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Pumpkin Challenger is an excellent F1 hybrid producing a good number of large, round to slightly broad pumpkins with a deep orange colour. They can be left to produce fruits weighing 9 - 12Kg; alternatively fruits can be harvested and ripened earlier to produce smaller pumpkins.
This pumpkin is ideal for a large Halloween lanterns, limit to 2 fruits per plant.
Pumpkins require warm night and day temperatures, so they can be grown outside in beds or borders, large containers and even in grow bags providing they are placed in a warm, sunny position during the summer months. Bear in mind the size of the pumpkins when they will be fully grown, so allow plenty of room.
Seeds can be sown directly into the soil, which has been well prepared by incorporating plenty of organic matter, at least two months previously. Sow seeds during May and early June in drills 3cm deep. It’s recommended to place two seeds flat side down and remove the weakest one when germinated. Covering the seeds with a cloche will help maintain a steady temperature.
For best results, sow seeds in pots or modular trays under glass during mid to late April. Fill pots and trays with seed compost and sow seeds at a depth of 2.5cm. Place one or two seeds per module and three seeds per 7.5cm pot and then thin to the strongest plant after germination, which usually takes between 5 and 7 days. It is best to cover the pots and trays with polythene to aid germination or place into a propagator at a temperature of 20C (68F).
After about 4 weeks the young plants should be ready for planting outdoors. However, ensure they are first acclimatised by placing in a cold frame for 7 days prior to planting out. Planting distances will depend on the final size and variety, so best check the seed packet for recommendations.
The young plants will need plenty of sun and water during the growing period and a liquid feed at every other watering will help the plants grow quickly and healthily. Keep the long stems close to the base of the plant and support the fruits by placing on wooden boards or upturned seed trays. Pumpkins that are exposed to wet soil for long periods will begin to rot. They will also need plenty of sunlight in order to ripen.
Pests and Diseases
Powdery mildew and grey mould can be a problem, the latter due mainly to damp conditions. Ensure the planted areas are kept free of dead and dying leaves and that there is plenty of room for air circulation. Extreme dry conditions can cause powdery mildew to appear so ensure plants are watered sufficiently during hot spells, preferably during the evenings or early mornings.
Harvesting and Storage
The pumpkin fruits are ready for harvesting when they have turned from green to orange or yellow and the skin has hardened. They are best cut from the parent plant, with about 7-10cm of stem remaining, before the onset of the first frosts and can be stored in a cool dry place.
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