I rarely go off topic with my Portland Appraisal Blog.
However, I thought this would be a fun exception. One of my hobbies, other than water skiing, is growing giant pumpkins.
This year, our two boys each helped grow their own giant pumpkins.
The smaller of the two pumpkins grew to 974 pounds.
After the local weigh off, we put it on display at the boys’ school.
Once Halloween had passed, we removed the seeds and plan to give them to the school kids for a chance to grow their own.
This blog post will serve as simple directions for anyone with those seeds to grow their own giant pumpkin next year.
Get a seed with good genetics. If you have one of my seeds, you've already done that. These seeds' genetics can be traced to the world's first pumpkin to break 2,000 pounds.
Select a spot in the yard or garden.
The larger the area (to a point) with the more sun, the bigger the pumpkin will grow.
A 25x25x25 triangle is ideal, but I’ve grown big pumpkins in areas that are smaller than 10x10.
Mix compost into your garden in the fall or early spring.
Big pumpkins like lots of well-aged compost and crumbly soil that drains well.
I add loads of mushroom compost to fix most soil problems.
Think about how you’re going to train the vine when selecting a spot (see #4 below).
Around April 15th, plant the seed pointy side down, just below the surface (less than one inch), in a mound of soil near one edge of the patch.
Do not compact the soil. I start my seeds indoors under a grow light and transplant the seedlings to the mound (covered by a cold frame) a couple weeks later; but some of my biggest pumpkins have grown without the protection of
a cold frame.
Soak your seed in water overnight before planting.
Protect your baby seedling from wind, frost, or early heat.
Train the vine to grow in the shape of a Christmas tree that is laying on its side.
Imagine that the main vine is the trunk of the Christmas tree and the secondary vines sprout out of the main vine and grow to the sides.
Any vines that sprout off the secondary vine are called tertiary (third) and should be removed.
Tertiary vines will only drain energy from your plant.
I use small barbeque skewers as stakes to hold the vine in the direction that I want it to grow.
Only train the vines (using extreme caution) in the afternoon when the plant is warm.
Bending the vine can cause breaking or cracking. If the main vine becomes damaged, that could be the end of hopes for a large pumpkin.
The vine can be trained with constant pressure by moving the vine a little each day rather than in one bend or motion.
As the plant grows, gently cover all the vines with garden soil to encourage secondary root production.
When the regular rain stops, you will need to water your pumpkin every day.
Big pumpkins require plenty of water, but do not flood the plant.
A giant pumpkin takes roughly the same amount of water as it takes to keep a patch of lawn green — and a giant pumpkin growing in your yard is far more exciting than just a patch of green grass.
The female flowers (with bulbs on the bottom) will become pumpkins if pollinated.
They can be hand pollinated using the longer stemmed male flowers, or merely let the bees do the work.
If you’re on pace for a big pumpkin, pollination will happen in early June and the flower will soon start to develop into a pumpkin.
Once you have a couple of pumpkins about the size of a basketball on the plant, select the fastest growing pumpkin and remove all the others.
If you keep two pumpkins, the plant will be splitting its energy between both pumpkins.
The biggest pumpkins will usually grow on the main vine about ten feet from the stump, but big pumpkins can be grown on secondary vines.
Our pumpkin grew on a secondary after the pumpkin on the main vine stopped growing (luckily, I had not yet removed the other pumpkins).
Don’t let the vine sprout roots into the ground within several feet of either side of the pumpkin.
As the pumpkin grows, the vine needs to be free to raise off the ground and not break.
Don’t try to move the pumpkin. Small pumpkins are fragile like a tomato and damage to early skin can make them crack open when they get larger.
Even the scratchy underside of pumpkin leafs rubbing on the baby pumpkin can damage its skin.
Protect your pumpkin from the sun. Some growers use a shade.
I cover my pumpkins with a sheet.
Follow these steps and with a little luck, you will have a big pumpkin next fall.
Parents are free to contact me if they have questions, want to show pictures (I would love to see them), need more seeds, or need advice on transporting your harvest.
Did I leave anything out or do you want to join in the conversation?
Let me know in the comments below.
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