Sunday, July 27, 2008
During the hot summer months when I don't show my rabbits, I spend a lot of time in the garden, particularly the pumpkin patch. There's a lot that goes into growing a giant pumpkin. You need to get a soil test done to see what nutrients the soil needs, and amend it accordingly. You want to start your seeds inside and plant your Atlantic Giants in the soil as soon as you can, preferably early May in this part of the country. You need to protect them from frost and warm the soil to get them off to a good start. Once the plants start growing, you need to bury the vines so that they set down more roots, train the secondary vines so they don't overlap, and pinch off tertiary vines as you see them. When the female flowers form you need to protect them from heat, and you hand-pollinate them first thing in the morning before they open (put a baggie on them the night before to make sure nothing gets in them before you do), and then tie them shut. This way you know their pedigree, so to speak. ;) Keep pollinating female flowers as they mature. The one pumpkin you want to keep should ideally be 12 - 16 feet out on the main vine. Once they get basketball sized, you can be pretty sure they won't abort. Once you've picked your keeper, you cull the others and put some kind of protection under the keeper so that moles and other ne'er-do-wells can't attack your pumpkin from underneath. I use heavy, porous landscape fabric with 100 pounds of sand on top of it. The sand enables the pumpkin to slide over the fabric as it grows. You also want to bend the main vine so that the shoulders of your pumpkin don't rub against it as it grows, rubbing will damage both and possibly give fungus or bacteria a foothold. You need to prop the vine up so that it will rise with the pumpkin as it grows. You need to use systemic pesticides and/or spray regularly for pests (I use a homemade garlic and cayenne pepper spray, it works quite well). You need to feed the plant regularly, organic products seem to work best, and feed foliarly as well as drenching the soil. You also need to keep the pumpkin shaded, since the sun will toughen its skin, making it more prone to splitting. I use a twin-size fitted sheet.
It's an awful lot of work for something you aren't going to eat!
Looking at the picture above, realize that the leaf you see is almost two feet across, and I have 2 liter Pepsi bottles full of water (shaded by white cardboard) propping the vine up. That pumpkin has a 52" circumference! It is 15 days old. I'll keep you all posted with its progress. :)