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The home of giant pumpkins in the Boland


[For some reason Henry’s site has been disabled. Luckily I had a copy of his website saved on my computer. Will put it here for now – until I find out what happened to Henry’s very informative website]


Henry’s Hole







The Rules

Soil Testing

Soil Amendment and Fertilization

Seed Germination

Early Season




Shading and Misting

Disease Control

Late Season

Seed Storage and Harvesting

Pumpkin Cloning



The Basics of Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of the fundamentals of Giant Pumpkin Growing. If all you are interested in is growing a 100 or 200 pound pumpkin and you don't want to risk your relationship with your partner or if you'd like to occasionally see your kids or take a summer vacation, then just follow these steps. This will get you well on your way. Once you have mastered these steps, and you can no longer satisfy your insatiable urge for bigger and bigger, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Early Season

Plant seed with pointed end downward, 1" deep in rich (composted if possible), well drained soil, after the ground has warmed up, and the threat of frost is past. Composted horse, sheep, or cow manure all work very well. A little 5-10-10 commercial fertilizer can also be used a couple times throughout the growing season. It should be used according to the labeled directions.

After planting the seeds, water only enough so that there is just a trace of moisture. Remember that the seeds will rot if the ground is cool and the least bit too wet!

Protect the young plants from wind as much as possible, and cover them at night if there is any danger of frost.

Eeenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe

Do not have plants any closer than 10 feet to each other, (20 feet spacing is preferred). You can have a couple huge pumpkins on one plant if you follow these tips: The plant will usually have two or three main vines, and you can have a really good pumpkin on each of these. Do not let more than one pumpkin grow on each of these though. Also, do not pick any of the later pumpkins until you are quite sure the one you have chosen is going to survive. If one has swelled will beyond softball size in a fairly short time it is properly pollinated and is going to make it. When you are sure it is going to make it, pick the next younger one on down the vine. Wait a few more days before picking the smallest ones farther on down the vine, so that if your first one fails you have another one coming along shortly. If you don't see bees working the flowers you may need to hand pollinate, or the pumpkins will get to a softball size (or larger), shrivel, and fall off the vine.

The Birds and the Bees

To hand pollinate, get up early in the morning and pick several newly opened male flowers. Carefully, tap the male flower so that the pollen falls onto the female flower. Repeat with two or three male flowers for each female. The female flowers will have a fat bud under the flower, which will later develop into the pumpkin. (They also will not have any pollen).


The vines have the ability to send down more roots wherever they have a little soil around the base of the leaves. You should encourage the vines to do so as much as possible by heaping up just a little bit of soil around the base of as many leaves as you have the time to do. The plants can use a lot of water once they are established, but if you have tight clay like soil, water more cautiously, or they will drown.


Pruning your plant will enhance the growth of the pumpkin. Let the main vines grow as long as possible. Trim the secondary vines (the vines that come of the main vines) to about 10 feet. Pinch off all tertiary vines (the vines that come off the secondaries) as soon as they appear. If you run out of room, vines can be trained to grow back in the direction they came from or can be tied to a trellis, or fence and thus grown upward for more leaf space.

To the Moon, Alice

Lastly, as the maturing pumpkin swells, because of its weight and rapid expansion, it can pull itself right off the vine. Take some wood or Styrofoam blocks, and raise the vine up at the area of the pumpkin you hope to keep. Six to eight inches above the normal level of the ground is usually enough to keep the pumpkin from pulling itself off the vine.


There you have it. These are the basics my boy. With some good seed and soil and by following these steps you will be well on your way to growing a giant. As in life, there is always more to learn. That is one of the great aspects of Giant Pumpkin growing. To find out more, check out the following Pumpkin Links. Have fun!

Revised: Monday June 5, 2000





Soil Testing for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

Once you've mastered the basics of pumpkin growing,  you'll want to do all you can to get an edge on all those other growers.  You can't control the weather but you can control the soil. The best place to start is with a soil test.  This will tell you the level of nutrients in the soil and indicate what supplements the soil needs.

What follows is a brief  introduction to soil testing.  Following this are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on soil testing). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Where to Go

A & L Agricultural Laboratories.
1311 Woodland Ave #1
Modesto, Ca. 95351
(209) 529-4080
About $30.00
A & L also has labs in other states. Call for info.

Penn State Labs
They can do all soil testing and it is a a pretty good price.  For example,  a pH, P, K, Mg, Ca test is only $6. You can call them for kits and they will send one to you if you live outside of Pa.  They will also send a catalog of test they perform if you ask  for it.  Their # is  814-863-0841

Or check your phone book or the web....

A Soil Testing Primer

Testing your soil for nutrients and pH is important to provide your plants with the proper balance of nutrients while avoiding over-application. The cost of soil testing is minor in  comparison to the cost of plant materials and labor. Correcting a  problem before planting is much simpler and cheaper than afterwards.

Home tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are available from garden centers. While these may give you a general idea of the  nutrients in your soil, they are not as reliable as tests performed by the  Cooperative Extension Service at land grant universities. University  and other commercial testing services will provide more detail and you can request special tests for micro nutrients if you suspect a problem.  In addition to the analysis of nutrients in your soil, they often provide  recommendations for the application of nutrients or on adjusting the pH.

The test for soil pH is very simple--pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. Since pH greatly influences plant nutrients,  adjusting the pH will often correct a nutrient problem. At a high pH,  several of the micro nutrients become less available for plant uptake. At very low pH, other  micro nutrients may be too available, resulting in a plant toxicity.

Phosphorus and potassium are tested regularly by commercial testing  labs. While there are soil tests for nitrogen, these may be less reliable.  Nitrogen is present in the soil in several forms and the forms can change rapidly. Therefore, a precise analysis of nitrogen is more difficult to obtain. Most university soil test labs do not routinely test for nitrogen. Home testing kits often contain a test for nitrogen which may  give you a general idea of the presence of nitrogen, but again, due to the various transformations of nitrogen, the reading may not be  reliable.

