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Gardening With Eugene Higgins

Thursday, 23 October 2008

- THE DO's & Don'ts OF GROWING YOUR OWN PUMPKIN

This weekend is the Virginia pumpkin festival in Cavan open to all.

This weekend The Virginia Pumpkin Festival will be held in Virginia Cavan Friday 24th - Sunday 26th October. Pumpkin growers from all over Ireland and abroad will unveil their carefully cultivated prize specimens and the winner of the largest pumpkin will be declared. The prize fund totals €3,000. The festival will include live performances, children's activities, a street carnival with fire eaters and exotic dancers, a walking treasure hunt and many more family activities. This is leading up to the main event on the Sunday The Pumpkin Olympics where the winner of the biggest pumpkin will be announced.

Eugene Higgins, Landscaper:
I was born into Horticulture in a plant nursery/garden centre in north Co Dublin started in 1940 by my grandfather, so my excuse is, "that its in my blood".
On leaving school I worked in various Dublin radio stations and spent my spare time working in the family run garden centre, this soon reversed after spending an intervening number of years in Australia.
Over the last 12 years I have been combining Horticulture and media work.besides working on the Afternoon Show since season 1 my media contributions have also included:

. BBC Room For Improvement (Season 1)
. UTV "UTV LIFE"
. FM 104 Claire McKeon Show
. Lite Fm Dublin Saturday magazine

In 1999 I returned to retailing opening Colour Green Garden Centre in Malahide Dublin, which won "Best Specialist Garden Centre 2002-Ireland".
In 2004 we subsequently moved the business to Tullamore, Co Offaly, where we have a lot more space around us and have concentrated on developing our Colour Green Landscaping Services. Our highlight to date was, being commissioned last year by the Afternoon Show to restore a nursing home's spectacular Japanese garden that had run into serious disrepair (Carrigoran Nursing Home, Co Clare).

Eugene Higgins Landline 01 8674319/ 057 9355840 or email ebhiggins@eircom.net

How do they grow?
Pumpkins come from hot climates, in Ireland they are grown in poly tunnels or greenhouses to achieve one big enough for a competition. But if you are not that way inclined and want some pumpkin soup or jam here's how to grow them.

- Planting should begin in spring by planting your seeds in a pot.
- Pumpkins need heat to grow to a sufficient size.
- So plant in the sunniest/warmest spot in your garden after the frost in early June to be safe or in a conservatory/green house (in the ground rather than pots).
- However you can plant pumpkin seeds in a pot and for the first two weeks you can keep the pot in a warm room in the house.
- They need lots of fertile organic compost.
- Lots of water is needed and you need to check everyday if they need water (ie might be too hot).
- You need to transfer them from the pot to the ground within two weeks of planting the seed.
- You could try growing them over a support in the greenhouse.
- They could be planted on the compost heap as well. The fruit needs to be kept off the ground to stop it rotting.
- In commercial terms they pick the biggest fruit on the plant and stick with that and get rid of the rest. But for the home grower you don't have to be as brutal. Keep your options open.
- After its picked, it takes 10 or more days to cure. All fruits will eventually go a redish/orange colour as they may be yellow or green at first.

Top Tips for growing your own pumpkin
1. They need fertile well drained soil
2. Raise off the ground to avoid rotting with strong twine and trellis or wooden pyramid
3. Wait until fruit is fully coloured ie redish and sounds a hollow sound when tapped. Then pick and bring into a warm room to cure them.
4. Get the warmest sunniest place to grow them for best success.

Eugene Higgins
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