Gardeners are always competing with each other.  They want to have the greenest lawn, be the first to have a new plant, or the first on the block to have a ripe tomato.  At Halloween time the competition is for the largest pumpkin.

          In order to settle who has the largest pumpkin, the pumpkin growers have formed The World Pumpkin Confederation (WPC) that conducts pumpkin growing contests. There are contest sites all over the world including a few sites in Australia and New Zealand.

          Ron Wallace of Rhode Island took home this year’s pumpkin growing title with his 1,502 pound pumpkin, setting a new world record. “Atlantic Giant seems to be the only variety of pumpkin that will create an enormous pumpkin. One record pumpkin grower says these giant pumpkins need a minimum of 500 square feet per plant. When the pumpkins are about 30 pounds or the size of a volleyball, he selects the two best and removes the rest. During the hot summer he even puts a tent over the pumpkins to keep them from getting sun scald.  He checks on them daily to make sure that no insects or borers get to them, and a friendly neighbor and competitor will watch them when he is on vacation. Both fall soil preparation, and watering during the growing season on an as-needed basis, is very important.

          I did not try to raise giant pumpkins but did have fun raising mini-pumpkins for my granddaughter. This is the second year I planted them in my garden. I had the best luck with “Jack-Be-Little” variety. I planted some “Wee-Be-Little” but they didn’t do as well. I also had “Butternut Squash (variety unknown), “KABOCHA Squash (Sunshine variety), and “Swan Gourds” in the garden. They took over the garden, so if you grow them make sure you have enough room.

          This past spring I planted my pumpkins, squash, and gourds at the base of my compost piles and then let the compost feed them all summer long. At last count I raised over 300 mini-pumpkins thanks to my neighbor who lets me “farm” his garden space. If you want to see my pumpkin garden before the frost, and then after the frost, go to . This is Gary Jeurink’s (Gladys’ son) website. He lives in Grand Island, Nebraska. On the right, click on “Gardening”. When this comes up you will see at the top “Gardening Tips from George and Gladys”. He has our last three articles for easy access on the right side. If you click on the “Tips” you will see archives of some of our articles and currently at the bottom of the page are the before and after pictures. Mary and Gary are really into Halloween. If you want to see their spooky Halloween Garden, look for “Mary and Gary’s Garden” at the bottom of the first page of his website. Click on this. It is worth a visit.   

          I start my compost piles in the fall as soon as I have the garden cleaned up. I have two round plastic containers that my wife and I got by attending compost demonstrations put on by the County Extension Service, and made the others from woven wire fencing. They are about 3 feet across and 4 feet high. Last fall a friend brought me all the leaves from his lawn that he had collected with his mower. I like this as the leaves are chopped up and compost faster. I put a layer of leaves on the bottom, about 5 or 6 inches, and then a layer of coffee grounds. The coffee grounds came from one of the coffee houses close to my home. Coffee grounds have the same nitrogen to carbon ratio as grass clippings so they really work good to heat up the pile. (Coffee grounds are also good around hosta to discourage and repel slugs and snails.) I also added kitchen scraps to my compost piles from time to time during the winter and summer. One time I put my soil thermometer in the compost pile and it registered 140 degrees F. If your compost pile gets to 140 degrees F. it will kill most weed seeds. If it goes on up to 160 degrees F. most of the fungus pathogens will be killed.

          Starbucks gives away coffee grounds in 5 pound bags at all of their stores. Just ask for them. Other coffee houses are usually happy to save them for you. I collect mine in 5 gallon buckets. If you don’t have coffee grounds or green grass clippings, add high nitrogen lawn fertilizer to heat up the pile.

          Many people don’t make compost piles as they say it is too much work. I am lazy so I got a tulip planter that fits on my 3/8 inch drill. It is a 2 ˝ inch auger that is 18 inches long. I use it to turn my compost piles without shoveling. Just run it up and down and once in a while at an angle in order to mix up the pile. Don’t forget that your pile also needs water from time to time. Again, I am lazy so I just hook up my Ross Root Feeder to the hose and stick it down in the pile at numerous sites. A Ross Root Feeder has a long metal rod with holes at the bottom for the water to come out.

          For more information about making compost or growing pumpkins, call your County Extension Service or go on the internet to “”. In the top box scroll down to “extension publications”. In the bottom box type in the name of what you want information about such as “compost” or “pumpkins”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service publications will be listed and available to read, save, and/or print. This web site can be used to get information about many trees, shrubs, plants, insects, and diseases. A very good resource for information on growing anything you want to grow or grow better. 

Copyright 2006 Nov. 18