Pumpkin Seeds

by Mark Michael, University of the Pacific Student

MICHAEL_cropI was first introduced to seeds when I was about 5 years old during Halloween time. My dad and I were carving pumpkins and he was keeping all the seeds from the insides of them. When I asked about it, he explained to me how they make new plants and eventually pumpkins. It was the way pumpkins had their children, he said. That kind of amazed me, because at five years old I didn’t have any concept of how food was grown. The idea of being able to grow some of the seeds that we collected was very exciting and all I could think about was of all the pumpkins I could grow.

We would go to pumpkin patches every year and pick out the best ones for carving. I would always be in awe of all the hundreds of beautifully orange pumpkins. Sometimes we would even go in the summer and scratch our names or draw things on the green skins of the growing pumpkins, to come back in October and find which ones were ours. For me being able to grow a few of these at my own house and watch them grow really inspired me to want to at least try it.

Most of the seeds we collected were dried in the sun and roasted in an oven for food, which made a very good snack. A small amount of seeds we dried in the sun then planted them in Dixie cups and left them in our sunroom to germinate. Unfortunately,  growing things is very hard where we live, because of cool temperatures, lots of trees and fog. So, my plan was to leave the pumpkin plants in the sunroom and just move them to some bigger pots later. After only a few days, the seedlings sprouted and had a very simple but beautiful two-leaf stalk, which grew until a flower bloomed.

After waiting and waiting, nothing else happened. I eventually grew frustrated and tried many different pumpkin plants but they never started a pumpkin. Letting all of them die is what I chose, because my hopes of having pumpkins for October were shut down. Quitting the whole growing plants thing was my course of action for many years to follow.

Michael_direct seeding lab

Mark fills out his worksheet during the direct seeding lab in the Robb Garden

One day, it came across my mind: “why didn’t they produce pumpkins? They had everything they needed; water, sun, warm temperatures.” A quick Google search showed me what I was missing. Plants need to be pollinated, which was impossible to be done naturally indoors because there are no insects or animals. Then it explained how certain plants, like the squash family, have male and female flowers. Not knowing too much about reproduction in general, I learned that female flowers had to be pollinated by males to produce a pumpkin. After finally figuring out that I was not just a horrible grower, I decided to give it another try. One spring, I started trying pumpkin seeds again, but this time I moved them outside after they sprouted and left it for nature to do its magic. I think I remember a small bulb growing in one of the flowers right after school got off for the summer, but we were going to Europe for a few weeks. Not thinking of the needy plant, I returned and found shriveled up twigs.

Ever since then I never wanted to plant anything again because I knew I would forget about them. Nevertheless, I enrolled in a Sustainable Gardening class this semester. After taking this class, I may reconsider my decision. Looking through the seed catalogues was very interesting, because they were filled with lots of cool plants that I have never heard of but would someday like to try and plant. The seeds that we recently planted should be a good learning experience and be fun. I was able to plant a colorful Swiss Chard mix, and I am interested in seeing how it turns out and tastes. Hopefully this class will give me another chance at growing things from seed to produce and that my mistakes from many years ago can be used to help me learn the right way.

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