If you want to grow a giant pumpkin that sets a world record or gets a blue ribbon at the fair, you will find the secrets here. Maybe you just want to grow a few for jack-o-lanterns. You'll find that information here also.
This should be a fun project to do with the kids. Give them each their own pumpkin plant. They'll be running out every day to check how much it has grown.
Start With the Right Seed
The colossal pumpkins seen at the fair aren't that way because they grew from a regular pumpkin. They started out with seeds from a pumpkin variety that was bred to be large to begin with. If you are planning to take your pumpkins to an exhibition, be sure to start the plant early enough to be ripe in time.
If you just want to grow jack-o-lanterns, keep in mind that 300-pound pumpkins are hard to move. Choose a variety that stays smaller.
Which type of pumpkins are the biggest?
Dill Atlantic Giant Pumpkins are the really big ones. The record for these giants is 2,009 pounds. That is the record set in 2012. You'll need a forklift to move one that big. Average ones weigh 400-500 pounds.
These pumpkins take 120 days to mature. They don't have a dark orange color, but have more of an apricot coloring. This variety isn't really a pumpkin at all, but a squash that looks like a pumpkin.
If you are in Canada, you can visit the place where the Dill Atlantic Giant pumpkins were originally introduced at: Howard Dill, 400 College Road, Windsor, Nova Scotia. The seeds can be purchased from them or from most seed companies. You'll get to view the fields where the giants are growing. The company has many events going on also and other varieties of pumpkins growing.
Big Max Pumpkin is available at Gurneys. These seeds produce 100 pound pumpkins, which would make a nice size for big jack-o-lanterns.They would still be heavy to lift. The variety won't grow as huge as some of the others like Prize Winner and the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin.
Prize Winner is another giant pumpkin. You can purchase the seeds at Burpees, Territorial Seeds and NicholsNursery in Oregon. With good care they can produce 300 pound pumpkins. This variety takes 120 days to mature.
How to Start Pumpkin Seeds
Starting Pumpkin Seeds Indoors
In southern areas, you can just plant your seeds outdoors. In the north, you may need to purchase your plants or grow them indoors. It takes 120 days for large varieties to mature. In many areas they won't make it to maturity in time.
You can figure your planting time, by counting how many extra days you'll need for the pumpkin to ripen in time. You'll need to consider different things. When is your last frost free date in the fall? Are you planning on exhibiting the pumpkin? When does it need to be ready?
What You Will Need
- You'll want to start with good seed. Spend a little extra money and buy from a good company. The ten cent seed packages won't work for this.
- For germination of the seeds you'll need some soil. Sterilized soil will help prevent disease. The soil needs to be light. Purchased potting soil will work best, unless you are experienced enough to make your own.
- The soil needs to be kept warm until the seeds sprout. I've always done this by placing the flat on the refrigerator. The motor running keeps them warm. If you can't do this, you should get a special heating mat for germinating seeds. The soil temperatures need to be kept at 80 to 85 degrees. They will start at slightly lower temperatures, but not as many seeds will sprout.
- Pumpkins like lots of light once they have sprouted. A plant light is a must.
How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds can be hard to sprout. You can help them along by filing the edges.File the seed all of the way around except at the pointed part.
- Soak them in water for a few hours before planting. The water should be warm, but not hot.
- Fill the containers that you'll be using with soil. The soil should be moist, but not dripping. Pots that are 6 inches in diameter are about the right size. You can use planting flats with pots or recycle containers. Just be sure that the pots have good drainage.
- Plant the seeds in the pots about 1 to 2 inches deep. It is best to plant them on their sides or they can be planted with the pointed tips up. Cover each seed with soil.
- Keep the pots warm with a germination mat or another method. I've put my flat on the clothes dryer and the motion and heat made the plants sprout quick.
- If the seeds haven't germinated within 2 weeks, they may need to be replanted.
- Once the seeds have germinated give them light and keep the plants watered.
- Give the plants good air circulation.
- Plant outdoors when all danger of frost is gone.
Planting Pumpkin Seedlings in the Garden
The ground needs to be warm before planting the seeds or plants outdoors. Soil temperature should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit and all danger of frost is past. You can use cold frames if you'd like to plant earlier. Just be sure that the temperature doesn't drop too low at night. The sun can produce so much heat during the day that you may need to open the frame to leave some heat out. Using a thermometer in the cold frame is a good idea.
- Prepare the soil in the spring. You'll need lots of space since the plants sprawl so far. The soil will need to be at spaded at least a foot deep. Choose the sunniest spot in the garden. They also need a well drained soil, so don't plant them in an overly wet area.
- Be sure to add composted material to the soil. If you don't have a compost pile, purchase composted cow manure.This can be purchased at any gardening center.If you've never checked the composition of the soil, this would be a good time to visit your county extension and find out what your soil is lacking.
