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Here I have compiled the basic instructions for any would-be Giant Pumpkin grower. If you follow these basics you should do pretty well.
The three key things
required to grow a giant are good seeds, good soil and good luck.
If you want to grow a Giant Pumpkin, you must select the right seed, that means the variety Atlantic Giant, preferably from a line proven to grow giants.
Pumpkins plants are heavy
feeders of major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium),
as well as many minor nutrients.
A good organically enriched soil will give you the best chances
of growing the biggest fruit possible.
Use up to five barrow loads of manure or compost per plant when
preparing your soil.
With the right preparation and strategy you could grow a very large pumpkin, and with a little luck, maybe you can grow the biggest in the country or even break a record, be it setting a personal best or winning a competition.
Start by preparing the soil by applying three to five yards of compost or manure for each plant you want to grow. This is best done in the Autumn but can be done in early spring so long as the manure isn’t too strong. In Spring apply a good granular fertiliser to the area about a fortnight before you will be planting out, I like to do this when I sow my seeds so I know everything will be ready.
Sow Seeds indoors in large peat pots about two weeks before the last spring frosts are expected. (I started mine on April 24th this year). Plant the seed with the pointed end of the seed down and keep the compost temperature at about 21°C. Seeds should germinate within a week.
Transplant the seedlings into the garden when the first true leaves appear or when roots begin to grow through the peat pot (usually seven to 10 days after germination). Handle with care as the plants will be set back if they are damaged during transplanting.
You will need to protect the seedlings by placing a “mini-greenhouse” over the seedlings for a month to shield plants from wind and frost. I would recommend a standard cold frame but you could get elaborate and construct a larger structure. Your “mini-greenhouse” will not only protect plants from frosts but also from strong winds. By the time your plant has filled its home it will be tough enough to stand up to the elements and this protection can be removed. If really cold weather unexpectedly comes along simply cover this frame with a blanket overnight.
Getting a pumpkin set as early as possible, if possible by mid-July is crucial. The earlier the pumpkin is set, the longer it will have to grow until harvest. This is why I recommend you pollinate by hand. First select a female flower; they are easy to spot because they have a small pumpkin at the base. Early in the morning, locate a freshly opened male flower, pick it and carefully remove the outer petals to reveal the stamen which is covered in pollen. Next, find a newly opened female flower and gently apply the pollen from the male flower to the stigma of the female flower. If the weather is on your side you should achieve successful pollination.
I recommend that you reposition pumpkins when they have set. A pumpkins position on the vine is an important factor. The stem often grows at an acute angle to the vine but for optimal growth you want that angle to be perpendicular to the vine. If you do not have a pumpkin set at right angle to the vine, you will need to gently adjust the angle, gradually, over a week or two until it is the best position. Be very careful when you do this so as not to damage the fruit.
If one plant has several strong vines you could have as many as twelve pumpkins growing on the plant by the end of July. To get the big ones, you need to cull to just two or three per plant. Many growers will only let one fruit grow to maturity on each plant. When deciding which pumpkins to keep measure each pumpkin's circumference at the widest point regularly with a tape measure and select the one the is growing the fastest. Young pumpkins that are round and especially tall grow the largest, so shape also plays a part in your selection.
It is important to control growth and start pruning your plant early in the season to discourage random growth. Prune each main vine when it has reached 10 to 12 feet beyond a set fruit. If you have a pumpkin on a vine that is 10 feet from the main root, cut the end of that vine once it is 20 to 24 feet long, this is of course dependent on the space you have. Side shoots off the main vines should have the tips cut out at about twelve feet, again dependent on your space. Side shoots should be trained at right angles to the main vine for easy access to vines and pumpkins.
During the growing season you need to apply water-soluble plant foods on a regular basis. Early season fertiliser should stress phosphorus, such as 15-30-15, followed by a high nitrogen feed, and a balanced fertiliser before fruit set. By August switch to a high potassium feed. Be careful not to over fertilise, as this will do more harm than good to your attempt at growing a giant.
Measure your pumpkins at
least weekly to check their progress.
Measure the circumference of your pumpkins parallel to the ground
around the widest part of the pumpkin.
Then measure over the top in both directions from ground to
ground across the middle from stem to blossom end.
Then across the other way in the same manner.
Once you know the total inches of these three measurements added
together, simply multiply by 1.9 to attain an estimate of the pumpkin's
© 2001 Chris Bonnett