Species: Cucurbita maxima Duch. - Cucurbita moschata Duch. - Cucurbita pepo L. - Cucurbita melanosperma.
French: Courge, Courgette; English: Squash, Pumpkin; Spanish: Calabara, Calabacin; German: Speis Kürbiss, kleiner Kürbiss.
Origin and diffusion
Pumpkin is an annual monoecious plant with a climbing or scathing stem. It is native to warm countries and therefore demanding in terms of temperature. There are several cultivated species. They are distinguished by some botanical features, including the shape and thickness of the fruit and seed.
In botany, pumpkins are divided into four species: Cucurbita maxima - Cucurbita moschata - Cucurbita pepo - Cucurbita melanosperma.
In practice they are distinguished in Zucchini squashes and Winter squashes.
Zucchini squash belongs to the Cucurbita pepo L. species: it has a bushy bearing and also goes under the vulgar name of "Pumpkin of Italy" or "Cocuzzella of Naples". The tender, freshly formed fruits are consumed in it. Male flowers are also used when they are still in bud and which are excellent fried.
Winter pumpkins with a climbing stem belong to the Cucurbita maxima Duch species. and Cucurbita moschata Duch .. The first has spheroidal fruits, sometimes huge, with variously colored skin, yellow flesh, sweet. The characteristic "turban" pumpkins also belong to this species.
Cucurbita moscata is distinguished from maxima by having elongated, oblong or cylindrical fruit, more or less curved at the apex, consistent yellow orange flesh.
Round courgette (photo Francesco Sodi)
"Round pumpkin without branch to force": very early, very productive. Very short internode plant capable of producing even 30 courgettes, uniform green leaves. Spherical fruits, green skin. Good for greenhouse cultivation.
"Long Pumpkin of Italy": very early, very productive. Plant with very short internodes, bushy habit with large lobed leaves, uniformly colored with not very intense green. Fruits 18-20 cm long with barely pronounced ribs. It is excellent for greenhouse cultivation, at any time of the year.
“Cocuzzella di Napoli”: very productive variety with a short internode plant, intensely lobed leaves, green in patches of varying intensity. Elongated dark green fruit with lighter streaks.
"Half-long pumpkin to be forced": suitable for forced cultivation, but little appreciated by the market.
Winter squashes (Cucurbita maxima)
"Zio Marina di Chioggia": very long stem (branch). Huge round fruit, flattened at the poles, with very marked segments, green skin, yellow-orange flesh.
"Mammouth yellow squash": huge fruit variety crushed at the poles, with very marked ribs, sweet yellow flesh.
“Gray pumpkin from Bologna”: good for jams.
"Turban squash": variety widely cultivated in central and southern Italy. Large fruit formed by a dark-colored dome from which protrudes a sort of ribbed cap intensely colored in orange red or other colors.
"Pumpkin full of Naples": very developed branch plant, whole leaves, green with grayish spots, very long fruit, cylindrical in shape, enlarged at the end and slightly curved, with reddish yellow skin, yellow flesh, sugary.
Other zucchini cultivars are:
"Dark green dwarf of Milan", "Black beauty", "Genoese green striped dwarf", "Striata of Sicily", "Store's green F1", "Diamant F1", "Prokor F1".
F1 are well suited for greenhouse cultivation, where they produce high yields.
Flask gourd: it is not widespread and therefore we can neglect its description.
Zucchini plant (photo Francesco Sodi)
Winter squash plant (photo Francesco Sodi)
Winter squash - Cucurbita moscata L. (photo website)
For the good result of the cultivation, the pumpkin must be cultivated in fertile and fresh soils, well prepared with a good job 30-35 cm deep, followed by careful superficial shredding and leveling works.
Pumpkin requires a complete fertilization which, depending on the quality of the soil, may consist of the administration of 400-600 quintals of mature manure, 4-5 quintals of phospho-nitrogen and 1-2 quintals of potassium sulphate, or more complex fertilizers such as ternaries that bring both Nitrogen and Phosphorus and Potassium, distributed over the entire surface or better in localized form.
