Friday, February 19, 2010

The Definitive Pumpkin Solution!

On making pumpkins etc. produce female flowers I learnt from experience that you need to take the ends off the leaders, thus producing more laterals. I discovered this when I had a feral pumpkin that grew in the compost heap years ago. Only had male flowers on 15 foot leaders that were threatening to take over the garden, so I went round the bush with a shovel chopping the "arms" off to about 4 feet. Voila! - laterals covered in female flowers! I seem to remember I got about 20 pumpkins from one vine. So now I'm brutal with them, but make up for it with LOTS of compost and horse manure.Jenny
How good is that!  Thank you Jenny, I'm happy to call that the definitive Cucurbit growing tip.  I'm sure you can't get simple, practical advice like this from a Google search (well, hopefully you can now).

I also received this question during the week:

While we have been eating our own tomatoes for the last month (& they are very tasty), the ones in pots (which were doing OK) have all developed circular splits around the fruit & I don't know how or when it happened. Obviously they can't be fixed & luckily many of them are still edible. I think I probably didn't keep heeding your feeding advice, & will try to do better next year.

As I only have 2 smallish plots (about 2m x 1m each), rotating my crops is a bit of an issue. Can you offer any thoughts?

Follow this link to the original pic on

The concentric splits are unfortunately all too common, along with long radial splits don the sides of Tomato fruit.  This is what we call a disorder, not a disease.  Tomato fruit development responds to varying growing conditions with bursts of growth followed by less active periods, a bit like my son Ben at the moment (fortunately he's not cracking, just stretching).  Some varieties, frequently heirloom varieties are much more prone to this problem than others.  It appears that plants that mature their fruit hidden in the foliage are less susceptible.

Older (50's & 60's I guess) seed catalogues made a big deal over the resistance to splitting and cracking of the latest varieties.  We see much less of this today because it is generally assumed that this won't be a problem with modern hybrids.

As mentioned cracking is not a disease and the plants are perfectly edible as Deirdre has found. The only problem is that the cracks can provide an entrance for a disease infection so the fruit can go off more quickly.  Of course this leads to the old argument over the relative benefits of modern hybrids and their open pollinated predecessors.  Keep in mind the breeders of the Heirloom varieties pretty much ignored anything but flavour, hybrids are often accused of ignoring flavour in the search for the benefits of long storage.

OK, that's part one of Deirdre's question.  How can crops be rotated if there is only a limited space available for growing.  My real expertise is in growing in containers, so this isn't an issue I regularly face.  If you have any good suggestions I would love your feedback.  Please send me an email or leave a comment on my blog and I'll reward feedback with a tray of vegie seedlings (Um, well that's if I can get them to you. Victoria, Australia works).


  1. I have planted some scarlet runner beans and it is the first time I tried growing them. They only kept producing beautiful flowers but not a single bean. Has it been too cold at night in Melbourne this summer or the soil is lack of some nutrients that it requires?

  2. I have cross pollinated my button squash and round zuchinni and produced some colourful and artistic squashes this year. The hybrid seems to be stronger and produce more fruit than their parents.

  3. Thanks Anna. How do your Zusquash taste? Or are they Squachinis? They'de look great on a plate if you cook them whole and they hold this colour. Your bean question requires more thought, I'll post ideas shortly.

  4. Anna I checked with my friend John about your beans, here's his reply:
    Dear Anna,
    I note with interest your inquiry re Scarlett runner beans.
    These beans are usually grown in the cooler months so let's see how I can help.
    1. Maybe you planted your beans too early. January 1st is an ideal time.
    2. I guess you were anxious to get them started and watered them madly ,so up they came. I try not too encourage early starts by not watering, but rains often spoils my plans.
    3. Now the flowers and no fruit. Beans like a moist situation to pollinate, so here I go again. I have found that the best practise is to give them a light misting every morning. That usually does the trick. We have had some very dry days. Not good for beans. S.C. beans require alot of water otherwise they become very stringy and tough.
    Trust this bit of info will help.


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