GROWING HEIRLOOM PUMPKINS
Where should you lay out the squash-pumpkin patch?  Look ahead a couple of months to a time when the bare ground will have become a sea of elephant-ear foliage and fat, raspy stalks.  This will not be a welcoming Eden for someone clad in shorts and garden clogs.  Try to find an out of the way spot for these plants, so that they can sprawl and not get into too much trouble.  Consider training squashes up a heavy-duty trellis or fence.  A chorus line of winger squashes hanging from a white picket fence is a pleasing sight.  As you set seeds, remember to label your work with extra-large markers; stander-issue plastic tags will soon disappear under the plant they were supposed to identify.  Soak seeds for a few hours before planting.  Sow them 3/4 to 1 inch deep.  Use 6 seeds to a hill for bushy plants, with hills spaced 3 6to 6 feet apart; vining varieties are spaced every 3 to 6 feet in rows 8 to 12 feet apart.  Insure a good supply of water through the season.  Slip straw, newspapers, or boards under squash that are reclining on bare earth to keep them from rotting.
HARVESTING HEIRLOOM PUMPKINS
The first squash harvest in many gardens is the oversize yellow blossoms.  Native Americans have been putting them to use for centuries.  They would stew blossoms along with baby squashes and enough cornmeal to make a thicker consistency.  Snip the male blossoms, either as buds or just as they are about to open they are larger than the females and lack the bulge of the developing fruit at the base.  You won't  reduce the yield by taking them, as long as you leave the pistil from the center.  Sore blossoms in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Pick summer squashes before they mature, or they're apt to be seedy, bland, and tough skinned.  To tell if a winter squash is ready for harvest, rap on it with your knuckles. If it's hard, it should be ready.  Don't let winter squash sit out through the first hard frost, or storage life may be compromised.  Leave a couple of inches of stem on the squash to discourage rot orgasms from entering; the stem also will provide a convenient handle when it comes time to saw or hack open hard-skinned squash.  It is a tradition to allow winter squash to cure, that is, develop a harder shell, either in the sun or in a warm room, for several days.  For long-term storage, lug the squash to a dry spot where the temperature ranges in the 40s and 50s.  Make sure that air can freely circulate around them. 
SAVING HEIRLOOM PUMPKIN  SEEDS
Squashes like to mingle.  They will cross-pollinate within their own species and may not breed true.  That makes them ideal backyard genetic laboratories for gardeners who want to try creating their own varieties.  If you want to keep a strain pure, the easiest method is to plant just one variety from each species in any year.  Or make sure that you are the only  pollinator, to do so, begin by placing bags over an equal number of budding male and female flowers just as they are about to open; female flowers are those with a swelling at the base.  The following day, cut the bagged males front the plant.  Open a female flower and, using tweezers, remove each stamen from the male flower and rub it against the stigma at the end of the pistil of the female flower you've just opened.  Put the bags back over the females for a least three of four days to keep pollinating insects from spoiling your work.  At harvest time, scoop out the pulp and seeds into a sieve, separate them under running water and dry the seeds on a glass plate before storing them for the next season.
66634 - SAVING SEEDS
The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds
by Marc Rogers

Learn how to select, harvest, and store seeds from more that 100 vegetables and flowers commonly grown in home gardens.
192 pages, 6 x 9, paperback,


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