Organic matter is often part of a soil test. Soil organic matter is highly desirable. Organic matter has a large influence on soil structure. Good soil structure improves aeration and water movement and retention.  This encourages increased microbial activity and root growth, both of  which influence the availability of nutrients for plant growth. Soil  organic matter also affects the availability of plant nutrients and how  pesticides react in the soil. Soils high in organic matter tend to have a  greater supply of plant nutrients compared to many soils low in  organic matter. Organic matter tends to bind up some soil pesticides,
 reducing their effectiveness.

Tests for micro nutrients are usually not performed unless there is reason to suspect a problem. Certain plants have greater requirements for specific micro nutrients and may show deficiency symptoms.

Taking a Soil Test

If you intend to send your sample to the land grant university in  your state, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service for  information and sample bags. If you intend to send your sample to a  private testing lab, contact them for specific details about submitting a  sample.

Follow the directions carefully for submitting the sample. The  following are general guidelines for taking a soil sample.

How Often do you Test?

Good question!. This would depend on whether you are just starting out with a new patch and virgin soil or if you are working an existing patch.  My
personal preference is that if you are starting a new patch in virgin ground,  test at least three times. Once prior to doing any amending. Find
out what you have and what needs to be added. Add amendments in the fall and test again in the spring. April is typically when I do this when soil temps
have warmed some. You will get a better and more accurate report if your soil temps have come up a little and microbial action is at work. Amend as
directed by your test results if needed. I like to take a third test around the first week of July, just prior to heavy fruit growth. I do this because
as much as 1/3 of all micro nutrients can be used up by the plant during the vegetative growth stage. If anything is running low I can add a little more
of it in granular form using a whirly bird spreader under the leaf canopy. If you have a established patch and have tested before you should have a
pretty good idea of what is going on with your soil. I would test once in the spring and amend accordingly. Now if  you are soil anal like myself you
can take another test in July to tweak your soil!

-- Chris Andersen

A Close Look at a Real Soil Test

In 1999, Larry and Gerry Checkon grew an 1190 and an 1131 pound pumpkin in their patches.  Larry describes his growing approach:

The 1131 and 1190 were grown in our main patch which is 75' x 36'. Both plants were 33'x33' grown diagonally in Christmas tree shape. Germinated 5/1 and put out 5/15. Used water from a shallow well water system. Put about  8 tons of fresh cow manure on last fall and about 7 tons this fall. Also use lots of mulched oak and maple leaves. We used some fish/seaweed and a variety of foliar fertilizer but sparingly as phosphate level in the soil was already very high. We put on some 0-0-60 in the spring and a little 10-10-10 on Gerry's side of the patch.

For the last 2 years, we have used the mineral and micro nutrient supplement product, Ironite. We put it on just before planting each
year. The soil in the patch is primarily clay on the 1190 side and a mixture of clay, cinders and coal ash on the 1131 side and was in
very poor condition when we started.

Here are the results from their soil tests:  The soil tests were done at Penn State and at IAS Laboratories in Phoenix. Both sides of the patch were tested because of the different soil types and will be refereed to as 1131 and 1190. The IAS Laboratory results are in PPM, the Penn State values are lbs./acre


1131 - IAS

1190 - IAS

1131 - Penn State

1190 - Penn State




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Probably the strangest thing is the pH level which is 7.1 on the 1131 side and 6.0 on the 1190 side. K level is medium on the 1131 side but everything else is in the high to very high range including N, P, Ca, Mg, Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu, and S. Boron was the only low level.

I talked to Dr. Paul Eberhart at IAS today about the results. He feels that the high to very high nitrogen level probably caused the seeds to
mature very slowly and also led to the 1190 splitting. He also recommended adding some lime to the pH 6.0 area but didn't seem too
concerned about the level. He also felt that the organic material released an adequate amount of Boron through the season.

It would appear that anyone who is overly concerned about pH shouldn't be and although 6.5 to 6.8 is considered the optimum range, if your soil
is a little high or low don't sweat it and don't do anything drastic to change it quickly. Nutrient levels may need to be higher for AG's than other crops but care must be taken to not let anything get too excessive.

I can tell you that the soil in the patch was in very poor condition when we started it 2 years ago and it was more luck than anything to get it in good enough  shape to grow 2 1100+ pumpkins with 2 different seeds in the same year. Probably the most important factors were a good water supply, plenty of fresh cow manure and the Ironite which we used to get the nutrient levels up to where they are.

The only thing that really went wrong was the lack of mature seed, but maybe this is something that must be sacrificed in order to gain weight. Possibly we will
learn more about this in the coming years.

-- Larry Checkon

Another Real Live Soil Test

Here are the results of Chris Andersen's soil test done on 7/16/97. Results are as follows in PPM, VH-Very High, M-Medium,  L-Low.

Organic Matter

8.2 VH


142 VH


614 VH


500 M


6791 VH


35 VL


65 VH


1852 VH


16.7 VH


20 H


67 VH


3.2 VH - not accurate due to organic matter level





-- Chris Andersen - grower of the 977 in 1997

Guide to Nutrient Deficiencies in Your Vegetable Garden


Most gardeners are familiar with the "N-P-K" in commercial fertilizers: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). But these three represent only half the major nutrients a plant requires in relatively large amounts. The other  major nutrients are sulfur, calcium and magnesium.


Minor nutrients are not really minor, or unimportant. They are essential - vital to plant growth but needed in lesser amounts than major nutrients. Essential  minor nutrients are the secret weapons of successful gardeners and farmers.  In spite of their critical importance, most fertilizers do not include them.

