Growing giant pumpkins
When Bob Liggett first tackled growing his first-ever giant pumpkin – he never anticipated it would eventually turn into a passion that would take place over the next 26 years. Since then, Bob has won at least twelve times in the giant pumpkin contest that takes place at the Circleville Pumpkin Show each year and has managed to grow a pumpkin as heavy as 1,964lbs, according to PumpkinShow.com.
Despite having a knack for growing some of the biggest pumpkins you’ll see, Bob wasn’t always notorious for growing these mammoth beasts. Over the years he mastered skills and learned techniques that help him grow his giant pumpkins every year.
Upon stepping into his pumpkin patch, the first thing your eyes naturally gravitate towards is the giant pumpkins resting underneath their large tarps and wrapped in a large, queen-sized sheet (to protect it from rabbits chewing on it). Bob shared that looking at the pumpkins when visiting a patch distracts them from all the amazing things that take place in a patch.
“The biggest mistake that people make when they go to a pumpkin patch is they look at the pumpkins, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is how they make them,” Bob shared.
So, how does one grow a giant pumpkin? It takes a lot of hard work, determination, a willingness to be persistent, and a lot of different techniques to make sure that your pumpkin survives the wrath of Mother Nature.
“Mother Nature doesn’t get her way with us. She does, but, you know, we try not to let her. We do a lot of crazy things to make the pumpkin patch the way we want it,” Bob explained.
The process of growing a giant pumpkin is by starting with growing the seeds in pots just before the end of April, around April 23. By the beginning of May, the plants are then moved to the garden.
Bob has a system set up in his patch that makes it easier for him to get out there and keep an eye on his pumpkin. This year, he and his grandson are both growing giant pumpkins – which are already incredible in size. Bob estimates that his pumpkin could be anywhere around 1200 pounds, with his grandsons trailing behind at nearly 1,000 pounds.
With the weather in Ohio unpredictable and the wind capable of getting to high speeds, it is important that you find ways to help protect your pumpkins vines from potential damage. Bob has set up a silver tarp that blocks the wind from breaking any leaves or vines, as breaks would allow for more of a chance for diseases.
Other pests, such as aphids and cucumber beetles, can be bad for your pumpkin plant. According to GardeningKnowHow.com, Aphids are more likely to cause damage in larger numbers, which can cause your plants leaves to yellow and can spread a sticky substance called honeydew. They’re still able to spread diseases at smaller numbers. Bob has installed a silver tarp tent over the main vine leading to his pumpkin and over his pumpkin to help repel the aphids.
On top of making sure that the pumpkin is protected, Bob shared that it is also important to make sure that your pumpkin is pampered – yes, just like with any plant and even more so than usual, your giant pumpkin requires a lot of attention. This means stopping out every day, checking on your pumpkin, and sometimes even talking to it.
That aside, there are other important ways that will help your pumpkin thrive and grow well. For Bob, this includes a pretty neat little system that allows him to distribute water evenly to the plant. With lines ran throughout to the end of the patch and a fertilizer tank attached to the system, he’s able to produce almost 90 gallons of water a day.
With Ohio’s unpredictable weather, rain can certainly hit at any time. Too much water could cause the pumpkin to grow too fast, which is not something a pumpkin grower wants. His rain gauge allows him to figure out and factor in how much rain has hit in a day, allowing him to gauge how much water to run through his system. An inch of water a week is the perfect amount for his area of pumpkins, which is how he sat up his system.
As far as rain goes, Bob shared that this has been one of the healthiest plant years he has had. The hot weather Ohio has given us this year helped prevent the fungus from the beginning, which is another thing you’ll have to be mindful of when taking care of a pumpkin.
If you’ve ever visited a giant pumpkin patch, you’ll notice that a lot of patches have a fan up on their pumpkins. While a part of the pampering treatment, the fan isn’t out there to keep your pumpkin cool on a hot summer day. The fan is directed at the vine connected to the pumpkin, which is where the fluid from watering is pulled into. This ensures that the pumpkin is thriving and helps with bacteria or fungus.
“When the pumpkin grows real fast, the fluid goes in that end of the pumpkin. And sometimes, it’s a little more than it can take and so it leaks. It’s like when you screw the hose on your spigot, you don’t quite get it tight [so] it leaks a little bit. The fan is designed to dry that up,” Bob said.
At the end of our tour, Bob confessed that the different areas of growing a pumpkin were nothing less than extraordinary. Everything works together to make sure that the pumpkin gets what it needs to grow. The main vine in front of the pumpkin is what delivers the nutrients, so it’s, of course, the primary focus for making sure it’s protected. While the side vines are not as vital to the growth of the pumpkin, it is still important and fascinating in terms of how it works together to make a pumpkin grow.
“I look at each one of those is a little manufacturing plant,” Bob stated, talking about the vines surrounding the pumpkin. As he put it, the more healthy manufacturing plants he has, the more it helps his pumpkin.
The leaves and the vines work like a funnel to suction what water is around into the ground. It had rained before our arrival at Bob’s giant pumpkin patch, so we were able to get an idea of how the vines work in favor of the pumpkin.
“The suction works like a funnel, takes the water right down to the where the root is under each one of these leaves,” Bob explained.
Bob Liggett is a part of the Circleville Giant Pumpkin Growers, a group of about 50 members that all share a passion for growing giant pumpkins. They encourage new growers to take a shot at growing and have a wealth of information about growing giant pumpkins that is important for anyone to know.
“It’s fun to imagine a seed the size of a nickel can produce something that weighs over 1000 pounds. It’s just, it’s an amazing thing,” Bob admits.
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