The world record for the heaviest pumpkin has recently been broken. The new record, set in October 2010 in the United States is for a pumpkin weighing 821.23 kg !! According to the New Zealand Herald, the heaviest pumpkin on record in New Zealand was grown in Taupo in April this year and weighed 540kg!
If you would like to grow giant pumpkins next season, then now is the time to start preparing. You will of course need the right seeds - you can buy Pumpkin Atlantic Giant seeds from us, but it is not just the seeds alone that will ensure giant pumpkins, so here are some tips for best results.
To grow the biggest possible pumpkins, choose a sunny site and dig a huge hole about a metre deep. Back fill it until it is 1m high with a variety of rich food sources - animal or poultry manure, compost, food waste, leaves, lawnmower clippings, silage, seaweed, layered with sprinklings of lime. You can also add fertiliser. By adding these materials, you are creating a nutrient rich, soft bed for the pumpkin. Be careful not to compact the soil. This pile will need about six months to break down, and your seedlings will need to be planted out around Labour Weekend, after the danger of frost has passed, so if you get started on your pumpkin bed now, you will have enough time for your bed to develop into a nutrient rich growing platform for your giant pumpkins.
Once you have planted out your seedlings, keep them well watered to encourage deep rooting and vigorous growth. Mulching the pumpkin bed will help prevent loss of moisture.
When the plants start to run, bury all runners up to the first leaf axial - this will make the plant put down more roots from the base of each leaf axial, anchoring the plant and helping with water and nutrient uptake.
If you have concerns about lack of bees in your area you can hand-fertilise your pumpkins. The flowers will start appearing a month or two after transplanting. Early in the morning pick some male flowers and gently tear off their petals to expose the middle stamens on which is the powdery pollen.
The female flowers have a little bulbous bit at their base, like a tiny pumpkin. Push the male stamen into the female flower to transfer the male pollen to the stigma. Alternatively, you could send the children or grandchildren outside with a paintbrush and instructions and let them do it for you! When the fruit has set (around Christmastime usually), thin to the single best fruit on each vine.
Watering is absolutely essential as giant pumpkins can put on up to 5kg - 10kg of weight per day if watered well through the summer months. Soak well every day. It is best to do this first thing in the morning. If you have chosen to mulch with black plastic, cut a hole for watering and pour in a whole bucket of water every day.
Place a thick layer of straw, shredded newspaper or cardboard under the fruit while small to help prevent rot setting in on the underside. Some serious pumpkin growers also rig up a sunshade for their pumpkins.
Harvest time is in autumn - around 120 days from sowing. The pumpkin will have reached its maximum size when the vine starts to die back down. To harvest your pumpkin, cut it from the vine leaving a wick at least 20cm long.
If you really grow a whopper, you may find that your next problem will be moving it! Slide a large strong board underneath and get your friends to help you lift it.
And what do you do with your giant pumpkins afterwards??? Of course you can organise a giant pumpkin growing competition with your friends, or enter your pumpkin in one of the competitions that take place around New Zealand. We found a New Zealand website wholly devoted to Giant Pumpkin growing, so you might like to check it out! Our fellow giant pumpkin growers overseas have some wonderful ideas - there are pumpkin festivals galore in the U.S. and Canada and here are some ideas borrowed from there:
You could carve your Giant Pumpkin....
You could have a Giant Pumpkin Boat Race.....that would be a lot of fun!
Or you could just live in your pumpkin - actually, maybe not! This photo-shopped frosty pumpkin home was an 2006 art entry by Worth1000 for a contest entitled "Edible Architecture" - we thought you'd like to see it even though it isn't a real photo!!
Good luck with your pumpkin growing! And don't forget to send us some photos!