How to Grow a Big Pumpkin

For Travis Gienger, there’s nothing quite like growing a 2,000-pound pumpkin (roughly the weight of a rhinoceros or a walrus) in his garden. And this year, his big hobby led him to big winnings. 

The horticulture teacher from Anoka, Minn., set a new U.S. record at the 49th Safeway Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half-Moon Bay, Cali. His 2,560-pound gourd came in first place with a $23,000 winning prize, at $9 per pound. Beating the old North American record by 9 pounds, Gienger’s pumpkin is now the second largest in the world, right behind a 2,702-pound beast weighed at the 10th Campionato della Zuccone pumpkin festival in Italy in 2021.

This year’s championship isn’t Gienger’s first pumpkin weighing rodeo. He competed in the 2020 competition with a 2,350-pound winner, and has been raising his massive friends since he was 14 years old working in his family’s garden. Needless to say, Gienger has perfected his step-by-step award-winning pumpkin-growing process and shared it with us just a few days after his victory.

“Well, I’m going to warn you, it’s a long process,” he said with a laugh over the phone. “But it’s a fun one.” 

Step one: In mid-April, plant the giant pumpkin seeds indoors in potting soil.

Giant pumpkins carry around 800 seeds, and are sold after pumpkin-weighing competitions. World Class Gardening is selling seeds from Gienger’s 2020 winner at $175 per seed.   

Step two: In a month, move the plants to an outside space, like a garden or a greenhouse. 

And by garden or greenhouse, we mean at least 1,500 square feet of space. Gienger’s 2022 winning pumpkin needed 2,000 square feet to grow, per ABC7 News. For reference, that’s about the size of a pickleball court. 

Step three: As soon as flowers start to blossom on your pumpkin plant, it’s time to pollinate by hand which normally happens after 60 days.

Although bees are natural pollinators, giant pumpkin growing farmers, including Gienger, prefer to pollinate by hand to ensure the best female flower has a higher chance of pollination. Find a female flower, find a male flower, and pollinate. Sounds easy enough, right? Pick away all of the outer petals of a newly opened male blossom to expose the fresh pollen. Swab the center of the female blossom with the male pollen, and ta-da, your plant is pollinated. A tip: Be sure to do this before 9 a.m. or the bees will beat you to it.  

Step four: Let your soon-to-be gargantuan pumpkin grow until the first week of October. 

During the growing process, Gienger fertilized this year’s winner 14 times a day, meanwhile one competitor claimed she watered her giant pumpkin with 150 gallons of water per day. Picking weeds, fighting Minnesota’s sporadic weather conditions, and keeping animals away from the growing leaves and vines are all part of the gourd growing process.  

All in all, it takes about six months to grow a pumpkin the size of a small car.  

“Within the first 70 days after it’s pollinated, it should get to be about 3,000 pounds,” Gienger explained. “They’ll grow about 55 pounds a day. It’s fun, you can literally watch them grow.” 

Although his winnings scored Gienger a national record and the reputation of pumpkin-growing king, this year’s competition might be his last. His two-time winning title and love for growing gargantuan gourds is more than enough to have satisfied his hobby. 

“It’s fun and I enjoy it,” Gienger said about participating in the championship in the future. “But maybe not. We’ll see what happens.”   

Source link

Latest articles

Related articles