Growing titanic orbs or gourds is a competitive cut throat sport. Less than 20 years ago, the heaviest (official) pumpkin weighed a mere 403 pounds. Now in 2016 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 the very least, so this is not something that any home grower can do without a lot of help.
From Dill’s Farm with permission
But thousands of hopeful growers are hauling their giant squashes into farm and county fairs in search of that coveted blue ribbon for the heaviest pumpkin. Some of the mammoth pumpkins weigh as much as a compact car! The current world-record pumpkin weighed in at 2,323 lb and was grown by Beni Meier of Switzerland in 2014, authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) in Ludwigsburg, listed on Guinness World Records.
Champion pumpkin growers have their own methods and secrets that they guard closely in hopes of breaking the record books one more time. Because now big cash prizes are attached to those blue ribbons.
Imagine moving something this size!
Start Right-Good Genetics
The most important step in growing a champion is getting the right seeds and these aren’t available at just any seed packet display. High pedigree hybrid seeds are necessary which are bought and sold between serious growers, and can cost from $10 to $100 or more per seed. Dill’s Atlantic Giant is the granddaddy of most giant pumpkins, which is available from Dill’s Farm in Nova Scotia. Dills’ Farm is the home and farm of the late Howard Dill, developer of the “Dill’s Atlantic Giant”, the World’s Largest Pumpkin Variety. Three hundred to 500-pound specimens are routinely grown with this variety, but there is a lot of TLC that goes into the making of a champion.
Dills’ Farm even has a Pumpkin Regatta! With permission from Dill’s Farm
According to Dill’s Giant Pumpkin website,
“DILL’S ATLANTIC GIANT is the grand-daddy of all giant pumpkins. The present day record, for this variety is an amazing 2009 lbs (913 kg) and it is common for the variety to produce 400- 500 pound (180-230 kg) fruit consistently. Used mainly for fall fairs and International pumpkin competitions that are becoming increasingly more popular around the world. Also perfect for huge jack o’lanterns and fall displays! Fruit colours, vary from yellow to orange and the skin is slightly rough. Days to maturity-130.”
Pumpkin in field at Dill’s Farm in Nova Scotia, used with permission
Obtaining the proper seeds is truly the “secret” to growing huge pumpkins and are available at specialty companies and growers such as Dill’s Farm, and on Ebay.
Pumpkin blossom being pollinated by a bee
Work, Work, and More Work to Produce a Champion
This is an endeavor that starts not in the spring, but in the fall preceding planting your pumpkin. Ground preparation with lots of organic material tilled under begins when the leaves start to turn. Full sun with a minimum of 400 square feet is essential and forget about taking a vacation while the pumpkins are growing, because the plant requires constant tending. This is not simple thing. 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. Not for the typical sunny day gardener!
There are all types of pumpkins
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 the day the pumpkin develops a fatal split, he has to wait until next year to start all over again.
A whale of a pumpkin seen at Valley View Farms
You can sink a lot of money into this highly competitive sport – 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. However, to buy a ready-made giant can set you back at least $500(see below). My best guess on weight for this is around 900- 1000 pounds. I wonder if they deliver?
I saw this giant pumpkin, weight unknown, at Terrain for $500
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 or decorating pumpkins. See my post on embellishing pumpkins at Pumpkin Treats.
I will stick to decorating pumpkins
Posted in Garden Oddities, gardening, vegetable gardening
Tagged carving pumpkins, champion pumpkins, Circleville Pumpkin Show, Dills Farm, Dills Giant pumpkins, giant gourds, Giant pumpkin, giant pumpkins, pumpkin growing, pumpkin lifting rings, record breaking pumpkins, splitting pumpkins, titanic orbs
After picking out dead honeybees from a honeycomb frame recently, I pledged to use only plants that are neonic free. Neonics or neonicitonoids have been implicated in recent bee declines as well as other factors, such as loss of habitat and the bee parasite- the varroa mite. There are a number of studies that have conflicting findings and beekeepers aren’t convinced that there is a number one cause. See this article at The Huffington Post and you will be even more unsure what to believe. But I think that limiting the use of neonics will help.
