Picking a peck of pumpkins

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007

Brenda Krauss, a botanist and master gardener, proudly picked pumpkins from her garden with her 6-year-old son, Teddy, downtown on Wednesday.

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Krauss, who has a master's degree in plant ecology, said Juneau's wet climate often causes pumpkins and other winter squash to rot. She said the key to growing sucessful pumpkins is to give them a longer season.

"Start your plants about a month before the last frost," Krauss said. "Put them out right when you have the last frost in spring, to protect them a little bit, and then let your pumpkin plants grow until the first serious frost in the fall."

Krauss also advocates buying the right seeds - ones grown locally, such as those from the Mat-Su area.

"People have saved seeds from several generations of plants," Krauss said. "Then you end up with plants that are selected for the cold, and sometimes the wet, even."

"They like it a little drier than we have in Juneau," Krauss commented. "And pumpkins don't need the heat like people think. They do pretty well. Just the right seed is what it takes."

Last year, Krauss grew successful pumpkins in Anchorage.

"I planted right when it was still freezing, left them outside until it started freezing again, and I grew a 60-pounder and couple 40-pounder pumpkins."

Krauss also took sunflowers to the State Fair in 2005 and 2004 and won for tallest sunflower. One of her sunflowers was approximately 13.5 feet.

"I'm glad to be back in Juneau," Krauss said. "I do it mostly for the kids, because it does take a little bit of babying, but it's beautiful to see. And it gets the kids excited."

Krauss said her 6-year-old son Teddy enjoys being in the garden with her.

"He's more interested actually in worms when I'm gardening," she said. "He goes after the worms and looks to see what the critters are doing."

But despite the wet climate, Krauss continues to grow pumpkins in her downtown garden.

"You can do it. You can definately do it," Krauss encouraged. "We'll maybe inspire a few others to maybe grow a few pumpkins or something else that they'd like to."

• Kim Andree can be reached at kimberly.andree@juneauempire.com.

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