Plants, like people, can suffer from too much of a good thing. In humans, vitamin D, necessary for health, can cause disease or even death when too much is consumed. Similarly, too much boron can be toxic to a plant. Your soil test results tell  which micro nutrients are already abundant, and which ones your soil needs to achieve perfect balance.


Calcium is needed for cell division and plant growth. Its buffering characteristics are critical to soil balance and largely determine the availability of other nutrients. Lack of calcium results in yellow or pale leaves,  and causes blossom end rot on tomatoes and peppers. A deficiency in beans  causes yellow leaves with curling margins, stunted plants, and blackened,  dying shoot tips. Deficiency causes brown tipped leaves on cabbage, forked  roots in beets, and unusually small potatoes.


Magnesium (often confused with manganese, a minor nutrient) is an essential element of chlorophyll, and a deficiency is generally shown in yellowing  leaves. Carrots may be poor in flavor and color. Insufficiency also affects  potatoes and peas.

When calcium and magnesium levels are not in balance, the availability of many other nutrients is affected adversely. Minor nutrients produce best  results when the calcium/magnesium ratio is close to 68:12.


Phosphorus is required for cell growth and plant reproduction, and it is crucial for flower and fruit formation. Too little phosphorus can result in stunting, but too much can cause bitter flavor in crops. Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency are often mistakenly attributed to virus disease.


Potassium activates plant enzymes and keeps cell fluid movement in  balance. Potassium regulates water loss through stomata (tiny pores) on the  leaves, and it is necessary for root formation and food storage in the plant.  Severe deficiencies in vegetables can appear as deformed, stunted or yellow  leaves, weak stems and premature fruit drop.

Potassium deficiency in young tomato plants results in deformed stems and  leaves, browning in older leaves; ripe fruit falls off vines.


Iron is essential for plants to make chlorophyll, plays a role in the synthesis of plant proteins, and helps plants fix nitrogen. A deficiency causes young  yellow leaves with green veins, symptoms which are often confused with  nitrogen deficiency. Iron deficiency often appears in soils with pH above 6.8;  at neutral or high pH, the iron that may be in the soil is not readily available to plants.


Zinc aids in moisture absorption and in the production of chlorophyll. A deficiency is indicated in tomatoes by small, narrow leaves with black spots  in yellow areas; plants may be stunted.


Boron is the most widely deficient minor nutrient in vegetable crop soils. It is needed in protein synthesis, and increases flower set, crop yield and quality.  In combination with adequate phosphorus, boron increases pollination, fruit set and seed development.

Boron deficiency causes growth reduction at the growing tips. Plants have small, crinkled, deformed leaves, with large areas of discoloration. Boron deficiency is often caused by application of too much lime. While boron is essential for root growth and fruit development, it can become toxic if  over applied. Always test the soil and apply only the recommended amount


Most soils are deficient in copper. Some gardeners believe that copper is  toxic to plants and should be kept out of the garden. In fact, too much copper  can be toxic to roots and leaves, but a small amount is a necessary  component of plant growth. Copper should not be applied before having the soil professionally tested.

Copper increases flavor and sugar content of vegetables and fruits. It  increases color intensity and yield of carrots, spinach, onions, corn and  cabbage.

Soils with high organic matter form a tight hold on copper and can cause copper deficiencies in the resident plants. As a result, soils which are high in organic content are more likely to respond to copper application.

An early sign of copper deficiency is the uniform, light green color of young leaves. Deficient plants produce small or yellowing leaves and may be  particularly susceptible to airborne fungal diseases.


Sulfur increases the protein content of crops and stimulates more rapid root  development during early periods of growth. A lack of adequate sulfur is  almost always a limiting factor in garden soils. Visible symptoms include a  uniform yellowing and mild upward curling of leaves on deficient plants.  (Nitrogen deficiency shows confusingly similar symptoms.) A moderate  to high level of sulfur is especially required for potatoes.


 Manganese accelerates seed germination and hastens fruiting and ripening of  crops. Deficiencies result in yellowing, cupping and/or spotting of leaves,  stunted growth, and reduced crops.


Nitrogen is the element that plants use in greatest amounts. It is the most  important - yet the most often deficient - element in plant growth worldwide. Nitrogen is highly volatile, so it escapes to the air, and it leaches away in  run-offs of water. It needs to be applied more often than most fertilizer components, especially when the organic content of the soil is low.

Nitrogen is essential to photosynthesis and healthy cell growth and  reproduction. It is vital in producing chlorophyll (which gives leaves good green  color) and amino acids. It also promotes shoot and leaf growth.

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Fascinating stuff huh? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Do test your soil and Don't add anything to it until you get your results back.  For consistency and comparability, Do use the same lab and Do test at the same time of the year. Above all, Do check out this link - this is the best link Henry has found concerning soil tests and their interpretation.  It should answer all your questions.

Interpreting Soil Tests

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Friday January 26, 2001






Soil Amendment and Fertilization  Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

This is a topic of much debate - how much you need to amend your soil will depend on your soil test results.  How much fertilizer you use is a widely debated topic and will depend on many things including the soil type and Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC).  Stay tuned, check out what others have tried, and once again decide for your self.

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to soil amendment and fertilization for Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on amendment and fertilization). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Advice From a Member of the Thousand Pound Club

This is what I did for the 2000 growing season. I put 7 pickup loads of manure on my 3000 sq. ft. patch last fall and tilled  in a truckload of maple leaves. In the spring, I put on 30 pounds of 12-12-12 along with 8 pounds of calcium nitrate, 5 pounds of powdered kelp and 10 pounds of Ironite per planting site. During the growing season, I applied fish fertilizer and a liquid kelp drench once a week. My water supply was from a municipal system applied through overhead sprayers. I mixed liquid sevin and Daconil together and sprayed once a week.

