I have been experimenting with pumpkin hills. Since I believe the soil here is acid, though I can’t prove that via a pH test yet, I am starting my melon and pumpkin hills by starting a fire first. Then I fork in some half-finished compost and water with compost tea. The first experimental pumpkin hill looks like this now:
You can see me do this in this recent video:
A native farmer told me that he always burns a brush pile and then plants watermelons. The Seminole pumpkins I planted when I got here on melon pits containing fresh cow manure did terribly. As they moved away from their source of fertility, the vines got scrawnier and scrawnier and only one of them actually produced a pumpkin. A tiny, tiny pumpkin.
These were Seminole pumpkins from ECHO and might have been from a less vigorous genetic line, but I believe the real problem was soil nutrition, the thick clay, the rapid growth of weeds around the original pits, and acid soil.
I visited a local farm and saw big tropical pumpkins growing in big rambling masses of green down the sides of the hill.
Here are some curing:
They may be better adjusted to the climate or there’s something about growing pumpkins here I don’t know yet. My new method is to take some breadfruit leaves or banana leaves pile little sticks on top of it, light it, then douse the fire with compost tea. I also work in some rough compost from my compost bed in the main gardens.
The pumpkins I planted in the video are already coming up and they look very nice.
I am hoping for my own pumpkin covered mountainside.
Growing pumpkins is a passion. I don’t even like the way they taste very much, except for the very good Seminole pumpkins I grew back in North Florida. It’s just… they’re awesome to grow. The fruits can be massive. The vines are terrifying in their growth rate. The blooms are beautiful. And the grand variety of sizes, colors, and shapes that can be found in pumpkin cultivars is breathtaking.
For those of you who have grown pumpkins in Florida or in other tropical climates, does anyone know if there is a good C. maxima type that will take the heat and humidity?
My best luck has been with members of the C. agyrosperma and C. moschata groups… but there are some beautiful pumpkins in the C. maxima clan. Back in Tennessee I grew Golden Hubbard winter squash which were a lot of fun. That was the variety I first planted on my original melon pits which ended up earning their place in Compost Everything… and which I show off in ridiculous fun in Compost Everything: The Movie.
I like the great, big, beautiful slate blue original Hubbard squash but they are hard to find seeds for anymore… thank goodness for Baker Creek.
I found a nice fat butternut squash in a local grocery and have saved seeds from that.
I also saved the seeds from the tiny Seminole pumpkin and my wife and children are actually planting them down the hill as I type.
Why, you may ask? Why am I not down the hill planting pumpkins?
Well, I sustained a rather severe injury to my hand and it’s currently immobilized in a cast. Rachel isn’t letting me do anything right now and she is the nurse. You’ll see what I did in a video later this week and I’m going to have Rachel reenact the injury as me.
It’s going to be hilarious.
When life gives you injuries, make YouTube videos.
In case you wanted to know, yes, it was machete related.
Pro tip: you won’t finish your yard-long bean trellis if you sever a couple of tendons in the middle of the job.
Back to pumpkins.
As survival foods go, winter squash and pumpkins are a must have. Varieties such as the Seminole pumpkin are particularly valuable since they store for a long period of time.
Many of the tropical pumpkins I’ve tasted, such as calabazas, do not have excellent flavor and tend to have stringy flesh. I have been collecting local varieties from the market and from farmers and hope to rectify this through selecting pumpkins with superior flavor and texture. We shall see.
Getting them planted properly to begin with on a fertile hill of compost and ashes seems to be key, though I have just started and am still learning from the natives.
If I can just stop injuring myself and recover, I’m going to transform this mountainside.