Kibworth & Smeeton WI November 2021

You may wonder how anyone could talk about pumpkins for an hour, let alone make it entertaining and enjoyable. We soon found out when Russell Atwood, known as The Pumpkin Man, told us all about them. We learned how to prepare the ground and grow them and, more importantly, how to use them.

Lasagne Gardening

A former biology teacher, Russell told us how he decided to grow pumpkins on his allotment using Lasagne Gardening! Like the layers of a lasagna, this means creating various layers of mulch. They include everything from newspapers and cardboard to grass cuttings and horse manure. Straw is used to shut out light, suppress weeds and retain moisture. What could be better than no digging, no weeding and no watering? Another bonus is that most of the mulch is free – a win-win situation! Just let the worms do the digging and improve the soil.

Harvested from September

Pumpkin, or squash, seeds can be sown under cover in May. The seedlings are planted out once the danger of frost has passed. A bulb planter is used to cut through the mulch and possibly to add fertiliser to the hole. Then it is just a case of keeping an eye open for the occasional slug lurking beneath the cardboard. The odd weed can be pulled up and added to the mulch. When the pumpkins begin to turn orange they can be harvested in September and continue ripening somewhere warmer for Halloween.

Pumpkin stencils

You might have tried carving fiendish faces freehand in pumpkins. An easier way is to download a stencil, tape it to your pumpkin, then pinprick round the outline. Dust with flour to reveal the shape, and then carve. Russell showed us stunning examples including bats, skulls and witches. Do not put a candle inside, as the emissions are bad for the environment. Instead, use a bicycle lamp, which is water and weatherproof.

Pumpkin cooking

Pumpkin flesh is extremely versatile for cooking. You could create a three-course meal of pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto and pumpkin pie if you had a glut! Or what about pancakes or chutney? We were treated to two types of delicious pumpkin scones. We ended by singing a selection of songs, which Russell had adapted from well-known melodies from “Joseph” –

Pumpkin singing

I close my eyes
And think of pumpkins

And, of course, a rousing chorus of “Jerusalem”-

And did those squash, in ancient time,

Grow upon Ketterings gardens green?

Our poppies will once again be installed in St Wilfrid’s Church in time for Remembrance Day services. They will remain until just before Advent.
Look out for the WI’s presence at the library throughout December, including the Late Night Christmas event.

Our AGM, including a talk about Blood Bikes, will be on Thursday 11 November at 7.30pm in Kibworth Grammar School Hall.

Cynthia Armitage and Pat Sharman