Growing titanic orbs or gourds is a competitive cut throat sport. As recently as 16 years ago, the heaviest (official) pumpkin weighed a mere 403 pounds. Now in 2014 the one ton mark has been surpassed! That is a lot of pumpkin, not to mention, how do you move one that size?? With a fork lift and pickup truck at least, so this is not something that any home grower can do. Champion pumpkin growers have their own methods and secrets that they guard closely in hopes of breaking the record books one more time.
Start Right-Good Genetics!
The most important step in growing a champion is getting the right seeds and these aren’t available at any nursery. Dedicated and obsessed Growers have been refining the genetic makeup potential and integrity of these for many years, and have developed more superior strains than are available at the local nursery on their seed packet displays.
Obtaining the proper seeds is truly the “secret” to growing huge pumpkins and are available at specialty companies and growers, and on EBay.
Work, Work, and More Work to Produce a Champion
Ground preparation with lots of organic material tilled under begins in the fall. A minimum of 400 square feet in full sun is required and forget about taking a vacation while the pumpkins is growing, because the plant requires constant tending. Among the tasks confronting a serious grower is daily pruning, removing excess pumpkins, pollinating, rotating the gourd, watering, fertilizing, setting up a temporary cold frame over tender plants, soaking and filing the seeds for better germination, applying fungicides and pesticides, and the list goes on and on.
Splitsville, Oh No!
The pumpkin can gain 20 to 40 pounds a day during high summer! And that puts stress on the stem and the biggest calamity of all, splits! Once a fissure or rupture has occurred, the grower might as well hang it up and hope that he has another vine to fall back on. Literally, the grower devotes a whole year of his/her life to this endeavor and one day if the pumpkin develops a fatal split, he has to wait until next year to start all over again.
You can sink a lot of money into this highly competitive endeavor – from foliar nutrients, specialized sprinklers, beneficial soil inoculants, miniature cold frames, and other tools to help you grow that record breaker. And once you have a mammoth sitting in your garden, then you have to harvest it and it isn’t just a matter of cutting the stem and bringing the pumpkin into the house. There is a company that markets giant pumpkin lifting rings or slings for “lifting the gold” that can run up to $400! This is not a cheap hobby!
Final Reward-Winning a Blue Ribbon
But if you are successful at fighting back the weeds, insects, and splits that can attack at any point, you can enter at one of the many pumpkin contests around the country and take home a prize of thousands of dollars. Considering the many problems and uncertainties that can strike without warning (think hail storm!), I think I will settle for carving pumpkins!