Grow Huge Jack-O-Lanterns for the Best Pumpkin Carving Experience
Pumpkins happen to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow, especially if you grow them from seeds. They also make outstanding crops for children to grow and a perfect introductory plant to encourage children to learn to garden. What is the benefit of teaching children to garden? Surprisingly, children tend to eat what they grow making parents lives a little easier when it comes to getting children to eat vegetables. In this Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween blog, we walk you through the process of growing pumpkins.
Pumpkins are Essentially a Winter Squash
Winter squash as a group, are very easy to grow. They are also kind of prickly so kids learn early to leave them alone. Still, there is an enormous amount of fun to be had growing pumpkins. The fruit and vines grow quickly so kids can see rapid progress. All you need to grow pumpkins are a few seeds, a shovel, and some water. Squash like rich soil that is full of organic matter so a bag of organic compost works well. If you are growing them in a contain, use a container that holds around five gallons of soil. A plastic bucket works well and you can find those at Ace Hardware or Home Depot for around $4. Just drill a hole in the bottom so that water drains out of it.
Watering and Care of Pumpkins
Seeds must be kept moist so be sure to water them every day. When they spout, water them slowly and carefully as their main stalk is fragile. Seedlings often attract slugs and snails. A good home remedy is to put a beer bottle down on its side. with a little beer in the bottom of it. the goal is to slightly bury the bottle so that the neck is flush with the ground. It acts as a trap for slugs and snails. Another home remedy for slugs and snails is to crush your leftover eggshells from cooking into small shards and scatter them around the seedlings. Eggshells are sharp and slugs and snails prefer not to crawl over them.
Space for Growing Pumpkins
Pumpkins tend to love to crawl along the ground. Their tendrils can get 30 or more feet long. If you are growing these in a small space, they can and will consume that space. Don't be afraid to clip back tendrils. If you have fruit on the vine, just snip at the next leaf junction ahead of the fruit. You can grow larger pumpkins by trimming the plant. This forces the plant to put more energy into growing fruit rather than growing super long tendrils.
Pumpkins are Great for Eating
Pumpkins are a healthy food that is full of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Pumpkins are part of a heart-healthy diet too. Besides carving them for Jake-O-Lanterns, you can save a few for pies during the holidays too. Consider saving the seeds and roasting your own pumpkin seeds too. A great place to find ways to use pumpkins in recipes is at the Metabolic Research Center which has an amazing library of healthy recipes including this Pumpkin Pie Spiced Ricotta Breakfast or this Stuffed Lasagna boats, which uses spaghetti squash - just substitute the squash for pumpkins.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest when their outer skins become hard. When they are growing their skins are soft. When they are maturing, the skins grow harder. Gently press your thumb nail onto the skin. If it resists your nail the pumpkin is ready to harvest. You can do the same thing on the pumpkin's stem. When it is ready the stem turns from green to brown and become very hard, like wood. When you see this, your pumpkin is ready.
Pumpkins Come in All Shapes and Sizes
There are a ton of varieties of pumpkins. Some are so small they fit in your hand. Others are so large that you need a tractor to move them. They come in many shapes from the Cinderella pumpkins to warty Kentucky pumpkins. If you want a little variety, pumpkins range in color from white to deep red, and blue and turquoise. If you have space, grow a variety of pumpkins. For a little added fun, consider visiting a pumpkin growing contest, like the one that crowned the 2015 American's Largest Pumpkin, which weighed in at 2,145 pounds.
For fun ways to add healthy foods to your diet, continue to browse the Metabolic Research Center website. In addition to getting your kids interested in growing their own food, the whole family will enjoy the healthy benefits of our delicious recipes.
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