-- Joe Pukos, Leicester, New York, Zone 6, Personal best 1096.8

Advice from an Expert

I have heard some bad things about clay, but 2 years ago I started a new patch in clay soil and so far it produced an 815 last year and an 1190 this year. While clay is harder to work than sandy soil, it does hold nutrients better. When I first started the patch I added 240 lb.. of  gypsum, 6 or 7 tons of cow manure, Ironite, some 10-10-10 and loads of mulched leaves, this was all done in the fall of 97. Today I would not  trade my clay soil for any other type.

-- Larry Checkon - grower of the 1190

Another Expert Pipes In

This year I used a new patch at a local garden nursery.  So patch prep was very important.  I first sampled the soil and found it was low in organics, mag., pH 5.7, and calcium.  We added 45 yards of composted green waste from the city corp. yard, 20 pounds of epsom salt, 350 lb.. oyster shell lime, and 20 lb.. 16-16-16.  This was tilled into the soil at the end of May.  I planted the plants in the first week of June.  I would have liked to have everything in the ground during the winter but I didn't have the patch until then.

The nursery had fertilizer injected water so every time the sprinklers came on the plants were fertilized.  They had a 200 gallon tank with nitrogen and a 200 gallon tank that had some type of potassium mix in the water. They couldn't tell me how many ppm were being delivered but it couldn't have been much because they were using it on all of their potted plants. I also used misters that were hooked up to the same injected water so the plants got a small amount of fertilizer all day during the hot days that required mist.

I have to make a few comments about the compost that we used.  It was the same type that Chris Andersen used to grow his 977 with.  This stuff was well composted but still had small twigs or pieces of branches that kept the clay soil from re-compacting.  This allowed for air spaces to remain in the soil after all season of watering.  I originally thought it might rob the soil of nutrients but all seemed to be ok.  If it was lacking in nitrogen the injected water took care of any reduction.  I also used a foliar feeding program of 20-20-20 during the vine growth period.  Once the plants started to show small female blossoms I discontinued the 20-20-20. This was about 10 days before fruit set.  About 10 days after fruit set I started with a real light dose of 10-15-36 foliar feeding.  Once the fruit got to about 100 lb.. I bumped up the 10-15-36 to about 5 Tbs. in a miracle grow hose end feeder every four days.  This seemed to increase the fruit growth on the second day after application.  I would have 3", 3", apply 10-15-36 and I would see 4", 4", then back to 3"  for weeks this was going on.  Even when the pumpkin was over 700 lb.. it was getting 3" in circumference a day.  Now I couldn't tell you if it was fertilizer, genetics or both all I can say is I had steady growth all season long.

- Jon Hunt, grower of the 991

Ph Blues

Mike, we have a lot in common!! I like yourself have added ALTO of fresh and composted manure over the last 4 to 6 years. My soil always tested above 7 some up to 7.6!!! I would like you to know that for the first time in 6 years my fall soil test came back under 7. It officially was 6.8 and I did it with 1-15 pound application of sulfur  to my 36 X 36 patch  the fall of 1997.  Last years Ph was a little high yet but patience paid off and the slow acting sulfur has finally corrected my problem!!! I'd add some as soon as you can work your soil. Good luck  hope this helps!!

-- Dan Carlson

Welcome to my world of the ph blues.  Last year when I started this crazy addictive adventure, my ph was 7.8.  So far it seems as though I am having success with lowering my ph by adding sulfur.  I added 3 lb.. per 100 sq. ft. in my patch last fall.  I received my soil tests back a couple of weeks ago.  and my ph levels dropped considerably ranging from 6.7 - 7.0 . I too am adding large amounts of horse manure and have experienced the very high levels of phosphorous and potassium.  I am not sure if this is really a problem since you added it organically.  Maybe someone else on this list can clarify it further for both of us. Keep in mind my soil has quite a bit of clay in it.  If your soil is sandy you may only need 1.0 lb. per 100 sq. ft.   If clay then 2 lb. per 100 sq. ft.

-- Brad Walters

My soil pH is too high?  How can I lower it?

The addition of alkaline materials such as lime, poultry manure or wood ashes to the soil can raise the pH value to levels which are higher than the optimum range (6.5 to 8.0 for pumpkins) to insure good plant growth. This will occur if excessive a mounts of these materials are added to a soil either all at once or over a long period of time. A soil that is too high in pH, can cause plant deficiencies of important micronutrients such as zinc and manganese which are still in the soil but "tied-up" and unavailable to the plant.

Two materials commonly used for lowering soil pH are aluminum sulfate and sulfur which can be found at any garden supply center. Both materials will do the job. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Sulfur, however, requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate of the sulfur is dependent on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of the bacteria. Depending on these soil factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow and take several months if the conditions are not ideal. For this reason, most people use the aluminum sulfate. Both materials should be worked into the soil if possible after application to be most effective. If these materials are in contact with plant leaves as when applied to a lawn, they should be washed off the leaves immediately after application. Be extremely careful not to over-apply the aluminum sulfate or the sulfur.

You can use the following tables to calculate the application rates for both the aluminum sulfate and the sulfur. The rates are in pounds per 10 square feet for a loamy soil. Reduce the rate by one-third for sandy soils and increase by one-half for clays.

Pounds of Aluminum Sulfate to Lower the Soil pH

Present pH

Desired pH






































Pounds of Sulfur to Lower the Soil pH

Present pH

Desired pH





































What is the Perfect Soil?

From what I have been reading,  a CEC or 20 to 40% would be considered pretty good, with 40 being better than 20 but 20 being the low range of acceptable.  As I understand it, the way to raise your CEC if it is low is either to add  clay or humus via organic matter to your garden. A level of around 15% clay might be pretty good and a level of maybe 20% organic matter might not be far out of the ideal range. The CEC is a function of both and so some sort of balance is another thought. Since it would take a lot of clay added to the garden to bring the CEC up, would you agree that the best way to do so is with the addition of organic material, either cow, horse etc. manure or good old compost or whatever? Also the organic material adds nutrients to the soil which the clay, of course, does not.

