Those of you who have been around the mental_floss blog for a while know I grow pumpkins in my garden. Last spring I wrote about how gardeners are using molds to grow vegetables in odd shapes, and I said I was going to try that myself. Well, I did.
But you also know that I don't like to spend money on new equipment when I could possibly use something I already have.
So instead of buying a special mold made for shaping produce, I assembled some things I had stashed in the basement that could possibly be used for molds. Continue reading for the story of my garden experiment.
Procrastination is my middle name. June came around before I knew it! I could wait no longer to start my experiment. I had planted two varieties of pumpkins this year: regular Jack-o-Lanterns and miniature ornamental pumpkins. The miniatures appeared overnight, looking mature already. Hoping they would grow some more, I stuck the little pumpkins in glass pickle jars and one small flowerpot.
It became immediately clear that they wouldn't stay in the molds without help. Duct tape is the answer. Whatever the question, duct tape is always the answer.
The larger pumpkins were very immature in June. I found three that were good prospects for experimentation and placed them in 1) a basket, 2) a plastic flower pot, and 3) a ceramic flowerpot. Unfortunately, the June pictures of 1) and 2) seem to have disappeared.
The great thing about growing pumpkins is that normally you can pretty much ignore them for several months; just make sure you don't step on and crush too many. As the summer wore on, the large pumpkin in the basket rotted away. The miniature pumpkins stopped growing. I should have caught them earlier and used much smaller molds. The two remaining large pumpkins swelled and filled their containers. The plastic was no match for a growing pumpkin.
By October, the neighborhood dogs had carried away two of the miniature pumpkins, jars and all. I retrieved one from the retrievers. The miniature that I had installed in a ceramic pot had rotted away. It courteously left behind seeds for next year.
The other miniatures had grown just a tiny bit since I put them in jars. My daughter joked about ships in bottles, but she managed to wiggle them out without breaking the jars. No difference in shape at all.
The regular size pumpkin in the plastic flowerpot had matured and completely split the plastic, but the shape was quite different from a natural pumpkin. I tore the plastic away to see my ...masterpiece. Heh.
The pumpkin in the ceramic flowerpot, however, grew without breaking or even cracking its container. And it really took the shape well!
The pumpkin wasn't oriented exactly straight in its container. The brown spot to the right is the actual blossom end. The spot in the middle is where the pumpkin grew out a bit into the hole in the bottom of the flowerpot. Because of this, I will have to make a doughnut cushion of sorts so the pumpkin can stay upright. Yes, I will have the strangest Jack-o-Lantern on my block!
The conclusions drawn from this experiment:
1) Miniature pumpkins grow fast and early.
2) A vegetable mold that has any flexibility at all will yield to the growing fruit.
3) If you want professional results, invest in professional equipment.
4) This was fun! I may do it again some time.