March 2019 - 18

Atlantic giant pumpkins
can pull in foot traffic
Prized seeds are removed from a giant pumpkin at the New York Botanical Garden event in
October 2018. Photo: Gary Grande
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
Rearing Atlantic giant pumpkins
is an outsize challenge, but growers
with ready land, equipment and green
thumbs are better equipped than most,
say enthusiasts.
And they do carry some weight as a
display item. What says, " farm market "
better than a big pumpkin?
Gary Grande is the president of The
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18 |
Gary Grande and his wife pose with a champion pumpkin they grew in 2018.
Photo: Gary Grande
Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, an
international group for folks who, for
fun, regularly grow pumpkins in excess
of 800 pounds. The hobbyists come from
a variety of walks of life. Grande, an IT
professional from Colorado, said it's
generally thought to be an unprofitable
proposition in and of itself (he knows
only one person who grows a number of
them for sale) but the giants are generally
thought to be a draw for foot traffic, and
are sometimes sought by bars, casinos or
public fall festivals for harvest displays or
other promotions - such as contests to
guess the pumpkin's weight.
Which, in the case of last year's
champion, a pumpkin pictured above, is
2,075 pounds.
Grande said that growers gunning for
a champion cucurbit use quite a variety
of tricks, but the first consideration is
space. A single pumpkin - the grower
will pinch off and prune all but one
of the fruit from the vine - will need
about 500-1,000 square feet (Mikkal G.
Hodge, president of the Indiana Pumpkin
Growers Association, said that of course,
a grower can grow 20 perfectly good jacko-lanterns
on the same 1,000 square feet).
Genetics also is a consideration.
" You have to have a good seed
pedigree, " Grande said. Big pumpkin
growers typically harvest and save
seeds from champion-level pumpkins.
Sometimes they are auctioned off
by grower associations to help cover
association expenses and prize funds, but
the growers themselves also exchange
seeds personally. " These seeds are sought
after, " he said.
Hodge said that Atlantic Giant
Pumpkin seed is available through
most seed companies, but the diehard
enthusiast in him prefers seeds that he
knows were the result of hand pollination,
rather than whatever pollen happens to
circulate in an open field.
" The best source for seeds would be the
growers, " he said. " We know the genetics,
with high certainty, of what we're growing. "
Once the pumpkin vine starts
growing, Grande said it's best to let it
grow to 12-15 feet from the stump before
allowing pumpkin flowers to grow - less
than 12 feet isn't enough plant to feed the
giant and at more than 15 feet the vine

March 2019

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