How does one actually grow an Award Winning Giant Pumpkin? — provided by Scott Carley
Getting Started > How does one actually grow an Award Winning Giant Pumpkin? There are several tips and factors that can help a grower produce a true Giant. Three things are most important: Good Seed, Good Soil and Hard Work.
Seeds > Selecting a seed with Good Genetics increases your chances in growing a Giant Pumpkin. Visit our SEEDS page to place your order. The seeds that you will receive contain World Class Genetics. The seed that grew both my 1,427.5 and 1,411 came from a 1,985 pound Atlantic Giant Pumpkin. I grew multiple “1,985 Millers” last year and was able to get some great sib pollinations which will strengthen the genetics and enable whoever grows my seeds the best opportunity to grow a Monster – a Gargantuan Gourd!
Soil Preparation > These Giant types of pumpkins require the correct soil medium to grow to a healthy Award Winning Pumpkin. A soil test will provide the amount of soil nutrients your garden contains and provide corrective action to balance your soil for planting. Sandy soils will generally require much more amendments than loamy soils, and clays soils will require the addition of organic matter. In most cases, a few yards of composted soil mixed with a rich blend of organic matter combines the best of what Mother Nature has to offer. Pumpkins grow best in pH ranges from 6.8 to 7.2, but can perform well at levels above or below this range.
Germination > Before attempting to Germinate Seeds they should be lightly filed on the outside edges to allow for easier water absorption. Do not file the pointy tip of the seed. Germination usually takes about 3 to 7 days if the medium/soil temperature is around 80 degrees F. There are many suggestions on how to germinate, but please keep the medium/soil moist, not wet. If the medium/soil is wet the seed will rot and die.
If you start the seeds off in soil, place the pointy tip downward into the soil with half an inch of soil to cover the top of the seed. Started indoors they should be planted in a 4 inch peat pot or larger similar type of pot with a hole on the bottom for drainage. The experts say not to let the pumpkin roots become bounded within the pot. Pumpkin roots grow very fast – plan to get the plant hardened off and in the ground shortly after the first true leaf, the third leaf, appears. Giant Pumpkins like direct sunlight and this Giant will require 500 square feet or more to be able to produce a pumpkin in excess of 500 pounds. Space and growing area is one of the biggest factors in helping the plant and pumpkin grow to a very large size.
Fertilizing > The first stage of fertilizing should be based initially on providing phosphorous P for root growth, then gradually shifting to a more balanced formulation with more nitrogen N in late May. As time progresses, halt all fertilizer applications in late June while pollinating and after fruit is set. Switching to a higher potassium K formulation for development after set fruit.
Caution against over fertilization is necessary, high rates of nitrogen will cause rapid vegetative growth, poor flower development and fruit set. A proper nutrient balance must be maintained in order to achieve desirable results. The major amount of green leaf and vine plant growth takes place for around 60 days. Most growers prefer to use organic products as foliar applications to traditional NPK fertilizing. Fish emulsions and seaweed blends are very popular natural products that encourage steady plant growth rates. Other natural organic products such as kelp meal, alfalfa meal and molasses work great.
Pruning > The plant is most often pruned in a Christmas tree fashion with the stump at the bottom of the tree. The plant will spread out from its base on a single main vine reaching up to 30 feet or more in length at maturity. Side vines or secondary vines begin to appear at each leaf node or junction. The side vines are trained to grow perpendicular to the main vine and allowed to extend 10 to 15 feet long on each side. The plant will then begin to produce third or tertiary vines from each leaf junction of the side vines. These third vines begin to rob the developing plant and pumpkin of vital nutrients, so cut them off.
Vine Burying > Placing soil over the vines to create additional roots underneath each leaf node is done to allow the plant to draw in more water and resources thus allowing the fruit to attain larger sizes.
Male Flowers > Male flowers begin to appear a week before the females usually around the third to fourth week of June. Male flowers contain the pollen, which is used to fertilize the female.
Female Flowers > Female flowers differ between males by the visible lump underneath the flower. The female has the small golf ball sized fruit under the flower while the male is perched upon a long slender stem with a flower on top. Females should also have a stem angle, which is almost 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the vine, and will be located from 10 to 20 feet out from the stump area on the main vine. If the female flower is less than 90 degrees, the stem will be more likely to be damaged and stressed as the pumpkin’s shoulders grow larger.
Pollinating Blossoms > Remove three or more ready to open male flowers from the plant. The male’s flower petals are gently removed exposing the stamen with its encrusted pollen grains. The transfer of pollen is completed by gently rubbing and rotating the male stamen all around the edges of the female’s stigmas. The most opportune time is from 7:00 to 10:00 am. The flowers are kept closed to prevent pollination by honeybees thereby inhibiting cross-pollination with other non-giant pumpkin strains.
Watering > Giant Pumpkins will require an adequate supply of water during the growing season. One inch or more per week is the minimum necessary to achieve maximum growth rates. Overhead sprinklers, drip lines or soaker hoses can apply water best at consistent flow rates. Timers and valves automate the process, but hand watering is just as effective. Avoid watering in late evening to guard against the promotion of wet leaves and powdery mildew.
Leaves Wilting > If the weather gets too hot the pumpkin leaves will wilt. If you see this happen you will need to cool the plant through the day time. Most use an overhead watering system or some kind of shade protection during July and August. If not, the plant leaves will get crispy and die.
What’s next…? Now that you have grown a Giant Pumpkin, no matter what shape or size, enter it at BC’s Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off!! Participate in our annual event and join in the fun! Click EVENTS to learn more.
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