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Growing Giant Pumpkins Successfully

The common field pumpkin which is too sprawling for the tastes of most home gardeners, is a member of the Cucurbita pepo  plant family which includes squashes of all kinds and also gourds.  The most familiar and average pumpkin often develops huge fruits (and yes, pumpkins are a fruit) which make them different from the other squashes.

Common "Giant" pumpkin variety, though not nearly as large as the Atlantic species.  CDest, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Common "Giant" pumpkin variety, though not nearly as large as the Atlantic species.  CDest, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Now, if you are a gardener, all pumpkins are grown in the same way.  They are always started in the warmest season and harvested in the fall.  Generally, the simple method of planting them is the best method.  Simply put two or three seeds in about two inches deep upon a hill that is at least six feet apart from the next set of pumpkin seeds.  There’s not a lot you have to know about to grow pumpkins successfully.

There are a few other things you should know about growing pumpkins:

  • They like it hot and will tolerate even extreme hot temperatures provided they also get water. 
  • However, they do not like colder weather (so if you live in a cold climate remember not to plant them too early before the ground is warm).
  • They can be planted as a companion plant with corn.
  • It takes ninety to one hundred and twenty days for pumpkins to mature.

Growing Giant Pumpkins

Currently the record for the largest pumpkin ever grown is well over eleven hundred pounds.  The old fashioned way and best way to grow giant pumpkins is to sow pumpkin seeds on hills made over with a mixture of cows manure and rich top soil.  Pumpkins are heavy feeders in this mixture.  Additionally, remember to pinch back excess vine or more foliage will be produced than fruit – pinch off the secondary vines.  Keep the soil moist but not wet.

Giant pumpkin festival.  Wikimedia Commons, yourcsd, Creative Commons.

Giant pumpkin festival.  Wikimedia Commons, yourcsd, Creative Commons.

The secret to a prize winning giant pumpkin has a lot to do with two things:

  • Choosing a pumpkins seed variety that is truly a “giant” variety
  • Pollination

Pollination of Giant Pumpkins

Pumpkins are one of the plants that produce both male and female flowers and there is a very narrow window when it comes to pollination.  An easy way to tell the male from the female is simple observation, the males show up first (around the end of June).  When a female flower appears you want to start training her to get closer to the male by bending her ever so gently over the course of a few days towards the male. 

The moment of pollination really only lasts one short day, you’ll know when the time is right because the female will be about three inches long and she will have turned an orange hue.  That’s her signal that she’s in the romantic mood and will open the next morning, and hand pollinate unless you have an abundance of bees.

Guarding Your Baby Giant Pumpkins

You’ll want to protect your investment and think creatively about placing something under your pumpkins once they begin to fruit.  They need room to grow and expand without rubbing up against their own vines or other obstructions, but at the same time allows for complete and rapid drainage.  Some people use a bed of sand, others use straw.  I prefer the sand as it also discourages insects.

NoteAlso sometime between mid-July and the end of August after your pumpkins have attained great growth, cull off the smaller pumpkins 

If You'd Like To Know More About Growing Giant Pumpkins!