The gentle art of pumpkin pruning

No it’s not a touch too much of the sun, I really have been out pruning my pumpkins. This is something new for me too. Pumpkin pruning is intended to direct growth into the fruit of the pumpkin, as opposed to encouraging those tendrils and runners which are prone to rapidly take over your back garden.

Last year we had the lushest pumpkin vine in the suburb but no pumpkins. The problem was ‘rank growth’, what a wonderful term. Basically the plants were too well fed and spent their time growing leaves rather than fruit. The only pumpkin that produced was one of the self sown ones which was subsisting on a much more meagre diet.

First step is to look at your pumpkin plant, which may mean sticking your head under the leaves to see if you can spot a female flower with a young fruit forming underneath. These can be as small as about 1 cm in diameter so you may need to look hard (check out the first photo). Having identified said fruit you then cut off everything growing beyond this point (photo 2). With any luck this should encourage your plant to make a bigger fruit faster. My last pic is one of the fruits on my Table King Acorn pumpkin (photo3). This fruit is about the size of a grapefruit and when I pruned the stem about a week ago it was about the size of a golf ball. TB is skeptical about this being due to the pruning, but I disagree and besides which I can’t be bothered leaving a ‘control’ plant, unpruned to see if there is any difference. I selected this variety of pumpkin as it was described as a compact bushy plant. After spending last season tripping over vines and being scratched by their rough stems – don’t stand on the stem or you will kill anything growing after where you stood – I decided that these were the magic words. So far they seem to be producing the goods, although some of the early fruits did go yellow and perish. The seed catalogue says to expect up to eight fruits per plant.

Yesterday I cooked one of our starter zeppelins into delicious zucchini fritters. The recipe, Zucchini fritters with dill comes from Greg Malouf, via the SBS food website ( As I had just about every herb under the sun except dill I used tarragon instead. They still tasted great. I’ll be having some cold for lunch today. Last Friday in the office there was a flurry of excitement as one of our team bought in her zucchini recipes to share with those of us in need of saving from the zucchini over production. Sadly my best source of zucchini recipes has just de-camped on a 12 day cruise in the Pacific so I will be bereft of their counsel until the end of the month – I hope I can cope with the glut until then!


2 thoughts on “The gentle art of pumpkin pruning

  1. Thank you for your advice. I have so many leaves that they are over running the rest of the garden. I was not certain if I could prune the leaves back without hurting the plant. The photos gave me the confidence to make the cuts in the correct place.

  2. CindyI’d also suggest some hand pollination to encourage your pumpkins to set. I had some hit and miss experiences with pollination this year. The idea is to take the male flower and remove the petals and rub the male flower pollen into the female flower (like the one in the photo, but obviously when the flower is actually ready). This should increase the chance of setting. I understand it is best to do this early in the morning as the male flowers will close before of luckvotedwithourforks

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