Now for the actual nutrients. You related that an agronomist said a balanced soil would be best. A saturation rate of 65 to 70% calcium, 10 to 15% magnesium and 2 to 5% potassium would be considered balanced. These numbers could be considered a recommendation for now at least.

The next consideration is how many ppm of Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium would be ideal. This is one of the last parts of the problem of attaining "the perfect pumpkin soil" considering there is fair agreement that the pH of the soil should be 6.7 to 6.9. Anyway, this ppm discussion is what there is not a lot of data or agreement about. The calcium level in your garden was over 6000 ppm while it was closer to 2000 ppm in Larry Checkon's part where he grew the ill-fated 1191.

-- Marv in Altoona

The Infamous Cation Exchange Capacity

CEC stands for Cation Exchange Capacity. It is a measure of the capacity of a soil to hold exchangeable (key word) cations. Cations would include Hydrogen, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium. Typically CEC is dependent on the percent of clay and organic matter contained in the soil. In my growing area we have extremely heavy clay soil. Similar to Larry & Gerry! Prior to ever amending my patch I had a soil test taken which indicated I had a CEC of 28%. This is pretty good. With the addition of compost to the clay it improved the CEC even further to a level of 39.7%. As a general rule of thumb on a sliding scale, sandy soils for example typically have a low CEC vs. clay soil with a very high CEC.Percent Cation Saturation is the maximum amount or % a given soil will retain within the soil structure or colloid. Typically it is not economical to saturate your soil to a 100% saturation level. Agronomist recommend a balanced saturation rate 65-75% calcium, 10-15% magnesium and from 2-5% potassium. Hope this  helps!

The higher the CEC the easier it is to get your base saturation up there and maintain it.  A soil with a high CEC will retain hydrogen, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium much better/longer than a soil with a low CEC. Therefor by amending with compost, manure, fertilizers it is easier to get the base saturation rate up and maintain it at those high saturation levels when you are dealing with a high CEC soil vs. a low CEC soil. Low CEC and the soil will leach nutrients rapidly dropping the saturation level quickly, High CEC it will retain nutrients and the base saturation level will not drop as quickly. Here is an example. I will use  Bob Troy as my victim. Hope you don't mind Bob but I have your soil test!! Bob has Sandy Soil-Low CEC, I on the other hand have extremely heavy Clay Soil-High CEC. Bob had taken a soil test on 3/17/98 which we can compare to my soil test from 7/16/97 when I grew the 977. Compare the CEC and our base saturation % as follows:

Bob 3/17/98

Chris 7/16/97

CEC 15.4

CEC 39.7

Base Saturation: K-7.5%,Mg-13.5%,CA-77.7%,NA-1.4%

Base Saturation: K-4.0%,Mg-10.4%,CA85.3%,NA-0.4%

As you can see even though Bob has a lower CEC his base saturation is higher than mine, with the exception of Calcium. Why? Bob put a lot O' fertilizer on which pushed his base saturation levels way up there. He did this because he knows he has a low CEC and will loose nutrients as a result of leaching. Therefor he has to keep pushing the fert. Hope I am making sense and this helps?

-- Chris Andersen

For more info about CEC - check out this link...


Ok, Now What about Calcium, Sulfur, Tissue Analysis, and the Silver Bullet Theory?

Calcium has been refereed to as the gateway to the nutrients.  Observing your soils report your Calcium was very high in 97 in the 6000 ppm.  I would have thought that at that rate it would of had a toxic affect.  But NO the mother speaks for itself 977. Another area that was off the charts was sulfur at 1800 ppm.  This had to be elemental sulfur " Not available"  Now the problem I have is Just because it says its there in the soil via the test doesn't mean its available to the plants.  So perhaps we should be taking leaf samples instead of repeated soil tests??  Could it be that perhaps silver bullet seeds are just a seed planted in a hot spot where everything is clicking, rich and available??  Or do you think  there is such a thing as the rooting is just superior??.......What are your thoughts ....and have you done leaf samples??

-- Brock

Yes I think Calcium is a major must and in very high levels. Secondly, yes the high sulfur levels were elemental levels and not all available to the plant. As you point out balancing your soil, so that all nutrients are available is truly a juggling act. This is why it is best to find a lab that will send you a soil test report back that you can understand without having to be a soil scientist. Also one that will openly work with you if  you need further recommendations or explanation.  I have thought of taking tissue analysis as you describe. One problem is cost. For a complete seasonal tissue analysis for (1) plant (4) tests throughout the season you are looking at about $250.00. At a minimum you would want (2) tests performed. One during the vegetative growth stage and a second test just prior to the heavy fruit bulking stage. Another factor that you need to keep in mind regarding tissue analysis is that if you have done any foliar feeding prior to tissue analysis you will have skewed the test results due to foliar fert. residue in the tissue. In reality having already foliar fed there is no point in performing the tissue analysis. So if you intend to have tissue analysis performed, plan on not foliar feeding.

Two books I would highly recommend to any pumpkin grower are Foliar Applied Plant Nutrition and Agronomy Handbook/Soil & Plant Analysis. Both are available from A&L Labs (209) 529-4080. Cost is minimal and they are written in a relatively easy to understand language. As far as it was just "Superior Roots". No I do not believe this as being a single factor! To grow any seed to it's maximum potential your soil certainly has to be in tip top primo condition. But then everything else also has to fall into place. Major factor being weather, not to mention no soil disease, minimal insect problems, cracks, splits and we all I am sure know the rest.........I do believe in the "Silver Bullet Theory", that is to say each seed from a single source pumpkin is genetically different and some seeds even though from the same pumpkin will perform far superior to other seeds from the same pumpkin. Enough of my rambling aye!

