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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
Pumpkin Time

Pumpkin Time


Autumn is a magical time of the year. Suddenly, as the air becomes crisp, the trees and other vegetation take on new and brilliant colors previously hidden in a green haze.

It is one of my favorite times of the year. Even though it means an eventual end to the growing season, it still holds many surprises and rewards for a gardener.

For many years now I have been growing pumpkins. There is a patch of ground in an old cattle pen on this property that has been ideal for raising these beauties. I grow them strictly for the fun of it and also share with nearby neighbors. Each year the varieties may be different but I get immense pleasure out of discovering what the patch has produced.

This year was exceptional. The 40 plants in the patch produced large quantities of unusual pumpkins.

There is "Polar Bear" - white on the outside and orange on the inside that averaged 50 – 60 lbs. each! These giants had to be brought out of the field with a tractor as well as "Big Moon"- several of which were over 100 lbs. We weighed the largest and it was 180 lbs. There were the usual Jack O' Lantern type but some of these were heavy also. My favorite has to be the one called "Wolf" which has an oddly thick stem but is very stout and lasts a long time. I also grew the warty types such as "Knucklehead" and "Peanut" which are fun and unusual. The kids I gave them to just loved them.

To successfully grow these giants I have incorporated a couple of techniques learned over the years. First of all the place where they are located has a heavy buildup of composted manure. Secondly, I have a ready source of fresh manure nearby and use it every year. Thirdly, I give credit to Ruth Stout, author of a book called The No Work Garden. She advocated the use of heavy mulches and no tilling to control weeds. She used old hay to accomplish this and I do the same with my patch. I put it on very thick so no soil is exposed and plant the pumpkins through it. I do not have to water as the moisture in the soil is preserved. I weed maybe once in the spring then after the pumpkins begin to grow weeding is minimal. Ruth Stout always said she did most of her gardening from the couch! I have used this method for other parts of the garden with much success also.

So now the fun of raising pumpkins comes full circle and the orange, white and warty fruits adorn every corner of the landscape here. As long as I am able I will continue to grow these fun plants and enjoy their beauty in autumn.

Rose Moore – Master Naturalist(and pumpkin grower) October 2018

Today's post was written by Rose Moore. Rose is a Certified Master Naturalist serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough & Warren Counties. She enjoys exploring the natural world around her and recording the experiences in art and writing.


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