How To Grow A 500 Pound Pumpkin
We decided to grow a 500 pound this year in Alan Bogardus's garden at the Red Barn Preserve. Step 1 was easy. George Coslar brought in his equipment and we turned over the soil. It remains to be seen if we can actually get the job done.
Step 2 was to erect a strong fence around the perimeter of the garden to keep the critters out. Deer can be tough to deal with
Step 3 - Plant the seeds. I created 6 large mounds of dirt at least 25 feet apart and planted between 4 and 6 pumpkin seeds in each mound. The seed plantings occurred May 19th. The seeds were Atlantic Pumpkin seeds purchased on Ebay. Each seed package were seeds that came from giant pumpkins over 1,000 pounds. The directions say if the temp is 88 degrees the seeds should pop up in 4 days. Well - in the north country it does not get to 88 degrees until July. No surprise to find out I only got three plants to emerge 20 days later when the temperature hit 75 degrees. I am an optimist - I now have 3 chances to get my 500 pound pumpkin
Step 4 Deal With Critters. I found 2 painted turtles about 10 inches long wandering through the garden on the same day the seeds germinated. The battle with critters has started !!!
Step 5: Deal With Bugs. It is now July 7th. The Aphids have been tough to beat. I spray with a chemical designed to kill aphids and I need to spray almost daily to keep these hungry bugs away.
Step 6 Summary Of Where We Are. Today is July 7, 2019. I planted 25 seeds on May 19th and now have 5 seeds that germinated. 3 of the 5 plants look strong- the other 2 might not make it. It is getting late in this short season. The good news is that we finally have dry weather and hot temperatures- about 85 degrees each day.
Step 7 Summary of Where We Are- Today is July 16th and the first flowers have appeared on the vines. There are two male blossoms and one female blossom. We have also finished installing the last pieces of fence fabric on upper sections of the fence. We now have at least 6 feet tall fence around the garden. Are we winning the battle with the deer? Time will tell
Step 8- Pollinate The Pumpkin. July 28. Decided to hand pollinate the pumpkin because I was not sure if I had enough bees to do the job. I learned that the aphids are eating up the blossoms and that I had very little to work with. Pictures show me holding a male blossom (stamen) and the female blossom (stigma) after I had rubbed the pollen across the female flower. A rubber band is used to keep the blossom closed to keep out aphids and other insects.
Step 9- Grow the pumpkin. August 14th- I now have two pumpkins on the one vine. The largest is a little larger than a basketball. Seems like the plant has stopped growing. The leaves remain green and I am hoping all the energy of the plant is going into the fruit. For the first time I am willing to concede that I might not get a 500 pound pumpkin this year- it will be something less. Its a race against time as the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler.
Step 10- Grow Pumpkin. August 29- Turns out I have two vines growing with one pumpkin on each end of the vine. Pumpkin #1 is bright orange and measures 16 long by 15 inches wide. Pumpkin #2 is on the other end of the vines and has not turned orange yet- measures 12 inches wide by 12 wide. So far I have been winning the battle with the deer and have not sustained any crop damage from them.
Step 11- Grow Pumpkin September 7- the plants have stopped growing and the leaves are turning yellow- the end is in sight. I have applied my last application of Miracle Grow fertilizer. The pumpkins are getting orange in color. I expect to leave the two pumkins on the vines until the end of September.