-- Chris Andersen

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Subject to the results of your soil test, Do amend your soil in the fall. Do plant a cover crop, preferably in the fall - the actual crop you plant will depend on your climate - and Do tiill it under in early spring. Do find a fertilization schedule that works for you, and above all to much of a good thing is not a great thing - so Don't over fertilize.

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Wednesday January 17, 2001



Germination Rules for Giant Pumpkin Seeds

By Henry

You've spent all winter scouring the globe for the best Atlantic Giant seeds available.  The garden has long ago been tilled and is ready to go.  The dogs days of winter (is there such a thing?) are behind you.  Your seed selection has been done and the mere thought of transplanting a new seedling produces uncontrollable salivation (it is a little embarrassing really). First things first, you'll need that seedling.  Seed germination can be one of the most frustrating aspects of giant pumpkin growing.  Stay tuned and Henry's Germination Rules will help you out.

What follows is a brief outline of three  popular approaches to germinating Giant Pumpkin seeds - the baggy method, the peat pot method, and the direct start method. Following the list of germinating approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to germinate seeds). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Seed Preparation

Seed Filing

Seed filing is thought to make it easier for water to penetrate the hard, thick shell of giant pumpkin seeds.

Do not file the pointed edge of the seed at all.  Elsewhere gently use a nail file or regular file on the edge of the seed until you see a tan (or at least slightly darker) colored line appear, then stop.  This technique has greatly enhanced germination for me, especially when combined with pre-soaking.

-- Chris Wilbers

I take an ordinary fine toothed metal file (a fingernail file or sandpaper would work too), and file the EDGE (and only the edge) of the seed.  I lightly file until the color changes... once you do one, you'll be able to see what I mean... you get down to the next layer of seed.  It only takes a stroke or two with the file to get down this far.  I don't strive to sand all of the first layer away everywhere, I just make it very very thin.  I sand all around the edge, EXCEPT for the pointed tip - you're supposed to leave that alone because that's where the root will come out - the experts say you could damage the seed if you sanded there.  Sanding helps in a couple ways- it lets water get inside the hard seed more quickly, plus, with weakened edges, the plant sheds the seed coat easier and gets growing sooner.  If it can't get out of the tough seed coat, it may rot.

-- Rick

Seed Soaking

Seeds are thought to germinate better if soaked in water, especially larger seed. Suggested soaking times vary from an hour to 24 hours. Henry suggests experimenting with different soak times.  Always use warm, not hot or cold water.

-- Henry

The Baggy Method

Quick and Dirty

Welcome !!.............Germination can be tricky.......moisture and warmth are key ....but too wet is bad and too dry doesn't work.........same with temp...........should be a constant 80 degrees..................I germinate seed the following way sand edges......soak in warm water 2 hours.....then roll them up in a rag that is damp ...wetted then all the water squeezed out then put this in a zip lock plastic bag and on a mat set at 80... check in 30 hour and so forth..........you should see a little white root emerging........then place that in your pot................good luck
-- Brock

Another Way

-- from "Pre sprouting: getting the most for the least"  Canadian Gardening Dec.97 - Jan.98

A Different Way

If you soak the seeds in warm water for 12 to 24 hrs it gives you a boost with the moisture content.  After that place them in a zip lock with moist paper towels on top the hot water heater (check temp in area you are using).  While they are in water soak every 2 hrs, while they are in the bags open and air every 2 hrs.  Its easy to do 10 seeds per bag.  If you file the seed coat, soak for shorter time.  There is no reason to use pots until after the seeds have germinated in the paper towels. After the first day in the towels you can just check them twice a day, making sure they don't dry out or stay too wet.  I use a dinner plate to hold the bags and spread out the heat below.  This method lets you not use much area until you have plants to grow.  Some refrigerators are only warm when they are on, so no bottom heat.  Even if you plant seed outside you should soak it in water first.  This could gain a week while your seeds would have been drawing in water from outside.  I let the roots get 1-2 in. before I transplant to the pot.  I also leave the seed above soil level at this time.

-- Roger

A Variation

Try this method...even now to make sure it will work for you when you are ready to plant.

I use this method to check out the percentage of germination on all of my seeds. I usually just place the lid on top loosely but don't screw  it

-- Jim Ives

One more

First make sure you have a temp gauge in the same location as your seeds so you know for sure how warm it is. I over heated my seeds my first few tries. 85  should not feel warm if it does you are too hot. Your skin is roughly 95 or so . File edges and you will see a slight discoloration on the edges you are filing. I stop there. Don't file too far or you could damage the seed. Soak them about 4 hours then bag them in a  DAMP paper towel NOT WET. Hang inside a cooler on a string so they will be suspended and have nice even temp all around.  Temp is monitored and stays at about 81 to 85 degrees. I slide the lid open
or closed depending on the temp. Check every 24 hours and that's about it. Good luck and let me know if it works for you. I had 2 more seeds with sprouts last night. Only a couple left to go!!!

-- The Carlsons Dan and Beth

By George

The method used to germinate the seeds is as follows: Sanded, soaked for 2-3 hours, placed Captan on seeds, placed seeds in wet paper towel, placed wet paper towel in zip lock bag, placed the bag on a plate, and then placed the plate on a heating pad set to low heat.

Make sure that your paper towels are damp and not dripping with water. I always put Captan on the seeds before placing them in the paper towels. Do not know if Captan is really needed, though. Make sure the temperature is not over 85 degrees as you do not want to cook the seeds. Forty eight hours is still fairly early. I just had a 854 Holland 98 germinate after 68 hours. I set up 17 seeds to germinate, and so far 15 have germinated.

