Attack of the Killer Pumpkins

comments (1) October 20th, 2009 in Gallery

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My 2008 vegetable garden, mid-season.  Note the threatening vines at the back side of the garden.  They have already crawled over tomato plants and out of the fence and are making their way across the garden.
One of the few tomatoes to escape the wrath of the pumpkin vines.  This was a Granny Cantrell, a mercifully late bloomer we were able to free from the vines post-vacation.
Front porch, Halloween, 2008.  These pumpkins are a small representation of the number contained inside the house.  It became rather embarassing after the holidays when people would ask, What are all of the pumpkins for?  And, then the ultimate family boycotted eating any more pumpkin-laced foods.
This is the sole reminder of the great pumpkin harvest of 2008.  Unfortunately, I vacillated so long about planting pumpkins again strategically this year that this poor gal will probably never reach maturity.  The garden is a fickle environment sometimes, as is the gardener.
My 2008 vegetable garden, mid-season.  Note the threatening vines at the back side of the garden.  They have already crawled over tomato plants and out of the fence and are making their way across the garden.Click To Enlarge

My 2008 vegetable garden, mid-season.  Note the threatening vines at the back side of the garden.  They have already crawled over tomato plants and out of the fence and are making their way across the garden.

When I began vegetable gardening in earnest eight years ago, I was not aware of the dangers lurking in my garden plot.  I am not talking about chemicals, fertilizers, or animals of the creepy sort.  I am an avid organic gardener.  And, I have learned to live with the surprise of facing a full-to-bursting tomato hornworm an inch from my nose as I garden.  Or the quick shimmer of a garden snake as he escapes while I’m weeding or adding compost.  No, I’m talking about horrors created by my own hand.  I have been an unknowing mad scientist, creating monstrosities that take over and escape my garden, consuming all within their grasp. 

As a designer, I love the preliminary planning that goes into garden design, especially in the spring.  I dream of colors, textures, and layers spread throughout my garden.  I am a permaculture devotee, trying to grow as much as I can in a small area with as little impact as possible.  I am a trained scientist, too, so I know that when reading the specifications for seed sowing, I really should adhere to the directions and gardening tips.  However, I am a glutton.  There, I said it.  I am unable to just accept a sparsely populated garden in the spring.  I plant more seeds and seedlings than my small 20’ by 25’ main garden could ever support.  I always tell myself, “I’ll thin out the thickly sown rows.  I’ll judge which seedlings are the most vigorous and will cull out the rest.”  Yeah, right.

The mother in me is so proud when they all germinate.  I stand back and admire them, imagining what the midsummer garden will look like.  Well, last year was a wake-up call to my tendency to excess.  I knew I had a problem mid-June.  I looked at the stout pumpkin vines that had emerged as innocent sprouts in May.  They were already climbing the garden fence (as I planned, I might add.  Vertical gardening expands your plot’s potential immensely.).  However, the vines had branched into well-developed limbs and were bullying the nearby tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes, tendrils raised like fists, threatening the slower-growing plants.  I was scheduled to go on vacation, so against my motherly instincts, I lopped the pumpkins back, hoping to stem their growth without killing them.

Now, some of you are already snickering.  I know.  Thinking back, I should have known.  Many plants respond favorably to such topping out—these pumpkins were among those.  When I came back from a restful two weeks at the beach, I peeked out the back door and was astonished.  The lovely wide emerald green unfurled leaves of the pumpkins were EVERYWHERE in the garden.  As it turns out, we had rain showers almost everyday I was gone, and the pumpkins could not have been more pleased.  I can not say the same for the other garden inhabitants.  Pattypan plants had actually been squashed—oh, the irony.  Tomatoes had been snared and wrestled to the ground from their stakes.  Peppers had been strangled and snapped by the strong arms of the killer pumpkins.  Sweet potatoes trying so hard to reach for the sun, had been smothered and trampled by the brutish vines.  Last year, for all of my planning, at the end of the garden season, I had a few measly tomatoes that had managed to stretch through the tide of vines and produce a meager supply.  However, I had the best Halloween display I have ever had.  I had pumpkins on my porch, my coffee table, dinner table, and window sills.  I threw the last of them out in March of this year when I began more thoughtfully planning for this year’s garden.  (Yeah, I know, March!  Pretty impressive.  Those were Seminole pumpkins.)

I have learned a mighty lesson.  This year’s garden was a study in control for me.  I was ruthless.  I snipped every volunteer pumpkin plant that emerged, I thinned seedlings to proper plant distances, and I planted more sparingly.  However, this year, like so many, I felt the call of the nursery wagon as I purchased my tomato seedlings.  The two initial cell packs looked so lonely in the cart.  I couldn’t stand it.  I walked away with 28 tomato plants.  And, yep, you guessed it…I planted every one.

So, to wrap up (I have to go make my twentieth batch of salsa and explore how to make homemade ketchup), I’ve realized that gardening requires the dream and hope of the spring-time gardener, the loving touch of a mother nursing her babies to growth, and the steely cold hand of the analytical scientist to make it all work.  Otherwise, chaos and murder can ensue and the gardener is ultimately at fault.  Be vigilant, my friends, and go forth and cautiously garden. 

Now, where is that fall catalog with the listing for walking onions?

More Information: My own design
posted in: Gallery, pumpkins, killer pumpkins

Comments (1)

Seeds57 writes: Hi well I know this was posted awhile ago but this made me smile yeah I planted the so called killer pumpkins in my garden too and yes they took over and over and well you get it! But happy to say even so we got big Orange pumpkins and even some veggies made it out alive!
Posted: 10:38 am on January 7th
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