• Edit
  • View
  • Diffs
  • Info
  • Subscribe
  • Raw
  • Print

Hints and Tips

This section is intended to be a forum for members to pass on ideas, suggestions, hints and tips to help others. You can find the following hints below:

  • how to grow giant pumpkins
  • how to save your own seeds
  • club root in brassicas

You may have hints such as:

  • what you can and can't compost
  • how to improve seed germination
  • when to plant and pick crops
  • how to control pests and weeds
  • etc...

The possibilities are endless - your experience can help and inspire our newcomers, so please help us build up this section.

So, if you have any suggestions for us to include here, please e-mail Tony Turnbull <membership AT shas DOT org DOT uk>

Guide lines for Growing GIANT PUMPKINS

During 2009 our family grew pumpkins for the first time. We made mistakes but we did have some success - our biggest pumpkin reaching around 75lbs, it is difficult to be more accurate without suitable scales capable of handling the size/widths.

You will need a large area around 400 sq ft (e.g. 20 ft x 20 ft) if possible as the rate of growth is quite surprising. Preparation of the ground is key, plenty of manure and compost. Basically prepare the mound as for courgettes but bigger and well dug, removing any largish stones.

Seeds should be started mid April, planted in small pots and need heat to geminate best at 80-95 F. Some growers have even used ovens with just the light on or in a box with bottles full of hot water or a warm place near a radiator. When the seeds have sprouted continue to pot on into slightly larger pots and avoid cold draughts. Prior to planting out in early May apply Growmore to your chosen sit, erect a form of shelter with fleece cover until the vines are anchored, mound soil around the leaf joints to stabilise and encourage secondary rooting, water with soluble fertiliser each week (Extract of Seaweed, Tomorite, Phosprogen or Vitax 4 - all are stocked in out Trading Hut).

Allow primary vines to grow to 6 feet in length, prune and then secondary vines to grow but without crossing other secondaries. Male flowers with long stems will start to appear early July, followed by female flowers which have a small pumpkin behind the flower. Ideally you should have two pumpkin plants for cross fertilisation but single plants should be OK. Hand pollination can be successful by exposing the male stamen and rolling it around the female stigma; as more flowers appear bees and insects will pollinate naturally. Small pumpkins will start to grow on the secondary vines when the pollination has been successful. Once the pumpkins are setting, prune these secondaries to 4 feet and mound soil on all joints except either side of the growing pumpkin - this allows for growth and should avoid stem splitting. Remove all but 2 pumpkins per plant if you want to grow really big pumpkins. Water in your soluble fertiliser each week then twice a week. As the pumpkins grow move them to position them at right angles to the vine - but move very gently an inch a day to avoid stem damage or breaking the pumpkin from the stem. Do not attempt to manoeuvre in the morning as the stems are brittle at this time. When they are football size gently rest onto foam to reduce stress on the stem.

Pumpkin should be sheltered with fleece from hot direct sunlight as their flesh is tender and the cooling allows the shell to expand. As the pumpkin grows increase the liquid fertiliser to alternate days, with plenty of watering early in the morning or in the evening. Retain the fleece when the weather cools and as a deterrent against vandal damage.

Best of luck and growing success.

Don Jackson

Save Your Own Seeds

Club Root in Brassicas

Clubroot can be a big problem for brassica growers. Initial symptoms are stunted or sickly plants and the foliage may develop a purple-red tinge, and confirmation will be obtained by pulling up a plant and examining the roots. Infected roots are swollen and distorted, often producing either a single large club or a cluster of smaller swollen nodules resembling small dahlia tubers.

Clubroot affects all members of the brassica family - cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohl rabi, swedes and turnips.

It is easily transmitted. Just walking from an infected patch onto a clean patch of land can infect the soil and it can also travel on plants, so do not accept brassica seedlings where the source is not known to be clean. It is also almost impossible to eradicate, staying in the soil for up to nine years.

But the good news is that, although no chemical controls are available nowadays, there are now some new "Club Root Resistant" varieties appearing on the market which, although not totally immune, offer a good chance of success and are worth a try if you have had problems!

Varieties to look out for include:

Cabbage Kilaton F1 Hybrid and Cauliflower Clapton F1 Hybrid, available from Thomson & Morgan, or

Cabbage Kilaxy and Swede Invitation from Suttons Seeds.

If there are any others you can suggest, please let us know.

HintsAndTips (last edited 2010-03-04 19:55:48 by TonyTurnbull)