Autumn at the Hoop House

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Sustainability

October 25, 2016

AUTHOR: Jenna Cox ’17

Fall is finally starting to roll into Graceland! At the time I am writing this, it is a crisp 41° outside. The leaves on the trees are just starting to change. For Sustainability, the most telling sign of autumn is that we harvested the last of our “Jack Be Little” miniature pumpkins out of the hoop house this week. These adorable little gourds are ornamental (not edible), and Sodexo bought 50 of them from us to use as decoration for Halloween in the Commons. They’re the perfect tiny, festive table setters.

Watching the bright orange fruits grow was lovely. That’s right, pumpkins are technically a fruit! If you want to get fancy, the type of fruit is called a pepo, and our pumpkins specifically are from the genus cucurbita, which includes a few types of squash and gourds. The more you know!…

We planted the pumpkin seeds in early July. Once the seeds had been planted, it took a few days for them to germinate and pop out of the soil as seedlings. They then grew into crawling, prickly vines and spread all over the place. The plants spilled into the paths between garden beds, climbed up our trellis and even scaled the sides and ceiling of the hoop house. They must have loved the natural rabbit and chicken dung fertilizers we put down last spring.

 

Eventually, they started to produce blossoms, which are a beautiful golden yellow.

The cucurbits that I mentioned earlier are unique, because they have male and female flowers on the same plant. The pollen from the male flowers had to get to the female flowers in order to fertilize them and create fruit. We can thank the bees and butterflies that wandered into the hoop house for the success of our little pumpkins! Without those pollinating species, our pumpkins would have gone kaput.

The fruits started out tiny, round and yellow-green. As they grew in size, they filled out their classic pumpkin curves, and changed from green to yellow to deep orange.

The seeds from our pumpkins could be used to grow more next summer if we like. I’m certain we will have some “volunteer” pumpkins pop up in the beds as well!

More exciting things are happening this season! Our team will be working with a bird researcher later this month, assisting in the ankle banding of wild owls, which is super cool. We also had a really great meeting with the Trash Talkers club this week to plan upcoming sustainability-oriented events on campus. Stay tuned to this student blog for more updates!

Happy fall from everyone in Graceland Sustainability!

Information adapted from:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/pumpkin/hand-pollinate-pumpkins.htm
https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/

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