- Just plant one plant or seed per hill. Each hill should be at least 20 feet apart and about 3 to 4 inches deep. Prepare the seeds just like you would if planting indoors. Plant a few seeds in each hill and then pull out all but the best plants once they germinate. If you want your pumpkin to grow big, just leave one plant per hill.
You'll need at least 3 to 4 months of warm weather to grow a pumpkin. To grow a giant one, you'll need 4 months of temperatures of 75 degree days or more. In the fall, protection may be needed to prevent frost damage. I've seen hundreds of pumpkins in the fields in Michigan that just didn't make it before the first frost.
Tips for Growing a Giant Pumpkin
- Mounding dirt around the pumpkin vines will help it grow bigger.The pumpkin will develop a double root system if part of the vine is covered. Just use the dirt that is already around the plant and mound it over the pumpkin vine.
- Pumpkins need a lot of water. Never let the soil dry out.
- When you see the first bloom on the plant, pick it off. It will allow the plant to grow stronger. If you want a super large pumpkin, wait until you have a female blossom that is in about a 90 degree angle from the plant. Leave just this flower on the plant. Then pollinate with a male flower.
- Your vines will root into the soil. Once the roots get close to the pumpkin, pull them gently out from the soil. Your pumpkin might get so big that it will damage the vine if you don't. The vine is the supporting system that continues to feed you pumpkin and you don't want to damage its lifeline. Move the pumpkin if needed to avoid it from damaging the stem.
- Once the pumpkins get larger, each plant can require as much as 15 to 20 gallons of water per week. It is a good idea to use half this amount and water twice a week. Pumpkins will start growing so fast, that you'll enjoy keeping an eye on their growth.
Adriaan on July 15, 2019:
I like pumpkins. I'm going to grow one, maybe more than one
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 22, 2014:
TreasuresBrenda, I don't have the room for pumpkins anymore myself. They take a lot of space. At one time, I had a huge garden and tried almost everything. Thanks for commenting.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on August 21, 2014:
It's been a long time since we had a garden. We once grew pumpkins but not giant ones.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 05, 2013:
moonlake, It is cold for here too for August. I put on a jacket this morning. Usually August is hot.
moonlake from America on August 04, 2013:
Northern Wisconsin. Very cold for us, Aug is our warmest month but not this year.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 04, 2013:
Moonlake, Where do you live? It is cooler than normal for August here in Michigan, but we've had some hot spells. Thanks for reading and I'm happy to hear that your pumpkins are big this year.
moonlake from America on August 04, 2013:
Came back to pin this to my garden board. Our pumpkins are not doing great this year weather I think. We are still wearing jackets.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 01, 2013:
Greg, Thanks for reading and commenting.
greg on July 31, 2013:
neat, I didn't know you needed to make sure the vine was strong first.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 04, 2013:
moonlake, That would be fun. Thanks for voting it up.
moonlake from America on May 04, 2013:
We had a pumpkin one year it took two of us to get it into the wheelbarrow. It was fun having one that large but it was far from a giant pumpkin. Voted up.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 02, 2013:
billybuc, I wish it was time to plant our garden. Good luck with the pumpkins.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 02, 2013:
Very helpful, Barbara! We grew pumpkins for the first time last year and they grew well. We start planting next weekend so I'll keep these tips in mind. Thank you!
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 31, 2013:
tebo, Yes you water them on the ground. These plants can get powdery mildew and it is better to keep the leaves dry when possible. Thanks for reading and I hope her pumpkin is a prize winner.
tebo from New Zealand on March 30, 2013:
My sister has a huge pumpkin in her garden this year and I don't know whether she grew it from a seed known for huge growth or whether it just happened, as we have had a very hot and dry season this year. When watering these plant as with cucumbers I take it we should water them at the stalk part that comes from the ground, not the whole wine section?
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 26, 2013:
Carly, I had my husband do the same thing!! I was so disappointed. Thanks for voting it up and sharing.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 26, 2013:
faythef, Where I am living now, I don't have the space to grow them either. They sure are fun to grow though.
Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on March 25, 2013:
Pumpkins are my favorite things. I am always happier when I see pumpkins, I do not know why. Maybe because they are a symbol of bounty in the fall. They are orange and round and a reminder of Halloween.
I once tried to grow a big pumpkin. The vine stretched through my whole back yard. I carefully mowed the lawn around it and tried not to disturb it. One day my husband cut the lawn and chopped up my vine and pumpkin. It was devestating.
To grow a big pumpkin you need big space and a husband who is on board with you. :)
Voted up and shared, because I just love pumpkins and your hub.
Faythe Payne from USA on March 25, 2013:
Great article..voting up and across..I sure wish I had the space to grow pumpkins.