“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and
The Great Pumpkin.” ~ Charles Schulz, 1966
Weather is typically considered a safe topic. Linus van Pelt, of the Peanuts Gang, would agree. But speaking of The Great Pumpkin is strictly off limits. In doing so, it’s yearly appearance may be jeopardized. I can sympathize – pumpkins can be tricky.
As the days of last summer warmed, the evening’s light seemed to extend the day. An invitation into the garden I could not turn down. With fresh enthusiasm and anticipation, my pumpkin patch began.
After clearing a six-by-four area and researching the most scientific agricultural methods, a dozen pumpkin seeds were planted. My excitement was reminiscent of watching those beans, planted in a milk cartons, when I was in kindergarten.
Pumpkins are strong and vigorous growers, even in our rocky soil. Their blossoms are even beautiful. Pumpkins, along with the other varieties of squash and melons, are a known food source in the southwest, dating back thousands of years. Seemingly, because they are well adapted to their environment, there is an expectation of low maintenance. My experience this summer has taught me otherwise.
Pumpkins require huge amounts of water! Who would have thought? Well, the native people – the Hopi living in Arizona – certainly did. They practiced dry farming – no irrigation and dependent on rain from summer thunderstorms. The weather’s uncertainty meant carrying water from streams to water their plants. And I thought pumpkin cultivation in the Crescenta Valley had its challenges.
Not allowing enough growing and spreading out space was my first mistake. You can almost watch them grow, as they creep along. Our yard is terraced and the seeds were planted on the upper level. Before long they took off, over the wall and straight for the pool. Attempts at redirecting their growth were resisted by strong and prickly vines. Were they in search of water? Fun at first, I watered them every day and checked for new baby pumpkins. I counted and watched. And watered some more. The hotter the weather, the more water required and the less I felt like being in the heat to supply it. These plants do not like to get their leaves wet, so you can’t speed up the watering process with sprinklers. Their survival is perplexing. Charles Darwin may have enjoyed this one!
After three months of record-breaking summer heat and gallons of precious water, the bedraggled vines are still blooming. I shared most my harvest with the raccoons and possums. Abby was not much help protecting the crops. Although, already a pretty pup, she prefers her beauty sleep.
The fireplace mantle is now decorated for autumn including four home grown pumpkins! Just in time for the first of many rainstorms for the season.
A 50% chance of rain will continue into Friday, to be replaced by a warming trend through Tuesday. Nothing above 90 degrees, with nights around 60 expected.
Autumn (weather-wise) has truly arrived!
Historical Weather Notes for Oct. 11: High of 108 F in 1991; Low of 46 F
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.