Date: 6 November 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I want to grow some pumpkins, gourds and squashes. Are they all edible? How easy are they to grow?
Pumpkins, gourds and squashes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which are usually climbing or trailing plants. To grow them, sow seeds singly in small pots of multipurpose compost between mid-April and mid-May. They do best in humid conditions where they germinate fairly quickly, and should then be moved to a frost-free cloche or glass-house before planting out once the weather is warm. You should get a crop the following autumn – once fruits have formed, pinch out growing tips and water regularly. Gourds are generally decorative, but many are edible when young and tender. For seeds, contact The Organic Gardening Catalogue, 0845 130 1304 (organiccatalogue.com).
I bought an orchid the other day. No name, no instructions. It seems pot bound with roots coming out of the bottom of the pot. How do I look after it?
Orchids need light (but not direct sun), warmth and dislike draughts. They hate heat sources such as radiators, and will sulk if placed near a bowl of fruit (ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas which makes flowers go past their best). Most orchids in the wild grow on trees, not in the soil, so it is best to mimic these growing conditions by planting in orchid composts based on bark, perlite and charcoal and available in good garden centres. Although your plant seems pot bound, it will probably be thriving in this condition. Re-potting is only necessary when new growth is pressed hard against the side of the pot and the compost has begun to break down into smaller pieces, losing its open structure. Never let orchid pots stand in water, and always allow the compost to dry out between infrequent watering. Orchids enjoy humidity, and an occasional misting (avoiding the flowers) will keep them happy; standing pots on a layer of damp pebbles also helps. Use a special orchid fertiliser, as full strength fertiliser can damage the roots.