Pumpkins as groundcover

Judith Adam

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'Gladiator' pumpkins. (Photo courtesy of stokeseeds.com)

Last week a young hemlock had to be taken down at the back of my garden, a victim of high summer temperatures with insufficient moisture. Yes, I’m the guilty party, and very sorry for my neglect of this tree’s simple need for regular irrigation. I’ll be over-compensating all season, delivering fertilizer, water, staking and providing every form of assistance required in this garden!

'Gladiator' pumpkins. (Photo courtesy of stokeseeds.com)
‘Gladiator’ pumpkins. (Photo courtesy of stokeseeds.com)

With the tree gone, there’s a wide space of rough ground with many substantial weed colonies. I see weeks of digging ahead, trying to get this under control. What to do? I could attempt to smother the weeds with dark plastic, but that would be quite unsightly in such a large area. I could douse the plants with a vinegar-based herbicide, but it would take multiple applications over the summer, and the garden would smell like salad dressing.

I decided to postpone the substantial weed removal work until autumn, and look for a temporary “green” solution for the summer. That’s when I thought of pumpkins. Nothing grows faster than pumpkins, which send their vines out along the ground and produce lots of wide green leaves. I can dig two or three holes, dump a bag of composted manure in each, and set out pumpkin plants. When the taller weeds poke their heads up, I’ll just remove the tops (to prevent seeding) and worry about their roots in autumn. I hope I get some pumpkins, too!

I was startled to discover the size of fruits and cost of some hybrid pumpkin seeds. Looking at a catalogue (stokeseeds.com), I was interested in ‘Full Moon’, an open-pollinated pumpkin, producing startling white fruits, each weighing 60 to 88 pounds (27 to 40 kg). A packet contains five seeds, costing $10! (Because ‘Full Moon’ is open pollinated, saved seeds will come true and be identical to the parent.) Well, it’s too big, anyway. I’ve settled on ‘Gladiator’, a classic dark orange pumpkin with sturdy stems, weighing 20 to 30 pounds (9 to 14 kg). I’m betting that if I get any fruits, they won’t reach full size in only a half day of sun. But then, you never can tell when a pumpkin planted in a hill of manure might get just enough of a power boost and conquer the earth.


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3 thoughts on “Pumpkins as groundcover”

  1. This post is 6 years old – but still open for comments – so……. I have a similar problem with newly open ground that needs something to cover it. I have been THINKING of an easy solution and today I bought some pumpkin plants. I would like to know how this turned out for you. I’m not looking for pumpkins especially, but how was it for a ground cover?

  2. Hi K.D. (May 18),

    Sorry to be late in responding, but I didn’t catch up with your comment until now. Yes, we’ll see how the pumpkins grow. What no one has mentioned is that pumpkins can also climb! So I’m curious to see what happens when the vines reach the fence….

    — Judith

  3. What an intriguing idea! I’m so curious to hear (and hopefully to see!) how it turns out! Please treat us to an update later in the season!


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