Top 7 Things About Growing a Giant Pumpkin

September 2014-

Recently I went to visit Woody Lancaster of Topsfield, who won the Giant Pumpkin competition in 2013.  I had never seen a Giant Pumpkin being grown before, my pumpkin experience up until this point was picking one out at a local farm from my house around Halloween.  When talking with Woody, I soon realized I knew absolutely nothing about what it takes to grow a winning pumpkin.  It made me wonder how many times I had gone to the Topsfield Fair, and stared at the Giant Pumpkin without realizing all that goes into growing it?  And if this was the case for me, how many other people didn’t know these facts either?  So if you are interested in growing a Giant Pumpkin for next year’s fair, here are some basic tips that should help you get started.

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  1. Giant Pumpkins start growing in mid-April! The pumpkins will usually grow for around 5 months until they are ready for the fair in October!  While they grow at a fast rate for the first few months, around September they start to get older and therefore begin to grow less.
  2. Because these pumpkins start growing in April, the temperature is still too cold for the pumpkins to properly grow. Woody uses a mini greenhouse to heat up the soil for the pumpkin, then adds additional heat at night.  Around June 1st, he takes away the mini greenhouse.
  3. Pumpkins get bad sunburns too! Because the pumpkin is growing so rapidly, the skin needs to be soft and flexible to allow for it to grow almost 30 pounds in one day!  The sun can make the skin hard and cracked, which can ruin a good pumpkin.  Woody covers his pumpkin with a sheet to help keep the pumpkin’s skin from burning!
  4. The vine of the pumpkin can be manipulated to grow whichever way you want. Once you plant your seed, the vine spreads out on the ground and often grows to be over ten feet long!  From once you plant your pumpkin, you can decide which direction you want it to grow, from left, right, straight, backwards, whatever you want it’s up to you!
  5. Most farmers grow more than one Giant Pumpkin a summer! Woody for example has two pumpkins growing, but he knows people that grow three or four!  To grow a really good pumpkin, you have to spend at least a couple hours a day taking care of it, even more depending on how many pumpkins you have!
  6. You can actually take leaves from your vines, and send them to a lab to be tested! The labs essentially juice the leaves and root, and tell what nutrients your pumpkin is lacking, or if there is too much of one nutrient.  While a lot of farming is guesswork, this helps take a lot of the guessing out so you can focus on what your pumpkin needs!
  7. Pumpkins are a living organism. Sometimes it is easy to forget that pumpkins need food and water to survive, and are very delicate.  There are now many biological sprays that now help your pumpkin’s immune system fight off fungus and other bug attacks itself!

So at this year’s fair, when looking at the Giant Pumpkin winner, remember that a lot of time and work goes into making that pumpkin so great.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not something that just happens with no work put it!