A Listener Shares Pictures and Story of Growing 500 lb Pumpkins
Adam Wulf sent us a Facebook message last year with some pictures of giant pumpkins that he had grown. We shared them with everybody on our website and social media pages because they were pretty amazing. Adam touched base again this year to show off his latest feats of amazing gourd growing. Read below as Adam tells the process of turning seeds into pumpkins that weighed in at 550 and 590 pounds.
Started the Seeds April 1st. These are not your run of the mill seeds from the box stores. One is a seed from last years I grew, the other is from a different grower, but really strong genetics that I wanted to bring into the line I’m working. Soak the seeds in a solution, place in starting mix that is amended a bit, placed in a seed starting mini greenhouse with a heat mat under to keep the soil around 85 degrees. HAHA! Not just grab a pack of seeds and toss in the dirt :0)
Once sprouted they come off the heat and go under grow lights. Very weak fertilizer once a week until they go in the ground, this year was April 20th. Bunch of ground prep work before, compost, tilling and such. These are planted under a hoop house, on top of in-ground heating cables and covered with blankets at night to keep them warmer since spring can be rough.
Once they are starting to get settled in the ground after a week or so, then it gets really interesting. Still refining my process and learning more from other growers. Basically, each day they get watered and/or fertilized. This allows a constant availability of nutrients, while not overdosing them. Or at least that's the plan.
As the vines start growing the amount and variety of fertilizers change depending on the needs of the plant. Also, as it grows, each leaf node will get dusted with a few things and buried with soil/compost. This allows roots to grow at each leaf and drastically increase water and nutrient uptake.
About 2 months in, the pumpkin flowers start showing up. There is a science to where and how far out to set the pumpkin. The one plant this year it took 3 tries to get one pollinated. I control the pollination, so tie up the flower the night before it opens, gather flowers from the other plant, then in the morning, untie, pollinate and retie. This allows me to know what they are crossed with and keep records of the genetics of the seeds.
Once it’s pollinated the needs of the plant change and so does the fertilizing. I do various things like compost tea to keep the soil microbial life thriving. The hopes there is to allow them to release more nutrients to the plants.
Given it was 2020, why would the weather be anything but difficult? Colder June, cool in early August, 28 degrees on Sept 8 and 9th…...it was a challenge to say the least. As summer went on, the amount of time water/fertilizing and burying the new vines increased drastically.
The fruits are covered with white sheets to keep the direct sun off of them. Sun and wind can dry the skin and stop it from expanding, which can cause your pumpkin to blow up. I measure them each day to get an estimated weight so I can keep track of what I’m doing and if it correlates to more pumpkin growth. Every night I’m out in my patch and garden to maintain, water, etc. from after dinner till almost dark. Eventually the plants get to the point where you have to start controlling the vines as they will take every square foot you give them and then take more!
As the nights start cooling down, the pumpkins are covered with thicker blankets to keep them warmer so they keep growing. Then it's picking time. This year given the early frost in September, I was amazed the plants survived and kept growing the pumpkins. I wasn’t sure just when to pull them out but one of my neighbors was more than generous and brought his tractor over.
This year wouldn’t have been possible without my wife and son’s help in growing them. In early May I had my second spinal fusion surgery and was not able to do the majority of things this summer.
Now to do soil tests and prep work for next year. Still going after the state record and hoping to hit 1200 lbs.
Two questions I get when talking to people about these;
1. Why giant pumpkins? It started as a competition with my dad, and now its because I want to see how big I can get, maybe if enough people get into this, we can start having a local weigh off competition.
2. What do you do with them after? Carve them for Halloween of course.
Grown in Lolo and without a greenhouse, sure isn't easy. Someday maybe ill have a greenhouse. Now it’s just something to stand next to 2 really big pumpkins!