Planting Pumpkins and Winter Squashes

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Earlier in the week we shared our decision to remove the final part of lawn from Pig Row. For nearly a decade with have tried to bring this uneven piece of ground under control in the form of a meadow like space - which basically meant let the grass grow. However, naturalistic spaces in gardens need to be maintained and this space has become too much to cut in August. We are trying to make it do two things, become a meadow, give us fruit from the trees and these are two polar opposites when it comes to nutrient needs for the soil. Also, we are on peat, so no chance of a real meadow. I have also had problems with the area closest the hedge on the west side of the garden, here fruit trees had a higher chance of failing and in late winter we actually moved one of the mature trees to the east side of the orchard where is has done well - we even have a high yield of fruit on it (which I have thinned out to allow the tree to recover from its move). Now, the grass has been cut back and the clippings are rotting on top. We could leave it but in a month's time the grass will be wafting in the wind and we will be swearing. God forbid though that we leave it fallow. So, Carol and I are going to show you how to get a crop going on a lawn that you want to kill off with no use of chemicals. First you will need a piece of heavy duty weed suppressing membrane, the one we are using is 2mx10m (that's 6 and a half feet x 33 feet approximately in old money), buy the one with ground pegs. Our's cost us £12 and is considerably cheaper than filling the petrol can for the lawnmower. You need to peg down the membrane every metre in both directions, so on a 2m width you will have 3 pegs and across the 10m length you should use 11 pegs (remember you need one at the zero mark!). That's a total of 33 pegs to hold the membrane down. 

Weed suppressant membrane

Membrane and pegs

You may need a little rest after doing this and as you doze you will notice that the sun is high and the membrane is black and you are baking, but so is the grass beneath.


You then need 3 growbags (cost of £2.99 each) at equal distances across the length of the membrane. We are planting Winter Luxury Pumpkin (Real Seeds, £2.46), Anna Swartz Hubbard Winter Squash (Real Seeds, £2.36) and Courgette Verde D'Italia (Seeds of Italy, £2.45). We have as usual got a glut of courgette plants but waste not, want not and barter with that glut! The pumpkin and squash will trail out and cover the membrane over the next few weeks. First though, bash those growbags to break up the soil inside and make it friable, leave it and you will get concrete when you water it. Stab a few holes in the base of the growbag for drainage. We then cut two holes into each bag for two plants only. Don't be greedy, pumpkins and squashes need the space.

Planting pumpkins in a growbag

Planting winter squash

Carol makes a well in the compost with her hand, pushing the excess soil back into the growbag middle. She then pops the plant in and mounds the compost back around the plant. This can be a bit fiddly and don't worry if any compost escapes, you're on membrane so you can sweep it up and pop it back in the growbag.


Above, you can see the final position of all the pumpkins and squashes. These will quickly trail out from the growbag but you must remember that pumpkins are greedy plants, so water, water and water again. We make our own feed from manure tea, it's not nice to smell but it does the job and means when the nutrients have been used up in the growbag you are replacing them, do this once a week and water every three days when overcast and everyday when sunny. Remember to water the soil and not the plant.

Watering pumpkins

Watering squashes


In a few weeks you won't see the membrane and next spring when we lift it and start on our new garden, the grass will be dead and gone. A whole new garden for less than £30 (approximately $36 or €32 depending on where we are with Brexit).


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