HOW TO GROW
I’m not sure why anyone would wish to grow the biggest pumpkin ever, but since I have been a judge at Yamagami’s Nursery in Cupertino on its first pumpkin contest I thought I would like to see how it is done. One of the other people that got me started is Stuart Shim who calls himself the Giant Pumpkin Kahuna. Keep in mind the largest pumpkin I have ever grown weighed about 75 pounds, and I wasn’t sure what the heck to do with it after I grew it. 75 pounds of pumpkin will make several gallons of pumpkin soup. 75 pounds of pumpkin will make more
pumpkin pies than I could ever give away. 75 pounds of pumpkin could end the need for soup kitchen donations. 75 pounds of pumpkin would feed 40 pigs for a week.
Now the world record pumpkin is 1336.6 pounds and I am at a loss as to what the heck does one do with all that pumpkin. When I judge the next contest I’ll ask. Most of the information about this article is from a book called “World Class Giant Pumpkins” by the author Don Langevin. This is the third book he has written and I will give you some information where you can request seeds that might help you along the way. I would like to get one thing straight.
This is the thought that is not in the book. If you wish to grow a world class pumpkin, you must give up your
home, your job, and don’t eat very much. The cost of food must go into the tent necessary to protect the
pumpkin from the sun. You will have to mortgage your home in order to pay for land that is necessary to
grow a vine that can cover an eighth of an acre. The time it takes will make it impossible for you to go to
your job, no matter how much or how little hours the job takes. You will also have to have funds that are required for fertilizer, cosmetic creams for the skin
of the fruit. You will need some type of transportation to haul your prize winning pumpkin and more than likely you will need a fork-lift to put the prize into the truck.
The first step in growing a prize winning pumpkin is to fertilize the land. Remember I said you will need a large plot of land to grow your pumpkin. You will need a soil depth of at least three feet. So a 3’ by 3’ by 3’ hole is a necessity. You will need a water source
nearby. After all a pumpkins is 80 percent water. Water has to come from somewhere. You will have to mix the native soil 50% soil and 50% planting mix with compost. I would recommend lots of chicken manure and decomposed horse manure if it has been composted for a long period of time. You should have a mound when you have added all of this material. This will afford perfect drainage that will be very important in the later stages of your efforts.
The next step is to find sources for the right seed. For the best seeds you can go to
www.giantpumpkin.com or www.bigseeds.com These are two of the most recommended sources of
seeds. You can also go to www.pumpkinmaina.blogspot.com So now you have the seeds of success.
This last spot will tell you where Stuart Shim will be having classes on how to grow world class pumpkins. He also is a source for giant pumpkin
seeds. There is a group of enthusiasts that recommend that you sprout the seeds early in the season. That does lead to earlier planting, but since
I am from the old school of planting Squash, I recom-
mend that you plant directly into the ground. The seed will make up its own mind when it is time to grow. If you are transplanting seedlings and wish to direct the growth of the vine keep this in mind. The vine will grow opposite the first true leaf. I don’t worry about such things because I have lots of room so the plant can make up its own mind which direction it wishes to grow.
It would seem that further fertilization would not be necessary, but to arrive at the top of the heap, you must give the plant some juice. After looking at some of the fertilization charts of big winners organic fertilizer is preferred. You can use
either, but I feel organic tends to the need of the plant, where chemical fertilizers can force the plant beyond its capacity to utilize the elements
properly. Here again you should listen to the plant. Adding calcium to the soil mix at the time of planting and occasionally during its growth cycle will strengthen the plant and the formation of the pumpkin. Calcium is also available in a liquid form. The next step is to do your own pollinating. You may be familiar with the end rot you get on zucchini
from lack of bee activity. The same thing can happen with pumpkins. You need to find the difference between male and female blooms. You do this by finding a bud that has an enlargement
at the base of the flower. This is the female. The male has no such enlargement. Once the bloom opens, you shake the male pollen into the female
and then tie a rubber band around the bloom of the female. The male flowers can be dipped in batter and eaten as a side dish. The female will then hopefully grow into a prize winner.
There are critters that might damage your plants, among which are cucumber beetles, squash vine borers, squash bugs, and aphid. Most of these can be controlled with Spinosad. The squash bugs can be controlled with diatomaceous earth. Make sure you do not use the swimming pool product. You can wash off most aphids. In California we are blessed with a lack of many of these problems, but
they can exist. Sea Pell® can handle most of the problems of diseases. If you have a worm bin or a
compost pile, make a tea with the material and spray the foliage as well as the fruit. Another problem that may happen with your “prized” pumpkin is Dill Ring. In many cases this will not affect the final results, but can destroy the stem of
the pumpkin. The ring is a collapse of the stem end of the fruit taking the shape of a peanut. Because it
is genetic there is little to do. I believe adding calcium to the soil can prevent the problem. The actual care of the pumpkin besides fertilization is the protection of the fruit during extreme hot weather. If you expect an extremely hot day, you can cover the fruit with a blanket.
Many growers routinely cover their prize with a quilt over night. Some build tents over the fruit to prevent problems. In my own mind if you are interested, just for the fun of it, I would purchase the books on the subject at www.giantpumpkin.com
It is the most complete book on raising pumpkins for show there is. You can even order a measuring
tape that will give you an approximate weight of the fruit.