The giant pumpkin world record is 2702 pounds (1226 kg). At the Big Pumpkin Festival Weigh-off in Piccoli, Italy Stefano Cutrupo brought this behemoth pumpkin to the weigh-off in early October 2021. That’s closing in on a ton and a half!! People, who see these Atlantic giant pumpkins, want to know “how do they grow them so big?” They want to know how to grow giant pumpkins, too. Growing pumpkins isn’t difficult. However, growing a big pumpkin takes a significant amount of work and effort. Growing a giant pumpkin, weighing a ton or more…. now that takes even more effort and requires a lot of knowledge.
If you already grow pumpkins, you are off to a good start towards producing a monster this fall. As you enter the world of giant pumpkin growing, plan to spend much more time, pampering and nurturing your plants, to grow gigantic pumpkins at a phenomenal speed.
To help you in your efforts to grow the “really big one”, we’ve listed the “Top Ten Secrets to Growing Record-Breaking Giant Pumpkins”
Did you Know? At peak growth, record-breaking giant pumpkins can grow 40-50 pounds a day, or more!
Super Soil – First, get out your soil tester, to assure that the soil pH is ideal for growing pumpkins. Average soil just will not do. Add ample amounts of compost and manure to your soil. It is best to till it into your soil in the fall, especially if the manure is raw (not decomposed). Check the pH again, after adding soil amendments.
Great Genetics -To grow a giant pumpkin, find seeds that have the genetics to grow huge fruit. Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds are readily available. This will get you started. After a year or two of learning and attending the giant pumpkin weigh-offs, you will come in contact with growers, who can give you some of the best genetic seeds available. The very best genetics are not available in stores. The top growers have them. Armed with good genetic seeds, you have the potential to grow your first, and hopefully record-breaking, giant pumpkin. The rest is up to you.
An early, indoor start – Giant pumpkin plants require 140 days or more from the time you plant a seed, to the time you harvest the fruit. Growers seeking to break the world record, start seeds in mid to late April, and harvest fruit in early October. That means as many as 160 days, from when the seed was planted! Chances are, you will have to start them indoors. When you do, the young seedlings will need your attention, and as much sunlight as you can provide. It also means you may need to provide cold and frost protection when you transfer them outdoors. As October nears, you may again have to protect them from cold and frost.
Lots of Fertilizer, the right stuff, at the right time – Throw away what you’ve learned about fertilizing, and re-learn the art of fertilizing giant pumpkins. It is truly an art form, as giant pumpkins require huge amounts of fertilizer. Start with a high nitrogen formula in the spring. Apply a high phosphorous fertilizer in advance of the blooming/fruit set stage. Finally, switch to a high potassium formula, for fruit growth and plant health.
Pour on the Water – The top growers have elaborate drip systems, to deliver the right amount of water (moist, not wet soil), 24/7. They add liquid fertilizers, fish emulsions, and seaweed fertilizer to their water tanks.
Liquid Calcium – All the fertilizer and nutrients in the world, can not be used efficiently if soluble calcium is not present in your soil. Liquid calcium significantly increases the ability of plants to take up those nutrients and use them, to grow big fruit.
Nurturing Plant Growth and Pruning Vines – Before flowering and fruit set, the trick is to get your plant growing fast and furious. But, that’s not enough. Here is how the top growers train and develop their vines: Grow the vines in a “Christmas tree” shape. Let secondary vines grow out and away from the main vine to a length of 10′ to 12′. At this point pinch off the growing tip, and bury it in the ground. Also, prune off any tertiary vines (those that grow off the secondary vine), as they appear. Pruning is vital, to maximize the growth of the fruit. It encourages, or “trains” the vine, to focus upon sending nutrients to the fruit.
Promoting Secondary Root Growth – Secondary root growth can have a HUGE impact upon the final weight of the fruit. Secondary roots will form at the point where a leaf stem meets the vine. Cover the vine at this point, with a couple of inches of rich garden soil. Keep it well-watered, and the roots will grow deeper. When fertilizing, feed secondary roots, too. More on Secondary Roots
Insect and Pumpkin Disease Protection – Many growers have had a great big pumpkin growing strongly on the vine, only to have it slowed, or even felled, by insect problems or plant disease. Pumpkins are susceptible to several insects and disease problems. Fortunately, some insecticides and fungicides will treat many of the most common pumpkin plant problems. It is vital to begin a treatment plan early BEFORE insect or disease problems can take hold. Begin applying insecticides early in the season. Begin using fungicides before heat and humidity arrive in your area.
Shading the Fruit – Giant pumpkin fruit begins its life, as a soft-shelled, yellow fruit. The skin is very pliable, allowing it to quickly grow and expand. Hot, sun, and dry wind, can harden the skin, signaling the fruit to ripen. The trick is to keep the skin soft, and pliable. Giant pumpkin growers quickly learn that a shade cover over the fruit is essential to grow ’em big. Shade covers can be simple, or elaborate.
Like regular field pumpkins, giant pumpkins are edible. There are plenty of recipes for cooking with giant pumpkins. But, the bigger they get, the coarser the texture of the pulp.