The sowing, in the normal cultivation of "zucchini squashes", begins as soon as the danger of late frosts ceases, is done in place and continues scalarmene until August. Winter squashes are sown only once in April-May.
The seed is placed in small holes at a distance of 1 meter along a furrow previously traced with the wire, always at a distance of 1 meter for the bush pumpkins and up to 2 meters for the large-developing shoot pumpkins. In summer sowing, in dry soil, before placing the seeds, water at the bottom of the hole, then covering with fine and dry earth.
3 seeds are usually placed in each hole and 300-500 grams of seed per 100 square meters of culture medium are required. A few days after birth, thinning is done, leaving a plant for a hole.
In addition to the topping of winter pumpkins, it will be necessary, during the development of the seedlings, to make careful weeding and fertilization on the roof with nitrogen or phospho-nitrogen in the ratio of 20-30 grams per plant on several occasions, and if necessary, abundant irrigations.
Collection and production
The collection of courgettes is scaled and is done at the moment when the flower that leaves attached to the fruit is about to open.
Winter pumpkins are harvested in early October and are kept in a dry and ventilated place until the end of winter.
Early outdoor cultivation of zucchini squashes
In the gently sloping terrains, perfectly exposed to the south, the anticipation is made directly on the spot. In this regard, in March, 15-20 cm long and equally deep holes are excavated in the previously worked soil, making sure that the earth of the hole remains united in a block which is laid close to the north edge of the little hole, so that it can be a shelter. At the bottom of the hole, fermented manure is placed, which is covered with a layer of earth on which two or three seeds are placed, sinking them for 2-3 cm and then completing their coverage with a little fine earth on which a light pressure.
To anticipate more the cultivation and therefore the sowing, put on the holes of the bottomless boxes, of 25 X 25 X 10 centimeters, on whose upper face there is a glass that can be removed on days when there is full sun. Sowing in the best conditions can be anticipated in this way until early March. Today the roofing can be done with P.V.C. drilled.
Another system to anticipate the cultivation consists in sowing in earthen pots or better in fertil-pot, or other containers which are then placed in a container, protected by windows and mats, with a warm bed inside or other heating system. The seedlings are then planted when the danger of frost has passed.
The two systems can also be combined.The harvest can start 60-70 days after sowing.
Early cultivation in a cold greenhouse
For early greenhouse cultivation, sowing is done in early February in containers that are put in a heated container or greenhouse.
When the seedlings have two real leaves, they are transported to the greenhouse at a reduced distance from the normal one.The harvest can start 70-80 days after sowing and even less.
Forced winter cultivation
The forced winter cultivation of the pumpkin can be done in a box and in a greenhouse heated with warm beds made with horse manure or with cotton waste as practiced in Liguria or better with an automated water or hot air system.
For cultivation in "cassone", in ordinary climate conditions, sowing is done around January 10th, in fertil-pot or other containers that are put in boxes with a hot or otherwise heated bed. After 15-20 days the seedlings are ready for transplanting which is done by placing 4 pumpkins per square meter of container. In the spaces left free by the seedlings, basil can be sown, then watered with water where 1-2 grams per liter of calcium nitrate has been dissolved.
Zucchini squash in a greenhouse takes advantage of leaf fertilization with high nitrogen complexes complemented by stimulants and high doses of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the foot given on the roof during the period of maximum harvest.
The harvest can begin for San Giuseppe and is done as has been said for courgettes in normal cultivation.
Adversity and pests
In our climate conditions, pumpkins can be damaged by late frosts and drought, if the soil where the crop is grown is not irrigated.
Among the cryptogamic diseases, the most formidable is the white sore which covers all the leaves with a whitish efflorescence, which turn yellow and dry thus causing the death of the plant.
The same effects produces the Erjsiphe polygoni.
The two diseases are fought with sulfur pulverization or with 0.5% alkaline polysulphides.
Cladosporium cucumerinum and anthracnose are difficult to appear and can be controlled with cuprorganics.
Among the insects, the lice of the cucurbitaceae are harmful, but they are easily destroyed with insecticides based on phosphoric esters or with tobacco extract. In open ground cultivations, the zuccaiola (Grillotalpa grillotalpa), which can be fought with pests, can cause damage.