The zip lock bag I use is clear. I did cover the bags with a towel one day to keep the light out. I would think the seeds would germinate better if it were dark because that is the normal environment for most seeds.

-- George Heyne

By Kathryn

I got desperate on finding a more convenient way to germinate my seeds, so I took a cooler (like a 6 pack cooler) and put in a plastic quart jar of very hot tap water, sealed.  Then I put in my seeds in the plastic bags with the moist paper towels on the other side of the cooler.  About every 6 hours I replace the water in the jar, and those seeds germinated in no time.

-- Kathryn

Light or Dark?  That is the Question.

This for everyone to read.   I am connected to a garden forum in which many topics are discussed.  Below is a response from a Phd from Berkley University.   She has some dynamite answers to questions.   I was asking the questions of germination & light and seedlings and light.   I experienced poor germination from pumpkin seeds when I put them under 24 hrs light, sterile soil, heating pad.   I had a 95% germination rate when I wrapped seeds in paper towel, baggie, heating pad, and 8 HOURS darkness. Please read below.

-- Bill  Sadowski

Because that's how mother nature designed them? --seriously, and vastly oversimplifying, sunlight is the time when the plants convert light energy to sugars, and night is the time for cell division (hmmm. I'm not sure any of my professors claimed that it was the darkness --but would a plant in a closed room under 24 hour equal brightness know it was night?) and making things out of the sugars. Like starches, vitamins, cell walls... (it's not that none of these go on in daytime, but there's a proportion--)

Some seeds won't germinate at all in light --usually larger ones. They figure they're not covered up enough to get their roots down before they use up the food in the seed. Others won't germinate at all in total darkness --they need a bit of red light - that's what's reliably left after the sunlight gets through and bounces around on a very thin covering of soil. These are the very small seeds like petunias and the plants which are pioneers --i.e. the kinds of weeds that carpet bared soil of roadsides and your garden-- and their garden descendants. Lettuce is one of the better known light-germinators.

That successful garden plants should be derived from "weedy" groups makes sense if you think about it. There would never be the kind of upheaval in nature that gardeners cause once to several times a year unless there was something rather catastrophic --a fire, a flood, a volcano, a drastic land slip--. Lettuce, for instance, has fluffy tails on the seeds to catch the wind --like the first colonizers that blow onto a mudslide.

A Step by Step Review of the Baggy Method

Okay, let's review the basics of indoor seed sowing, step by step. While this is focused on Giant pumpkin seeds, you can apply the same techniques to all pumpkin seeds:

-- Bob Matthews

The Peat Pot Method

One Way

I have had a great deal of trouble over the years getting my seeds to germinate.  This past spring I teamed up with a friend who owns a greenhouse and has much experience in germinating seeds.  We put our knowledge together and here is what we came up with.  First file the edges of the seed and sand the larger sides to open all areas to water, be careful not to damage the pointed tip of the seed.  Then prepare a solution of 90 F water with a general fungicide and any other favorite seed treatment (fertilizer, hormones etc.).  Place the seeds into the water and hold them below the surface with screen.  Agitate the solution keeping the seeds moving around and absorbing more water.  Do this for approximately 30 minuets.  Then place the seed in pots filled with top quality (light, very absorbent, sterilized) potting mix.  Make sure the mix is moisturized and push the seed into the ground so that its top is going to be 1/2 inch below the surface.  Before covering the seed, pour the soaking solution down the hole.  Cover the seed and moisten the surface.  Because of additional watering the seed will end up being only 1/4 inch below the surface.  Cover the top of the pot with cloth so that moisture will be maintained, but ventilation will be allowed.  Keep the pots at 85 F and moisten them several times per day. I constructed a 4' x 4' x 2' styrofoam box with 4 light fixtures in the lid in which I put four 25 watt bulbs that are controlled by a thermostat to heat the pots and provide some light to draw the seeds towards the surface.  From here I check under the cloth often to look for seed activity and will remove the cloth as soon as seeds push the soil up and place the pots into a greenhouse when the seed coat is removed.

-- Nic Welty

Or Another

Suggestions: plant seed point down about 1" and seed will appear in 5-10  days usually. When germinating, try to keep soil temp as close to 80-85  degrees as you can. After seedling appears, temps should remain above 65 for growing. Seed sanding refers to gently sanding/filing seed  edges. This will allow for better moisture penetration and thus quicker  germination. Once seedling appears, give it from 14-24 hours daylight if you can (this topic is debatable) until plant is ready to be transplanted outside (assuming your starting indoors). 4" peat pots are commonly used to germinate in. Once plant is outside protection from wind, cold is necessary for full development. Some of us use mini greenhouses for this. If you can  control these factors for first 20-30 days, your chances of producing a large fruit are dramatically increased. Hope this helps.

-- Steve Thorson

Joe's Way

-- Joe Scherber, grower of the 1009

In a Nut Shell

There are a lot of different ways to start a seed....some high tech, some not. I am assuming that your seeds are viable. Get sterilized seed starting mix....not
potting soil. Put the seeds in 4 or 5 " plastic pots. Don't over water the seed starting mix...just damp. Put the pots in a place that has a constant 85 to 90 degrees....confirm this by making up an extra pot with a thermometer in it. If the soil temp is 80 to 85 degrees, they will come up in about 4 days or so.

-- Pumkinguy

The Heat is On

My setup is a dome covered tray placed on a waterbed heater. The waterbed heater is pretty stable. You may need to adjust the settings on the heater a bit higher to obtain the desired soil temp. In my case, 93° on the heater to have 80° in the pots. I moistened my starting mix, then planted the seeds (after soaking and filing), and have not watered since. So far, I have a 100% germination rate.

