Friday, October 2, 2009

Pumpkin Sex

Yesterday morning I went out to the garden to survey the damage after our first frost. October isn't messing around. Everything got it, even the tomatoes I covered with old bed sheets. In any case, as I stared at my limp, lifeless pumpkin vines, I couldn't help but laugh at our learning experience with pumpkins this summer. As I mentioned before, our pumpkin started out in a ridiculously small hand-me-down white plastic pot on my patio at The Mini. Like most plants, I attached way too much sentimental value to this inauspicious green vine. It represented all the hope for the coming summer and fall. I desperately wanted to plant it in a nice big garden where it would grow giant pumpkins that we could carve in the fall. The Boyfriend and I have carved pumpkins for the last two years--both our Halloweens together since I've been back from grad school--so it only seemed fitting that perhaps this year we could carve our pumpkins in our house.

I transplanted the pumpkin during a week of 100-degree weather. It took a week or two to get acclimated to its spacious new home but after that it started growing fast. I would mark its progress each day by noting how much further it had inched across the 8-foot bed towards the cucumber. When it started curling its delicate but defiant tendrils around the defenseless cucumber, I called it a victory for pumpkin and stopped measuring the speed of the attack. The pumpkin also had those beautiful, big, happy flowers that would greet me every morning. (Look to the top of the page--those are the ones I'm referring to!) The pumpkin had been blooming since its days at The Mini, so I felt quite confident that we were indeed making pumpkins.

However, one day I noted my gardening pals had all started mentioning baby pumpkin sitings. The Boyfriend and I scoured the vines but couldn't spot any babies. After another week or two, I told my plant friend Erik about our pumpkin troubles. "Oh, well just head out there in the morning with a Q-tip and swab the flowers!" Excuse me? Did he really think I was going to go out there with a cotton swab and play pollinator? As it turns out, I didn't have to. One bright morning when the flowers caught my eye, I told The Boyfriend we might as well try making some baby pumpkins. Sure enough, he had been out the day before, Q-tip in hand. I guess when the birds and bees are preoccupied, Johnson & Johnson can pick up the slack.

A few days later, I spotted the tiniest baby pumpkin. Turns out that baby pumpkin is actually the female flower's ovary. Crazy! The Boyfriend claims he is not the father, but quite a coincidence otherwise, don't you think? They are obviously a bit too small to carve, but they're still our pumpkins at our house and this year I'm going to call that a win.

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