Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pumpkins in June?

Just in case you didn't know......I love pumpkins.  I grow pumpkins.  Lots of them.  Big ones.

Pumpkins are my business.  Seriously.  We own and operate a pumpkin patch called Silo Hill Farm.  You can check it out HERE.  Every fall we are open to the public and it is so much fun!  We have 2 corn mazes, pumpkin painting, games, a cow train, a nature trail, horse drawn hay rides, even a haunted maze at night....just all kinds of fun stuff!  AND....big pumpkins!  But they don't start out that way obviously.  Every year we plant pumpkin seeds and hope for great weather.  
Last winter, I saw this tutorial at You Grow  It's about how to start seeds in empty toilet paper rolls.  I was intrigued.  I asked people to save me their empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes so I could give it a try.
It's really pretty simple.  You take a toilet paper tube, and cut 1/2" slits all the way around on one end.  I've marked them on this one just so you could see.
 Then, you fold those in towards the center.
Next, I stood them up in some cardboard flats.
Fill them with some good seed starting mix.
Tamp down the soil with a spurtle.
Wait! What? You don't have a spurtle??  You don't know what a spurtle even is?  Well, it's something a friend in Montana gave me.  She said it was for stirring big pots of oatmeal.  I like oatmeal, but really, I don't make it by the giant pot fulls and I just stir it with a spoon, so I use my spurtle for gardening purposes.  Really, you could use anything, to tamp down the dirt and make a center hole for the seed.
Ahhhh....the seeds.  I have a variety of pumpkin seeds.  I like to mix it up a little, but I also like to know which seeds are what, so I sort them out into some little cups.  I finally found a use for that bag of mini popsicle sticks that I discovered in my craft supplies and have absolutely no recollection of purchasing!  I made some little seed markers out of them! 
Once I had my seeds ready, I just dropped them into the hole that I made with my spurtle (I just like saying that word!), covered them with soil and gave them a good watering.
I put them on the side of my house, where they would have some protection from the sun and the wind.  A note want to keep some good air space around the tubes so they don't mold and you don't want them to dry out.  You can see by the above picture, how easy it is to tell when they are wet because the cardboard tubes show the water line easily.
Now you are just watering and waiting...................for this:
I'm so happy!  Every seed sprouted using this method!  Now, all that's left is to plant the tube right into the ground.  No worries, the tube is biodegradable and by the time your pumpkins need to stretch out, the tube will have broken down enough.
I saw several advantages to starting seeds this way.  It's really fast and! Toilet paper tubes are much more plant friendly than peat pots or jiffy pots as some are called.  Peat pots are highly acidic and not all seedlings appreciate that.  Peat pots more often than not, get mold, because they are so close together and don't get good air circulation.  Also, and this is key to pumpkins.....they just aren't deep enough.  The seedlings get long and leggy and are laying over by the time they get their first true leaves and the roots are all intertwined on the bottom, which makes for some root trauma when transplanting.  Finally, peat pots do not break down in the soil as well as you would think.
Check out how happy and healthy these little pumpkin seedlings look:
Soon, they will be glorious pumpkin vines loaded with pumpkins.  I planted some of my favorites this year....big white ones, giant ones, ones with the really fat stems, some that are long and skinny, some that are round and fat, little ones for painting, mini ones for decorations and big ones for our annual pumpkin race!
Owning a pumpkin patch is a lot of fun!  Watching seedlings grow into big beautiful pumpkins, also a lot of fun.  Watching this guy carry these pumpkins across the finish line to his cute kids who were excitedly cheering him worth it all!! 


  1. I feel like gardening all of a sudden. But it's winter in Australia. And... I don't have a garden. They don't grown orange pumpkins here. They have "japanese pumpkins", but they seem to be what I would call a squash. At halloween two years ago, i found a jack-o-lantern pumpkin and paid $20.00 for it! Last year I couldn't find one. It's just too hot here in October, I guess. Anyway, I'm moving home to Canada in two months, :( & :), so I will have to plant some pumpkins next year! Janelle

  2. WOW! I am oddly fascinated that you have a pumpkin patch. What a fun life you live. I can't wait to see pictures of these little babies as they grown up :)

  3. This is really cool. Can't wait to see the pumpkins you get.

  4. Excellent idea. I'm so glad it worked so well for you and also can't wait to see these babies grow up.

  5. Hey Danni! Great idea! I love to plant seeds (no pumpkin ones) so I'm totally trying this! I'll let you know how it turns out!
    Hugs from Spain

  6. how wonderful to be able to grow your own veg !

  7. Oh wow - I will def be keeping my TP rolls for when my tomato planting season comes around. What a neat idea xxx Nat

  8. This was a great post! Very informative. I like that word "spurtle" too. You make me laugh! I'm going to try the paper tube method some time. My husband won't let me grow pumpkins because he wouldn't allow a vine growing across the yard, but maybe I could plant at my sister's house. Wish I could come down in the fall and run through your maze! Sounds like fun. :)

  9. I am going to use this method for my seed starts next year!

  10. wow, you certainly planted a lot of pumpkin seed! great that they all came up. i love pumpkin too! which reminds me, haven't planted any yet in the veggie garden...