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.  In the fall 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 .

          In 2007 Joe Jutras of Scituate, Rhode Island hauled in the winner at 1,689 pounds and set a new world record. This year the orange behemoth tipped the scales at 1,725 pounds and another new world record. Christy Harp , a High School math teacher from Jackson Township , Ohio , grew the pumpkin with her husband, Nick . For Christy , growing gargantuan gourds has become a personal challenge since the eighth grade, and is now a bit of a hobby at the family farm. Last year she and her husband decided to have a little contest. Nick won the first year by 200 pounds and this year she beat him by 400 pounds. She said that at one point in August, the pumpkin was growing 33 pounds a day.      

          Atlantic Giant” (Cucurbita maxima) seems to be the only variety of pumpkin that will create an enormous pumpkin and was developed from more standard-sized stock by a man in Nova Scotia named Howard Dill in the early 1970s. One record pumpkin grower says he needs 900 square feet per plant. When the pumpkins are about 30 pounds or the size of a volleyball, he selects the one or two best, removes the rest, and applies 100 gallons of water per day. During the hot summer he even puts a tent over the pumpkin to keep it from getting sun scald.  Fall soil preparation is very important and includes adding lots of compost and/or composted manure to the bed.

          The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in this country each year. Estimates also show that pumpkin crops have been growing over the last couple of decades.

Pumpkins, which are thought to be native to North America , are a warm weather crop, which means they grow best in the summer months with temperatures in the low to mid-80s Fahrenheit according to George Janowiak , president of the Illinois Pumpkin Growers Association. Illinois , Indiana , Ohio , Pennsylvania , and California are the top pumpkin producing states in the United States .       

          There have been some pumpkin problems this year. An early frost in August killed off much of the Wisconsin crop. Unusually high rain amounts crippled many crops in New England this year, with Maine hit particularly hard. An early season heavy rain can soak a field and rot the seeds.  Therefore, seeds must be replanted which can leave a farmer under pressure to make the mid-fall harvest. Pumpkins seemed to have faired better this year in other areas of the United States .

          I did not raise giant pumpkins but did have fun raising mini-pumpkins and pie pumpkins. I also planted Butternut Squash ( Waltham ), Acorn Squash (Table Queen and Honey Bear), and Pie Pumpkin (Small Sugar Pie) in the garden in addition to different kinds of gourds for Gladys . The vines took over the garden, so if you grow pumpkins, squash, and/or gourds make sure you have enough room. Also, if you plan on storing your harvest make sure you have room to store them. Last year I had Butternut squash keep until Easter in the basement. I stored them at 60 to 65 degrees F. under a large sink triple sink.

Copyright 2009




by george edgar


          A man asked me if it was better to power rake in the spring or in the fall. I told him NEITHER!!! He then asked me “When should I power rake?” I told him NEVER!!!! Power raking is very hard on a lawn. This is especially true in the spring when new little seedlings are coming up. The power rake tears them out by the roots and leaves you with a much thinner lawn.

          The best thing you can do for your lawn is to core aerate in the spring between April 15th and May 15th and in the fall between August 15th and September 15th. Pulling out the little plugs of dirt opens up the sod and allows thatch to decompose naturally and add organic matter to the soil.  If you have kids or pets, you definitely need to aerate twice a year to combat compaction. Leave the little cores on the lawn or break them up with your lawn mower if you don’t like the looks.

          Thatch comes from the leaf sheaves and crowns that build up and do not decompose. Remember, thatch is caused by over fertilization and mowing too short. If you want to check on your thatch take a spade and remove a 6 inch by 6 inch layer of sod 6 inches deep. The thatch is the material between the bottom of the grass crown and the soil. If you are uncertain, take your 6x6x6 inch piece of sod to a garden center or your local extension office for inspection. They will give it back to you so you do not have a big bare spot. 

          There is one exception to the “no power rake”. That is when you have more than 1/2 inch of thatch. However, using a core aerator both fall and spring will over a couple years decompose thatch naturally, is not as hard on your lawn as power raking, and is beneficial.

          Mow your lawn at least 2 ½ inches to 3 inches year around. Mowing too short also causes stress on the grass and invites disease and insect problems. My mower is set as high as it will go year around. Remember, thatch is caused by over fertilization and mowing too short.

Copyright 2009