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Did you enjoy your Halloween?  While you may be spending your morning cleaning up small candy wrappers and trying to get your kids out of bed after they crashed after their sugar high – I’d like to ask you a question:


“What are you going to do with your pumpkin?”

Before tossing it in the trash can (or compost pile) – how about getting a little more use out of it and create a pumpkin bird feeder?


Last year, I took my heirloom pumpkin and transformed it into a bird feeder.

Needless to say, the birds were thrilled and my kids and I had fun seeing how many different birds visited our pumpkin feeder.

**You can make your own pumpkin feeder and I recently wrote “how to” post for Birds & Blooms Magazine.  You can find my blog post, “Backyard Project: DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder”.

So how about you? What do you do with your pumpkins after Halloween?

It’s a beautiful summer day outside, yet my mind is on fall and Halloween?


Why?


Because, this is what I discovered growing in my vegetable garden this morning…



Okay, maybe you cannot see it yet, but once you part the leaves…


You can see a white pumpkin happily growing.


I’m so excited to have a pumpkin growing in my garden again.

You might be scratching your head at this point and wonder why I have a pumpkin growing in the middle of summer.

Look at any vegetable planting calendar for zone 9a deserts and you will see that pumpkin seeds should be planted in mid-June if you want pumpkins ready for Halloween.
Pumpkin vines are fairly easy to grow and they will spread out a lot!  We found that out the hard way when we grew our first pumpkin vine a few years ago.

Even though pumpkin vines grow well, they rarely form pumpkin fruit (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit) when planted in the middle June as recommended.

Our first pumpkin in 2010

BUT, pumpkins will often form if you plant the seeds a couple of months early.  I’ve grown pumpkins from seeds sown in spring before (click here).  Unfortunately, I have had no luck having pumpkins from from seeds sown in June (as recommended).  

So my plan is to allow my pumpkin to continue growing and then pick it when it is ripe in late July  or early August.  

I’ll then store it in a cool, dry place where it should (hopefully) keep until I put out fall decorations in September.  I’m hoping it will last through October, but we will see.

*Incidentally, my mother has a white, heirloom pumpkin that she purchased last October that is still doing well and shows no signs of rot.  


I planted some heirloom pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin that I bought last fall, and the vine is growing well.  I hope to see a pumpkin forming on that vine soon.

From what I have observed, heirloom pumpkins with hard outer skin/shell seem to last a long time.  


I’ll keep you updated as to how my pumpkin patch is doing and when my new pumpkin is ready to pick!


Is you home decorated for fall yet? I am still working on getting my house ready for the fall holidays.  


Normally, I am content to buy a single pumpkin and set it in the middle of my dining room table.  But, after seeing my mother’s beautiful fall centerpiece (above), I decided to try to do something a little more creative…


So, I decided to challenge myself to see what I could come up with for my own unique fall centerpiece by taking a visit to the produce section of my local supermarket.  I was determined to look beyond the normal fall offerings of pumpkins and Indian corn to see if I could be inspired. 


Surprisingly, I found quite a few vegetables and fruits that would look nice in a fall centerpiece.  So, armed with my cell phone camera, I started taking photos of some of my favorites…

Acorn Squash

Now, I don’t like to eat squash at all.  I still remember hiding the cooked squash in my napkin that my grandmother would try to get us to eat.

Spaghetti Squash

BUT, squash looks great when used as a fall decoration.

Butternut Squash

In fact, I have even seen Butternut squash decorated as a ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ with a ghost face colored in using black markers.

Artichoke

Okay, artichokes are another vegetable that I don’t like.  But, they look great in arrangements, so I bought one.

Pomegranates

Finally, I found something that I do like to eat AND decorate with – pomegranates.  I love their deep color, don’t you?

Oranges

Limes

Let’s not forget citrus, which is always beautiful no matter how you use it – whether in a bowl in the center of the table or as part of a larger arrangement.

Heirloom Tomatoes

I admit that heirloom tomatoes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when creating a fall centerpiece.  But, their deep and rich colors would accent any centerpiece.  Tomatoes won’t last as long as the other produce I have profiled, so use for a few days and then eat them.

Mangoes

How about mangoes? 

