somewhere where they will be dry, out of the sun with good air circulation and out of the way of rats and mice. Fortunately there's plenty of fruit tree netting around at this time of the year and I can use that to envelop the crop on a shelf in the shed where the cook can get them at her ease.