Autumn Jack-o-Lanterns

For many of us, the crisp days of autumn mean a bounty of pumpkins for carving jack-o-lanterns or baking scrumptious pies along with the ingathering of all the other fruits of our labor. But for countless backyard gardeners, autumn is the time to ‘strut their stuff’ before the crowds that gather time again, at local or even national pumpkin growing contests, to see who has grown the most gigantic pumpkin to take home the prize. If you ask any competitive grower what it takes to grow a huge pumpkin, they’ll sound off three key points: “Good seed, Good soil and Good fortune”. Are you a competitive gardener? To partake in the extreme sport of growing ‘super pumpkins’, there are some down to earth tips that will help you compete with the best of them. If you can grow a good vegetable garden, you have the potential to grow a Prizewinning Pumpkin!

As you ponder what variety to grow, there are many to choose from. However, there are a few with stellar traits to consider. Number one on the list of biggies is ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’, (aka Atlantic Giant); which holds the world record at a whopping 2000+ pounds! ‘Prize Winner’ will produce a good sized pumpkin as well, but also demonstrates a superior shape and color. ‘Howden’ and ‘Big Moon’ have a reputation for performing as good all-around show pumpkins and will compete for the prize extremely well.

Prepare, Plant and Succeed
•    As with any successful garden, selecting and preparing the planting site is vital. Full sun and well-drained soil, rich in organic matter are a must. Pumpkins consume huge amounts of nutrients, so go ahead and add generous amounts of well-cured manure to your soil. Horse and cow manures are best.
•    Whether you are planting seeds or seedlings give them ample room. Planting your giant pumpkins away from other pumpkin varieties is an important tip, as cross-pollination could hinder their growth potential. Remember ~ these plants do not like to be cold. Wait until all danger of frost is gone before planting.
•    A dependable supply of water allows pumpkin plants to mature at a steady rate. Try to water at soil level and early in the day to help reduce the possibility of disease.
•    Once three or four fruits have set, pinch the vines back to encourage further fruit development. Select the best looking pumpkin once they have reached approximately 6 inches and discard the others. Remove any new vine growth and keep additional blooms picked, focusing the plants energy on increasing the size of your pumpkin.
•    Every ten days or so, supply your plants with a diluted fertilizer solution containing a 5-20-20 or a similar formula that will encourage fruit formation, not leaves and vines. Too much feed can hurt more than help. Growing your pumpkins too fast can cause them to literally tear themselves from the vine and explode. Resist the urge to over fertilize.

Finally, enjoy watching your pumpkin increase in size. For the most part, your work is complete when September arrives. As the plant dies away, the only job left to do, is to proudly weigh in your impressive, colossal pumpkin and show off your efforts. Maybe you’ll even bring home the ribbon!

For more detailed guidelines on growing giant pumpkins>