Many gardeners have contacted me who say they are no longer buying plants from regular retail nurseries and seed companies because there is no way to tell if the pollinator-attracting plants they are purchasing have been treated with Neonicotinoids/imidacloprid, etc. As a beekeeper, I am interested in keeping my property free of these systemic pesticides.
Honeybees bring back pollen to the hive from flowers that could be contaminated with neonics
Plant Nurseries that don’t use Neonics
Some are wholesale and some are retail; the wholesale ones sell to your local nurseries
Behnkes Nursery – MD, If the plant is listed as Pollinator Friendly, it hasn’t been treated with neonics
Fernwood Nursery & Gardens, ME
Select Seeds – CT ,They also sell plants
Valley View Farms– MD, Read their policy concerning pesticide use at the link provided
Walters Gardens-MI, this is a wholesale nursery that provides a lot of Proven Winners Plants
Lowe’s garden stores and BJ’s Wholesale Club have agreed to phase out all neonic-treated products on their shelves. Home Depot has asked its suppliers to label any plants treated with neonics. Many local garden stores are doing the same.
Neonics affect all insects, not just honeybees
Should you boycott nurseries that use neonicotinoids?
No! Many trees, conifers, ornamental grasses, ferns, and other plants provide habitat and tremendous wildlife value and don’t attract pollinators. There is no need to throw out the diverse array of plants available from these nurseries.
Every certified backyard habitat has a variety of plants-pollinator attracting ones and evergreens that shelter animals
Neonics aren’t all bad. The application process is safe in comparison to spraying of the old organic phosphate chemicals. Neonicotinoids are watered in and taken up by the plants roots to treat the plant internally, so when they are applied correctly, there is less potential for agricultural workers to be exposed to harmful chemicals, plus less residue left externally. For a great article disputing that neonics are causing pollinator problems, go to Financial Post. This article says that “Neonics are a minor issue for bee health and the continued false allegations are pulling resources away from stopping the real threat” and that according to an apiculture scientist there are three top reasons for bee colony death and they are “varroa mites, varroa mites, and varroa mites”. These tiny parasite like ticks suck the blood from bees and they can weaken the entire hive.
Pollen is collected from flowers and carried by the bee to the hive
Pollen is the problem with neonics. When plants treated with a neonicotinoid produce flowers and pollen, the pesticide is contained within the pollen and bees bring it home to their hive, where even small amounts can build up over time into a concentration that weakens or kills the hive.
Bumblebees are affected by neonics like honeybees
Many nursery owners who use neonics say they take precautions by not applying them when the plant is in bloom.Though growers who use neonics say they take these precautions, the chemical is still carried through the entire plant system-enough to harm honeybees.
Some seed companies that don’t use neonics
Seed Companies that don’t use Neonics
- Adaptive Seed
- All Good Things Organic Seeds
- Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
- Baker Creek
- Blue River Hybrids
- Botanical Interests
- Denali Seed Company
- Goodwin Creek Gardens
- Grow Organic
- Gurney’s Seed Nursery Co
- Harris Seeds
- High Mowing Seeds
- Horizon Herbs
- Hudson Valley Seed Library
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds
- Maine Potato Lady
- Native Seeds
- Northeast Seeds
- Peaceful Valley
- Pinetree Seeds
- Renee’s Garden
- Seed Savers
- Southern Exposure
- Sustainable Seed Company
- Territorial Seed
Other plant sources that are usually safe
Local native plant sales (ask to be 100% sure). Local farmer’s markets ( many growers are not organic and so it is important to ask). If you shop at big box stores and aren’t sure where the plants come from, the grower’s label is usually applied to the pot.
Where Can I Find More Information?
So much has been written on this subject and here is some further reading:Xerces Society
Buying Bee-Friendly Plants
How Your Bee-Friendly Garden May Actually be Killing Bees
A Native Bee Rancher
Home Depot to Label Neonics