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We live off the grid in the foothills of Appalachia and share with you all we know (and don’t know) about canning, cooking, critters, gardening, solar, building stuff, living debt free, and the journey to be self-sustainable. Click on a topic and get started!

Growing Giant Pumpkins

Growing Giant Pumpkins

About 4 months ago, we saw that two of our favorite YouTube channels were having a pumpkin growing competition.  Eric from Life in Farmland and Melanie from Road to the Farm started a friendly competition to see who could grow the biggest pumpkin using Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Seeds and organic methods.  They opened up the competition to their fans and we decided to join in on the fun!

The first challenge was where to get the seeds.  No one local seemed to carry them and I was hesitant to purchase the seeds from Amazon due to some of the reviews, but in hindsight I believe the poor reviews were because gardeners didn't scarify the seeds.  Regardless,  I ended up finding them at Park Seed.

Once we received the seeds, the girls divided them and decided to experiment with different methods of growing.  Here is what they did:

  1. Both filed the tips off of half of their seeds with a microfile and left the other half unfiled

  2. Both planted some filed and some unfiled in dirt

  3. Both wrapped the remaining seeds in a wet paper towel to germinate

The results were seeds that were heavily filed and planted in soil had the most success.  Each of the girls ended up with 2 hearty plants.

The second challenge was where to plant the seeds.  Dills Atlantic Pumpkins have been known to grow between 200 and 1000 pounds!  Those would most definitely not fit in my garden.  So we ended up tilling up the entire front of the house, adding composted manure, and then covered in mulch.  The girls built 4 mounds, one for each pumpkin plant.  Then watered and waited.

The pumpkins were slow to start and then the vines seemed to grow about a half a foot a day until they completely took over the tilled area, part of our sidewalk and our front landscape beds!  It took a long time until the plants began to bear fruit, but once they did, like the vines they took off.

By the end of July, the pumpkins were on a tear and we were wondering if we might actually get some that were 100 pounds.

Then tragedy struck.

Squash borers and squash bugs.

They just destroyed the vines and the plants.  It seemed to happen overnight.  One day the plants were healthy and the next they were mottled with holes and dried out.  The leaves slowly died. We cut the pumpkins from the vines even though they were not fully orange yet.  Unfortunately, it was too late as the squash bugs bored holes in the pumpkins and they began to rot.

Our biggest pumpkin had quite the adventure before it reached its final resting place of the compost pile.  After we cut it off the vine, we set it on the sidewalk. The next morning, we found the pumpkin at the bottom of our driveway. Somehow it must have started rolling down the hill overnight.  We propped it against the mailbox but it only made it a day before it began to rot.  We did get rough measurements on it and we estimate that it was well over 60 pounds.  Even though it ended up rotting, we are pretty proud of that pumpkin!

We got 4 other pumpkins as well.  The second biggest pumpkin weighed in at 47.6 pounds. No small feat! We are hoping this one makes it until Halloween so we can carve it. If it does, look for an update on our YouTube channel.

So What is the Formula for Growing Giant Pumpkins?

1) File the seeds (scarify)
2) Plant direct with a lot of organic fertilizer (i.e. cow poop)
3) Give lots of sunshine and water regularly
4) Hope the squash borers and bugs don't come!

Be sure to check out our Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin video on YouTube!

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