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 Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) that overseas and sanctions the results of over 80 weigh offs across the globe. hosts an interactive website for them that connects the giant pumpkin and squash community and has a record of the giant winners since 2005.

          I started writing about world record pumpkins in 2006. That year the record was 1,502# set by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island. In 2007 Joe Jutras of Scituate, Rhode Island hauled in the winner at 1,689# and a new world record. In 2009 the orange behemoth tipped the scales at 1,725# 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. In 2008 she and her husband decided to have a little contest. That year Nick won by 200# but in 2009 she beat him by 400# and set the new world record. She said that at one point in August of 2009, the pumpkin was growing 33# a day” (1) In 2010 Chris Stevens of New Richmond, WI sets another world record at 1810.5 pounds!! (2)

          This year (2012) the largest pumpkin broke the 2000 pound barrier and weighed in at 2009 pounds and was 458 inches around. It was a cross between a #1725 Harp and a #1409 Miller, and grown by Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island. He won in 2006 and also grew the second largest pumpkin (1,872 pounds) in 2012. (2)

          Atlantic Giant” (Cucurbita maxima) seems to be the primary variety of pumpkin that will create an enormous pumpkin in the ordinary family garden. The original seed was developed from more standard-sized stock by a man in Nova Scotia named Howard Dill in the early 1970s. Present day growers of record giant pumpkins usually save their seeds and sell them at a pretty good price for one seed.

          In order to grow a large pumpkin, fall soil preparation is very important and includes adding lots of compost and/or composted manure to the bed.  According to Ohio State University “Growing giant pumpkins requires an early start. Seeds should be sown individually and started indoors in 12 inch peat pots about the end of April. Plants are ready for transplanting when the first true leaf is fully expanded. Granular fertilizers should be applied as a broadcast application over the soil surface and incorporated into the soil 4 to 6 inches deep a few days ahead of setting out transplants....A foliar feeding program should be started after pollination and fruit set have occurred. Follow label directions and continue application throughout the growing season.” (3) 

          Or you can start seeds outside in the garden in Southeast and South Central Nebraska when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees F. A row cover can be used to protect the plants on cold nights. When the pumpkins are about 30# or the size of a volleyball, one grower 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. 

          According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture about 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in this country each year. Estimates also show that the number of acres planted to pumpkins has 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, a past president of the Illinois Pumpkin Growers Association. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California are the top pumpkin producing states in the United States.

          Pumpkins can have problems. In 2009 an early frost in August killed off much of the Wisconsin crop. Also that year unusually high rain amounts crippled many crops in New England 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 in 2010 and 2011 in most areas of the United States. 2012 was a very hot and dry year so only those growers who watered their crop on a regular basis were able to have a normal crop

          One year I grew “Swan Gourds” for Gladys and the vines took over the garden. If you grow pumpkins, squash, and/or gourds make sure you have enough room. Ohio State University Extension recommends about 2500 square feet per plant for giant Pumpkins.(3) Also, if you plan on storing your harvest, make sure you have room to store them. Last year (2011) I harvested and stored 45 Butternut Squash and had a couple of them keep until Memorial Day in the basement. When I pick my gourds, squash, and pumpkins I try to wait until the stem is brown and dry. Some of them always start to spoil before we enjoy them because they are not mature as indicated by completely dry stems or have some green stripes on the fruit. I store them at 60 to 65 degrees F. under a large triple sink in bulb crates I get from my son. This year because of the warm, dry summer and the insects, I did not get any to store.

Reference:   1. Lincoln Journal Star October 22, 2010, page A8


                   3. Growing Giant Pumpkins in the Home Garden, Ohio State                               University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-1646-94                                              (      Other resources:       

          This web site has a picture of the new record Pumpkin and its grower.           Also on the home page are pictures of the largest Watermelon (326.7 pounds), longest Gourd (137.75 inches), and the largest Field         Pumpkin (209 pounds), and their growers for 2012.

Copyright 2012