Dale Marshall’s award winning pumpkin at the Alaska State Fair in August 2018. Image Anchorage Daily News.
Now that higher temperatures have warmed up the soil, from late May through June is a good time to sow Pumpkin seeds. Of course, if you’ve sown seeds indoors during the past few weeks, you can now transplant them outside – but generally pumpkins do better grown direct in the ground. Pumpkins sown now will be ready to harvest by Hallowe’en.
Image Mr. Bones’ Pumpkin Patch, Time Out Magazine
Growing pumpkins is fun, but growing gigantic pumpkins is even more fun! To grow a real whopper you’ll need to start with the right kind of seed that has been selected to produce really big pumpkins, or of course opt for a smaller variety.
Jack Be Little Pumpkin. Image www.telegraph.co.uk
There is a pumpkin to suit every home – from the tiny Jack Be Little, to the traditional sized Jack Of All Trades, which is perfect for carving and baking. Or perhaps you are just keen on cooking with them, if so choose Pumpkin Hooligan, which produce beautiful snack sized fruit with attractive mottled skin.
Snack sized Pumpkin Hooligan. Image Johnny’s Selected Seeds
If you do want to try growing an enormous pumpkin, then Howard Dill’s Atlantic Giant, or Paton Twins Giant are the seeds for you. First, you need to make sure that you have enough space and resources to grow a huge pumpkin. These plants are thirsty and need a lot of water whilst they are growing. They are also large consumers of all the major plant nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as many minor nutrients like calcium and magnesium. When choosing a fertiliser opt for one which stresses phosphorus as a main ingredient, such as Tomato fertiliser.
The key for excessive growth is a warm, rich soil that has plenty of organic matter incorporated into it. Cow and horse manure work best. Sow 2 or 3 seeds direct into the same hole, about 1 inch deep. Cover with a cloche, until a couple of weeks after germination. Then remove the cloche and thin the seedlings, keeping the strongest one. Dig in a pot next to the seedling, which you will use to help with regulating water. It will make sure that water goes right down to the plants roots.
A Colorado pumpkin patch. Image www.thedenverchannel.com
When two or three fruits have reached the size of cricket balls, remove all but the most promising, and start to prune the pumpkin vine. Once the primary vine has reached 20ft, pinch out the tips and side shoots. Break off all other flowers to ensure that the plants’ energy goes directly to this fruit alone. You can support the fruit by laying a piece of glass or tile underneath it as it grows.
Pumpkins need well drained soil that is neutral to slightly acidic. During the growing season apply a water soluble fertiliser every 2 weeks, but don’t go overboard – too much high strength fertiliser can cause pumpkins to grow too fast, so that they tear themselves apart.
By mid August your pumpkin will be drawing in water and nutrients at a great rate. They do their growing during the night-time, and some can expand up to as much as 5 inches in circumference each night… Of course, growing giant pumpkins uses up a lot of resources and shouldn’t be under taken lightly, but if you do give it a go, good luck. I’d love to hear how you do!
For more information on giant pumpkin seed, visit Howard Dill’s family’s website: https://www.howarddill.com/
Howard Dill was a giant pumpkin breeder in Nova Scotia, Canada, and is known as the Pumpkin King (1934 – 2008).