Gourdzilla!! Growing Champion Pumpkins

Seen at a local nursery
Seen at a local nursery

The Growing

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 2015 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. Champion pumpkin growers have their own methods and secrets that they guard closely in hopes of breaking the record books one more time.

Imagine moving something this size!
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 any nursery. Refining the genetic makeup for years, dedicated and obsessed growers have developed more superior strains than are available at the local nursery on their seed packet displays. Atlantic Giant is a variety that is available from Botanical Interests but if you search the web you can find all kinds.

Atlantic Giant Pumpkin is a huge variety that most people start with
Atlantic Giant Pumpkin is a huge variety that most people start with

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.”

 Obtaining the proper seeds is truly the “secret” to growing huge pumpkins and are available at specialty companies and growers, and on Ebay.

Squash blossom being pollinated by a bee
Squash blossom being pollinated by a bee

Work, Work, and More Work to Produce a Champion

Ground preparation with lots of organic material tilled under begins in the fall. Full sun with a minimum of 400 square feet is required and forget about taking a vacation while the pumpkins are 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. Not for the typical sunny day gardener!

Male and femaile pumpkin flower, from Wikipedia
Male and femaile pumpkin flower, from Wikipedia

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.

Seen at a local nursery last year, this baby weighed in at 1725 pounds!
Seen at a local nursery last year, this baby weighed in at 1725 pounds!
A whale of a pumpkin seen at Valley View Farms
A whale of a pumpkin seen at Valley View Farms

It’s Expensive

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. But on the other hand, 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
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 this at Pumpkin Treats.

I will stick to decorating pumpkins
I will stick to decorating pumpkins

 

3 Replies to “Gourdzilla!! Growing Champion Pumpkins”

  1. Oh, my! I’ve never appreciated the huge job of growing a champion pumpkin! The competition really does require a gigantic commitment of time, money, effort, and patience! I’m just happy to decorate with an interesting selection of small pumpkins and gourds. Happy Autumn days, Claire! ♡

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