Last night I took out my big bag of seeds from the 314-lbs. pumpkin I grew in 2010. When I originally gathered those seeds, they were cleaned, dried, baggied, ziplocked, and stored in a cool, dark box, and they’re still in excellent condition.
Giant-pumpkin seeds tend to be thicker than regular seeds, so I do a presoak to soften them up… just an hour or two in warm water mixed with liquefied seaweed; some growers believe the seaweed gives the plants a jumpstart, and since I already have the seaweed for later in the season, I figure it can’t hurt.
Next I gently file the edges of the seeds (everything but the tip, where the delicate embryo is) so moisture can more easily penetrate the shell. I wet a bunch of peat pots; a dry peat pot will wick moisture out of the planting medium and I need to keep everything lightly damp at all times.
Seed-starter mix is added to the pots, just wet enough to barely hold together when it’s squeezed. The seeds are planted tip-down an inch below the surface and lightly covered. Then the pots are placed on a heating pad to keep them warm. If all goes well, the seedings will emerge in less than a week. The seed itself contains just enough energy to get its head in the air. After the seedling is up, the first leaves, or cotyledons, need light to keep growing… not too much direct sunlight or else they’ll burn, but more and more each day until they’re ready to go outside.
I’m germinating later than usual this year. In previous seasons, I’ve started the plants on May 1 and had to wait longer to plant them outside because the overnight temperatures were dangerous cold, even with a temporary greenhouse enclosure. The plants simply don’t grow in chilly air and soil, so they tend to stall a while anyway. This year I’m hoping they’ll respond quickly after I transplant them into the warmer outdoor patch, and any time I lost waiting until May 15 will theoretically be overcome by faster early growth.
I need a fence to keep Bones from eating/trampling the plants, but I will have that temporary greenhouse in place for the first several weeks. We had quite the super happy funtime shoveling compost (last year’s ruined pumpkin, maple leaves, etc.) into a wheelbarrow and over to the patch. Bones kept biting the shovel, leaping into the compost bin, and chasing every shovelful I tossed into the patch. He had a grand old time. It’s a miracle I was able to get the job done, but it was nice having an enthusiastic partner.