Last year the Pawnee City Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 1st annual Harvest Bash, a fall celebration that included a giant pumpkin weigh-off in the town square.  The turnout was outstanding, and growers hauled their giant pumpkins from as far away as Des Moines, Iowa, Manhattan, Kansas, and Omaha to compete for cash prizes.  The first place pumpkin tipped the scales at over 1,100 pounds!  

          According to a news release from the Pawnee City

Chamber of Commerce, “Harvest Bash 2015 will be held on October 10th, and growers will be competing for $5,000 in prize money. Pawnee City is the hometown of Dan Whitney, a/k/a Larry the Cable Guy, and the 1st prize 'Git-R-Done' pumpkin will win $2,000.  This is the only sanctioned weigh-off in Nebraska, and will include giant watermelons and also traditional field pumpkins.”

          ‘The state record in Nebraska is 1,399 lbs. and was set last year by a man from Bellevue, Nebraska. The world record was set last year in Germany--2,323.7 lbs!”

          “Giant pumpkin seeds have a hard seed coat, so filing the edges and soaking them in water helps with germination.  Plants are started indoors and moved to small huts in the garden very early in the spring.  Pumpkins are very susceptible to cold weather and many insects, and lots of diligence is required to launch a healthy plant in the garden.  Protecting the plants from the wind is very important until the vines have a chance to root down and grab hold of the earth.  Giant pumpkins are usually pollinated by hand and the blossom is then tied shut to keep out other pollinators.  Irrigation systems are usually used.  A single vine covers about 900 square feet and will need 80 gallons of water/day during dry periods.  Because giant pumpkins grow so fast, it's important to protect the fruit from the sun so the outer surface remains soft and pliable and doesn't split.  Most growers install a tarp over the pumpkin to shield it from the sun's direct rays.”

          Growing giant pumpkins is not easy and takes a lot of time, work, and water. Atlantic Giant seems to be the only variety of pumpkin that will create an enormous pumpkin in the home garden. One record pumpkin grower says he needs at least 900 square feet per plant and applies 100 gallons of water per day. When the pumpkins are about 30 pounds or the size of volleyball, he selects the one or 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.  Fall soil preparation is very important and includes adding lots of compost and/or composted manure to the bed.

          I do not try to raise giant pumpkins but have had fun raising mini-pumpkins for our granddaughter and our friends. I have had the best luck with “Jack-Be-Little” (orange) and “BABY BOO” (white) varieties, and PIE PUMPKIN (Small Sugar Pie). I plant Butternut Squash (Waltham) and ACORN SQUASH (Table Queen) every year in the garden and they take over a large section of my garden. I have enough room thanks to my neighbor who lets me “farm” his garden space. So if you grow pumpkins or squash, make sure you have enough room.

Copyright 2015