If you’d like to add some extra growing space this season, or if you’re just getting started with a new plot and need to clear areas of weeds, then planting a pumpkin and squash patch is a really good idea.
The general idea is that you cover the weedy area to block out the light and thus kill off the weeds, and in the meantime plant squash through the cover so that you can actually grow something while you’re waiting for the weeds to die off.
If you’re starting with an existing raised bed/plot, then skip ahead to step 3 (or step 4 if it’s not too weedy.)
Step 1 – Mark out the area you wish to convert to growing space
Step 2 – Dig out any BIG weeds, like brambles or docks. Don’t worry about nettles and grass.
Step 3 (optional) – Cover the area with a layer of brown cardboard (tape/staples removed!) – this will prevent the weeds from continuing to grow, and will decompose into the soil by the end of the season. Cover the cardboard with a 10cm layer of compost and/or well rotted manure. This is an optional step, so if you can’t, don’t worry about it.
Step 4 – Cover the bed/plot with a sheet of black polythene, securing it well at the edges. At the end of the season you’ll be able to carefully pull up the polythene without leaving plastic behind. There are also good biodegradable alternatives, usually made from potato starch or similar, that are worth investigating. Try searching for ‘biodegradable mulch.’
Step 5 – Cut 10cm holes in the polythene at 1m intervals, and plant your pumpkin/squash plants in through the holes.
You’ll be able to water into the holes, and the polythene will prevent moisture from evaporating so your plants shouldn’t get thirsty. At the same time, the polythene will keep the soil warm giving your pumpkins a good growth boost. The plants will soon sprawl out and hide the polythene from sight, and when fruits form you can rest assured that they will not be touching the soil and therefore unlikely to rot before they have ripened.
As your pumpkin patch is growing, the weeds underneath will be starved of light and will die off. At the end of the season (or at the start of the next) you can remove the polythene to reveal a virtually weed-free plot/bed.