Flower gardening has been my passion for as long as I've held a trowel; I tried serious vegetable growing until this season. My straw bale garden has opened a whole new world to me. I think I've learned a few things.
This is where you might give me the eye roll ... I have discovered the value to pruning tomatoes. In a matter of days after pruning my plants, they produced more blossoms and the fruit grew more plump. It's true what they say – removing the lower leaves helps vining plants to put their energy into fruit. I think fellow garden blogger Gayla Trail would concur. Check out her advice in How (and Why) I Prune My Tomatoes at yougrowgirl.com.
I have discovered that left unchecked, pumpkin and squash vines will run rampant, encroach on one another, and leap a fence in a single bound. The tidy straw-covered rows between my bales have all but disappeared. I confess when plants exhibit such glorious growth, I hate to to cut it back. It's the perennial gardener in me, I guess.
Pumpkins and squash will produce leaves and blossoms throughout the season. By August, there is likely not enough growing season for small new fruits to ripen. This continued immature growth wastes plant energy. Of course, I wish I had understood this earlier in the season; I could have been doing judicious pruning. Still, I am glad there are more experienced gardeners out there to help a novice along. Erin – my vegetable consultant – came today to advise me.
We shortened the pumpkin vine you see in the above photo, sacrificing a couple small fruits that won't mature. A single vine can only support so many fruit; part of the pruning task is assessing the vine's vigour and how many fruit it has. Our goal is to get more fruit like the beauty on the right.
The vining habit of squash and pumpkins is amazing. They do need a LOT of room. Next year, I will plant them – and there will be fewer plants – with a support that will allow them to grow up and away from the bales. I'm going to make use of that fence, too – since they want to climb over it anyway!
Read How to Grow Pumpkins in KitchenGardener Magazine
Read Growing Pumpkins by Tina Forrester in Canadian Gardening