Gardens Past and Pumpkins

jack o' lantern on a chair

This week is all about Halloween. Although jack-‘o-lanterns were originally carved from turnips, pumpkins are now the standard. While I have baked my share of pies and carved a good number of jack-‘o-lanterns, my pumpkin growing days have not been very successful.

German Shepherd puppy in the backyard
Vicky in the patched-together
backyard of our first home

At our first home, the backyard was hacked together by the owner with pipes, corrugated metal and paving stones. For some unknown reason, a sailboat occupied the back corner. The one nice feature of that space was the peach tree and apricot tree which grew out back. We enjoyed some beautiful fruit while I focused my gardening efforts on weeding and baked peach pies. Eventually the backyard lawn was in good shape though still sporting a sailboat.

As corrugated metal and pipes are not child-friendly, we decided to move to a rented home in North Toronto when I was expecting our first child. The original owners of the mid-1940s bungalow we rented had been avid gardeners. Fifty years later, they could no longer keep up with the outdoor work and Mother Nature took over.

Our next door neighbors explained that our new landlords had decided they could solve the overgrown backyard problem by roto-tilling everything under. The result was rocks strewn about the yard, flowers growing in random places and a wide assortment of weeds. It took my husband two hours and three extension cords to cut the grass with the electric mower he had inherited from his parents.

holding my baby and bending to play in the sandbox with my toddler
playing in the backyard with my girls
and dog Ruddy

Eventually we discovered some buried flagstones close to the house. By the time baby number two arrived, we had excavated the flagstones and placed them to make a path and a small patio.

In addition to the flagstone, we uncovered a single rubber tire. When I was growing up in the 1970s, painted tire gardens were popular. I decided I would fill up the tire with dirt and plant some pumpkin seeds. It was great in the beginning. A sturdy green vine appeared and some flowers followed. Eventually some small green pumpkins started to form. Something went wrong after that and the little pumpkins imploded and became real squash.

I decided then that some things are best left to experts. My kids could have a lot of fun picking out pumpkins in stores and in pick-your-own pumpkin patches. I never let the carved orange beauties go to waste. I roasted the seeds, turned what I could into pumpkin mush and composted the rest.

Are you a pie fan too? Below is a fun video from Becky’s Homestead which shows how you can prepare pumpkins for baking. According to Becky, you can even feed some of the leavings to your chickens, but be careful with that knife. Personally, I prefer to purée the pumpkin flesh and since I don’t have any chickens, compost it is.

Making Fresh Pumpkin for Pies The Fast and Easy Way by Becky’s Homestead

This year I finally re-entered the squash growing world with a successful zucchini crop. Where there are zucchinis, hope cannot be squashed. Maybe I’ll plant a pumpkin seed or two next summer but certainly not in a tire. If you have any growing or container tips to share, let me know. I think I might need some help.

Have a great Halloween and enjoy your pumpkins and your pie too!

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