Apples

Apples are great for decorating the tabletop.  I like to use them at Christmas time as well.

Red Pears

I don’t think I have ever noticed all of the different types of produce that my grocery store had before now.

I did come away with a few things that I will attempt to create a centerpiece out of.  I promise to share it with you later.

In the meantime, I did find myself captivated by the unusual pumpkin offerings at the store…


Aren’t they beautiful?

I selected one for my centerpiece.  When I got home, I excitedly showed it to my kids, who to my surprise, were not happy about it.  They asked, “Is this the pumpkin we are going to carve?”

I assured them that this pumpkin is for decoration only and will hopefully last until Thanksgiving.

I did promise them a ‘regular’ pumpkin for carving later on.

So, when you head to the supermarket this weekend, take a closer look at the produce aisle and see what you can use to create your own ‘natural’ fall centerpiece.

Well, I have to admit, that in the past, I did not truly understand the allure of vegetable gardening.  Sure, I had to grow my own plot of vegetables in college for my horticulture class – but that was for a grade.  I also dutifully helped people create their own gardens, but I never had one for myself.  

That was then, and this is now….I am completely hooked on vegetable gardening!  Each morning, I go out to see how my plants are doing and the kids hurry home for school and check to see if there have been any changes.  Their favorite thing to do is to find the newly ripened cherry tomatoes to eat – they never make it to our salads.

It has been six weeks since we planted our seeds directly in the ground and you can read about it in my earlier post, “A Vegetable Garden – Completed” if you like.

I just love this view outside of my family room window.  I can see the tops of my corn just over the fence and my flowering Palo Verde in the background.  The Palo Verde flowers are providing a nice layer of mulch for my garden.
At first, it seemed like it was taking a long time for my small plants to begin growing.  I celebrated each time a tiny seedling germinated, but it seemed to take a while for them to really get going.  But, that is probably because I was watching them so closely every day, which reminds me of the saying “A watched pot never boils.” 
That is where pictures help to provide a healthy dose of reality for me.  Below, is a picture I took of our little garden, just two weeks after planting from seed….
*The transplants in the seed trays were for an upcoming service project and I also gave some to my mother for her garden.
Now, I know that I did not organize my plantings very well and probably have done quite a few things wrong, but that is what is fun about gardening.  You can learn so much just by doing.  For example, you should have three rows of corn in order for them to pollinate each other.  Since I do not have that much corn, I will have the kids help with the pollination, so they can learn even more about how things grow.
Below is a picture taken two weeks ago of my tomato plant in the right back corner and there is such a difference.
 
You can see above my tomato plant has grown quite a bit in just four weeks and I have pumpkin growing in the foreground ( I realize that we sowed the pumpkin seedlings too early and will probably have pumpkins this summer, but the kids were so excited to grow some right now).
Now, come see the garden at just six weeks after sowing the seeds.  I must admit, that I am a little bit proud of our garden 🙂
 
The corn is now taller then the fence and I can see the corn flower starting to emerge.  
Our single tomato plant is growing so beautifully and produces quite a few tomatoes for us.  I will be planting a lot more tomato plants next time – maybe give each of the kids their own plant.
Our climate is ideal for growing watermelon and I cannot wait to see the flowers start to appear on our watermelon plants.
 
The  flowers are starting to appear on our cucumber plants.
I love the large leaves of the pumpkin plant.
My tiny oregano plant is starting to look more like a little plant then just a couple of leaves.  *This is a macro-view and the plant is actually still quite small.
You can tell that I have already started to use some of my basil 🙂
My sunflowers are starting to grow tall.
And I can see that flowers are almost ready to appear….
Some years, it seems that we go straight from winter into summer and skip over spring.  But this year, we have had a lovely spring, but now that temperatures are climbing into the 90’s, I have covered some of the garden in shade cloth (the corn are too tall and do not require shade).  This helps to protect the leaves and vegetables from becoming sunburned.  

My daughter, Ruthie, is so proud of our little garden and made me a sign for the garden for Mother’s Day.  She cut it out of wood (with her dad’s help) and painted it for me.

Thank you so much for letting me show you how our garden is growing.   

I will post another update soon, probably as soon as I see some flowers.

Have a great day!