Growing pumpkins and squash from seed
Sowing and planting
Sow seeds indoors in spring. Soak in water overnight to speed up germination, then sow two seeds into 8cm pots filled with seed compost. Place seeds on their edge and not flat to stop water sitting on top and causing rotting. Put them on a warm, light windowsill and water well. When the seedlings grow, remove the weaker one so the strongest has plenty of room to develop.
Once the danger of frost has passed in late May or early June, plant them. Choose a sheltered, sunny spot and dig lots of garden compost into the soil. Insert a bamboo cane next to each plant and you’ll always be able to find its centre for watering, no matter how large it grows. Plant at least 90cm apart, according to the variety. Cover the surrounding soil with a mulch of garden compost to retain moisture.
Tending the crop
Plants will rapidly put on growth. Depending on space, either let them trail over the ground or train them up a support. It must be sturdily made to take the heavy weight. Stems touching the ground can be pegged down to encourage them to root down into the soil.
Pumpkins have separate male and female flowers. You can tell them apart as the female has a swelling behind it. To help the plant form fruit, insert the male flower into the female one to transfer pollen.
While plants are getting established, keep the ground weed free, but once they get going the large leaves will prevent any weeds from growing. Water plants regularly, especially in dry weather. As the pumpkins and squash develop, cut away any foliage that is shading the fruits to help them ripen.