Pandemic Pumpkin Project!

I’ve heard it said you should set a goal that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. A goal needs to excite you, and some say intimidate you a bit. If a goal is easy to achieve, it’s not a challenge, right?

My planned pandemic/retirement project looked simple at first. My original goal was to grow giant pumpkins. I’d been successful at it twenty years ago when my garden held rich soil. No luck at all at my new home’s garden, but hey, I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge!

After taking my four-year-old granddaughter to a pumpkin stand last fall, I learned the giant pumpkins didn’t interest her. She wanted a pumpkin she could carry. My revised project included planting miniature pumpkins. For sweet little hands to hold.

I started seeds indoors and they shot up practically overnight! I figured I’d have the biggest and best pumpkins yet!

The first problem happened with transplanting the pumpkin seedlings. As I struggled to get the plants out of their pots, some of the plants split in two. At least seven plants snapped off at the main stem when I tried to gently place them into the soil. They looked sturdy but were fragile.

Fencing was installed to keep my bichapoo, Sophie, out of the different parts of the yard where the pumpkins were planted. Since it was the beginning of the pandemic, we had ordered it online and paid a steep price! In another pumpkin patch of my garden, I bought inexpensive fencing from the dollar store. I soon learned Sophie treated the fence as an agility course. Taller fencing was put up. I had difficulty climbing over the fence to water the plants every time, mind you!

The pumpkin plants grew like weeds and blossoms soon appeared. I searched every day but they were all male blossoms. Two weeks later, the first female blossoms appeared. I was so happy. I would have pumpkins after all!

Then, a crisis hit! Cucumber beetles! Pretty yellow-and-black insects bent on destroying my precious plants. Eggs laid on the plants, would lead to worms in the vines which would devour entire plants. I had never spotted them before. New soil had been added to the garden in the spring. Did they come from the soil? Or did the plants attract them from afar?

I tried everything under the sun to rid the plants of the beetles. Soap, bug spray (just a bit as I didn’t want to harm the bees or the birds), yellow traps, diatomaceous earth, lime, squishing them and I planted nasturtium seeds and marigolds nearby.

Nothing worked. The bugs were taking away my dream. After focusing on them for what seemed forever, I just one day let it go. Mother Nature could deal with it!

I had two cute miniature pumpkins early on . . . full of worms. There was another pumpkin about the size of my hand but the vine was brown already. I continued to hope for the best.

I noticed a cardinal liked to hang out in the pumpkin patch. I hoped my feathered friend was feasting on the bugs. Helping me out as I needed all the help I could get.

Then, one day I saw it! A huge pumpkin was growing three feet up off the ground. How had I missed seeing it? The pumpkin vine had climbed the fencing and blossomed there. It was barely supported by flimsy cosmos flowers. With the help of my son-in-law, we placed a tomato cage, topped with a pail under the pumpkin for support. I giggled. It looked hilarious. Would it break off? Would the tomato cage buckle under the weight?

While the Great Pumpkin continued to grow, I harvested the miniature pumpkins before any worms in the vines could kill them. Eighteen little ones! And one smallish so-called giant pumpkin. Yay!

I gave three to my daughter and nine of them to my granddaughter. I rearranged them outside her back door.

She liked them but was more interested in jumping on the trampoline. Don’t blame her! It was a blast!

When it was time to come inside, she insisted on bringing the pumpkins indoors. She was determined as she struggled to carry them all at once. They were special to her, after all! Now, I was very happy.

Later that week, I decided the Great Pumpkin should be picked before it fell and broke into pieces. Would squished pumpkin be called squash, haha? My project had its challenges. It may not have yielded the results I dreamed of, but I still declare it a success.

I give credit to the cardinal for fighting off the beetles when I had battle fatigue. And the marigolds and nasturtiums I planted? They’re still blooming in late October, doing their part to ward off the beetles.

Heck, maybe I’ll try again next year!

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