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Paddling pumpkins and mailbox tips

Paddling pumpkins and mailbox tips

By Frank and Muriel Newman

There is something very likeable about giant pumpkins. The thing we most like is that growing giant pumpkins is a great way to get families and communities excited about gardening!

This year was our first attempt at growing a whopper pumpkin and although it made an impressive sight in the garden, it was a mere minnow compared with the giants on display at the Great Pumpkin Carnival in Hamilton recently.

Their largest weighed in at 690.5 kg which was still a little shy of the NZ record of 721kg and well short of the 921kg world record set in the USA. A common question is what do you do with such a large vegetable? Simple - cut a manhole in the top, empty out the contents, and paddle it around a lake! We have no doubt Hamilton’s pumpkin paddle race will become an annual event and in the future you may well see pumpkin paddlers in a lake near you!

We think New Zealand is on the cusp of becoming gripped by pumpkin mania, and will gain a world reputation in the business of giant pumpkin growing. We have everything they need to become world beating giants: good climate, good soil, with lots of animal manure and fish fertiliser.

There is also a serious side to giant pumpkin growing. The seeds from the biggest are worth serious money. It’s a little bit like the bloodlines of racehorses – think of the money-making potential should you grow the pumpkin equivalent of Phar Lap! Imagine what the seeds from the world’s largest pumpkin would be worth and multiply that by the number of seeds in each. What a great export earner if the seeds are sold to a world audience!

For those who grow the ordinary eating-type pumpkin, there are as many ways to cook pumpkin as there are shrimps: there’s “pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin chutney, pumpkin croquettes, pumpkin curry, pumpkin kebabs, pumpkin marmalade, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin wine, pumpkin salad, baked pumpkin, roast pumpkin, stuffed pumpkin, crumbed pumpkin, pan-fried pumpkin, deep-fried pumpkin, stir-fried pumpkin, pickled pumpkin, BBQ pumpkin … and that’s about it!”

Still with vegetable matters, now is the time to prepare garden beds for the next season. Reinvigorate the soil by bringing in compost and rotating your crops. Different plants like different minerals so by shifting crops around you will get the maximum out of the soil. There are lots of ways to group plants but one we like is to divide your vegetables into four types and have an annual rotation so over four years the soil hosts all four types. The groups are: root and bulb crops such as potatoes, carrots, beets, onion and garlic; legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil such as peas and beans; fruit-bearing plants such as tomatoes, corn, melons, and capsicums; and leafy greens such as lettuce, cabbage and silver beet.

Now for something completely different: Denise from Auckland writes, “I try to save as much money as I can when it comes to clothing. I buy out of season when the sales start ready for next year. Already I have shorts and tee shirts packed for next spring and summer and will be using winter clothes I bought in spring when the weather cools down. If you don’t mind being a season behind it’s a great way to save money and have some new clothes! Sometimes I buy one item and if I really like it keep an eye out and buy more when the sales hit.”

Niki from Christchurch has a tip to keep warm and save on heating costs: “I bought a great draught excluder yesterday. It's double sided so you just slide it under the door and it stays there when you open or shut the door. Less than $10 from a local hardware store. Have noticed a huge difference - no more cold air on my feet in the evenings.”

We love hearing about your money saving tips - please send them to us by visiting or by writing to Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei and we will share them with everyone else!

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at


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