My Pumpkin Problem – Growing Pumpkins in Calgary in January (Pt. 1)

CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

So this is an interesting situation that I found myself caught up in: trying to grow several pumpkin plants indoors in January in Calgary.

This obviously wasn’t an adventure that I intended to embark on last fall – but rather one that landed itself in my lap. For anyone who has ever grown pumpkins under normal conditions: you will know just how cumbersome they are and large they can be. I believe that the variety of pumpkin that I am trying to grow is either a classic orange pumpkin or an autumn gold pumpkin. The vines on these varieties of pumpkins can reach up to 20 feet when fully grown and pumpkins themselves can weigh up to 40lbs.

And I am growing one right now on my windowsill.

So how did I end up growing a pumpkin in my windowsill in Calgary in January? Well it all started when my girlfriend and I picked out pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lantern carving last fall. We carefully picked out two decently shaped and coloured pumpkins from one of the big grocery stores in Calgary.

We brought the pumpkin home and get ready to carve the pumpkins. She started carving hers before I did and it was a typical pumpkin carving process: open the top, scoop out the seeds and strings, and put a face on the pumpkin.

My then 7 month old dog seemed to enjoy playing with my pumpkin’s stem. Maybe he knew something was up…

Next it was my turn to carve my pumpkin so I opened it up and there was leaves. Yes… leaves in my Halloween pumpkin.

I pulled the leaves out to discover that a handful of pumpkin seeds had actually split open and begun to sprout (which I suppose is a totally normal and natural thing for a pumpkin to do).

So I put together a pot of dirt, and planted the young sprouts on my kitchen island.


The Great Pumpkin Adventure Begins.

I should preface that going into this experiment, I know absolutely nothing about gardening beyond knowing that the plant needs sun and water. I would recommend not using me for gardening tips (at least not until I become a pumpkin growing guru).

This is what I came home to after forgetting about the pumpkins for weeks.

I spent the next couple weeks out at my brother’s ranch and forgot about the pumpkin entirely (see not a great gardener). When I returned to Calgary later in November, I discovered that my pumpkin had grown substantially. Lucky for me it turns out that pumpkins actually thrive when they aren’t overwatered!

But even as the novice gardener that I am, I knew that pumpkins – like other plants – do happen to like sunlight. I moved the pumpkin to the windowsill in the living room and watered it regularly (I have actually surprised myself in how much I have cared for my winter pumpkin).

December 21 came around and I was trying to grow a very seasonal and large plant in my windowsill on the shortest sunlit day of the year.

Somehow the plant survived and by mid-January I had my first male flower. Pumpkin plants are one of those plants that have both male and female flowers. The female ones are the ones that become pumpkins when pollinated but without male flowers, the pollination process is impossible. So I watched that first flower wither away feeling a tad defeated.

The first flower opened up! This was taken mid-January. It is nice seeing the bright and beautiful orange when everything outside is white, brown, and dead looking.

Presently, my young pumpkin plant is growing happily in my windowsill. I have only had male flowers so far which means that no pumpkins are growing yet.

Without female flowers… or birds… or bees: it will be tough to actually get a pumpkin out of this project but I am hopeful with each day getting about 2.5 minutes longer – I am hopeful about enjoying pumpkin pie on Canada Day!

Stay tuned for more updates on my pumpkin experiment!