Sunday, October 6, 2013

10 Things to Do to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

I often get asked by newer or struggling giant pumpkin growers at the weigh offs as to what they could do to grow bigger pumpkins.  I'm always grateful for the question but a bit suprised, because in my own way I feel like a struggling gaint pumpkin grower who is always asking questions.  I've had a certain level of success but there is always so much more to learn.  Here are the secrets to growing a giant pumpkin that I know are needed to grow a pumpkin that will bring smiles to peoples faces and stop cars in their tracks:

  1. Good seed is needed to grow a giant pumpkin.  Without a quality Atlantic Giant pumpkin seed you aren't going to be growing a giant pumpkin.  My seeds will be available in November
  2. Join the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers club.  This isn't a sales pitch.  It is worth it.  You'll get newsletters and access to tips from some of the best growers in the country.
  3. Get your soil tested.  No grower can tell you what your soil needs unless they know what is already in your soil.  Once you get your soil tested post the results on's message board and people can tell you what you need to do.
  4. Buy and read Your Ideal Soil.  Understanding the proper way to build a world class soil is frankly a bit complicated.  The book is the easiest and best read I have found.
  5. Prep your soil in the fall.  When you have planted your pumpkin plant in the ground in the spring 85% of what determines how big your pumpkin will grow will be determined by how well your soil is prepared.  What you put into your soil in the fall is going to be determined by what your soil needs.  I like to put down gypsum (for the calcium), elemental sulfur (my pH is high), lots of alfalfa pellets (100lbs over 1000 square feet for organic matter, nitrogen and growth hormones), humic acid, 1-3 yards compost and maybe some of the newly fallen leaves.  Till that into the ground 8 inches deep.  If the weather permits plant a cover crop of winter rye before it gets too cold.
  6. During the winter ask questions of growers and read everything you can online.  Also watch the How I Grew the 2009 Wallace DVD by Ron Wallace.
  7. Order the Xtreme Gardening Giant Pumpkin Kit.  Again, not a sales pitch.  In this kit are the things that the best competition giant pumpkin growers use and the book that almost every giant pumpkin grower has read.
  8. Start your seeds between April 15th and April 25th indoors in a warm (85-90 degrees) place and in a bright place (adding full spectrum lights may be required).
  9. Around the first week of May put your plants outdoors in the pumpkin patch inside of a hoop house.  Try to keep that hoop house around 90 degrees during the day.  Get a watering system in place that will evenly water the entire pumpkin patch.
  10. Once your pumpkin starts vining bury the vines.  At each leaf node the pumpkin plant will put down roots and the more roots you get the bigger your pumpkin should be.
Bonus giant pumpkin growing tip:  Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions of the best growers in your area.  Most of them will tell you everything you need to know about giant pumpkin growing and then take what they have given you and research it out.  Even from the best growers you may not always get the best advice but you usually won't get bad advice.  Local growers will know where to get stuff and understand the particular environmental challenges and can help you through those learning curves.

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