-- Rock

Land 'O' Giants

-- Joel Holland (from the 2000 Land 'O' Giants video)

And to Add to the Debate

I use 1 gallon polyethylene milk or water jugs that I cut at about the four inch level.  I line the bottom of the jug with a grocery bag and let the rest of the bag fold over  the outside of the jug.  I put in at least 3 inches of  moistened potting mix.  I plant the seeds about one inch deep.  When the seeds  sprout, I poke about 1/2 dozen holes in the bottom of the jugs with an ice  pick.  When the plants are ready, this allows me to lift the plant from the jug and place the bag in an oversize hole.  The bag is easily removed by cutting most of it away with a scissors and sliding the bottom out from under the plant.  I have used this technique with 2 pound cottage cheese containers for starting the smaller prize-winner hybrids.  I also find that the commercial soil mixes can be crumbly.  Blending with milled sphagnum moss seems to give a tighter structure.

I let the roots develop as long as i can before planting. I think a good root structure helps to minimize the crumbling that can occur during transplanting...I give most of my plants away and this makes it easier for neophytes to have a successful planting. I have room for only one plant. The jugs can be used again and again if desired.

-- Paul in Perinton

If you put a plastic bag into the pot, you can easily lift the plant out of the pot without disturbing the roots too much. Try it. It works!

The Direct Start Method


I first developed this method approximately nineteen years ago for growing squash and have been refining it ever since. It is intended to produce the largest vine possible (12'+) by the ideal fruit setting date of June 20 to July 10th (based on my growing season). The second benefit is to obtain 80 to 90% of the pumpkin's growth by August 20th. In my area cool nights often start occurring the last week in August and can slow the fruit's growth. You also want the pumpkin to mature soon enough to stay on the vine for at least a week after it stops growing to let it harden off to prevent premature spoilage.

Reference the following to compare your area with the growing season this method was developed for.

* Average frost free growing season: May 25 to September 15th
* Latest recorded frost since 1973: June 10th (not a killing frost)
* Earliest recorded frost since 1973: August 25th (not a killing frost)
* Latest recorded snowfall since 1973: May 9th (all time record)
* Earliest recorded snowfall since 1973: October 10th (all time record)

Soil Preparation

Prepare your soil as you would for any other method of giant pumpkin growing, but do it as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Well drained deep loam is the best. After you have prepared the soil make a large flat topped mound approximately 4' around and 3' high. Before you excavate the inside locate a large window, i.e.: one from an aluminum storm window, and use it to determine the size of the hole. The planting hole should be approximately 8" deep with internal and external walls slanted to prevent them from caving in. Then bury a soil heating cable about 4" under the bottom of the planting hole. If you do not have access to electricity you can still use this method and get good results. Place a flat rock or a piece of slate on top of the soil in the center of the hole, this will be used to deflect water you pour in and protect the root system. The outside walls of the mound should be covered with black plastic to increase the heating by the sun. Then place the window on top to start warming the soil and keep the inside watered even before planting to prevent the walls from drying out and caving in.


I plant my seeds on April 15 plus or minus a day or so. Two days before planting plug in the soil heating cable, (if available), to keep the ground warm day and night. Plant the seeds about 1" deep around the bottom edge of the hole near the outside walls. I would plant eight to ten seeds if you have them. To increase germination you can treat the seeds with a fungicide that is listed for seed treatment. After planting place the window directly on the soil.

Care Before Germination

Keep window flush against the top of the planting hole until the seeds start to crack the ground. Exception: if the temperature is going to be above 70 degrees place two sticks, approximately 1" thick, one under each side of the window. "Keep soil wet!!" Even in rainy weather the soil can dry out under the window. Every night, frost or not, throw some sort of cloth or blanket over the glass touching the ground on all sides. If it snows leave the blanket on day and night until the weather becomes sunny.

Care After Germination

Keep the two sticks under the glass at all times. They can do better on a cloudy day if the window is down flush, but if you forget it and the sun comes out the plants may be killed. As mentioned above, every night frost or not, throw some sort of cloth or blanket over the glass touching the ground on all sides. If it snows leave the blanket on day and night until the weather becomes sunny. If high winds are predicted weight the window down with a  couple of bricks. Make sure the soil doesn't become too dry. As the plants grow raise the windows so the leaves don't touch the glass by adding two more sticks in the opposite direction each time. When the plants have become so big that the window is eight or more inches above the soil, remove them. Immediately erect a wall of glass or plastic around the hill for a wind break. Make it so you can place sticks across the top to support blankets if there is going to be a frost. When the plants begin to send runners over the top of the hole tie them down in two directions with twine looped around the vine large enough to allow for growth. Keep these on until the plant sends down roots from the vine. The wind break should be left in place until the plant is so big it makes it impractical. A wind break around the whole Pumpkin patch is recommended at all times for better results.


As the plants crowd each other, begin thinning. When the plants have three to four leaves you should be down to four plants one on each side of the hole. When its time to put up the wind break you should be down to two. Finally when the plants have four foot vines thin to one. This is when you look at the plant you've just pulled out and wonder if you have just killed the next "World's Record Pumpkin". Even so you must thin to one plant to grow a really big one.

Pest Control

With this early planting may come pests you usually do not see on Pumpkins planted later. The two major problems are some sort of Root Maggot and the Strawberry Root Aphid. The soil should be kept treated with a liquid insecticide mixture that is listed for control of root maggot. This will work well on the aphid too. When you're thinning watch for the small white maggot or the blue green aphid on the roots to monitor your success or failure.


As with any new method you try in the garden it will take some experimenting and refining. If you grow more than one Pumpkin you may want to try this on only one the first year to see how it works for you. Good luck in growing a really big one!

-- George Brooks

And of course there is Seed Position - How could one forget?

Regardless of the method you choose, at some point you will have to place the seed in soil.  Believe it or not, there is considerable debate on how the seed should be placed in the soil.  Here is one approach:

If you plant the seeds flat the roots will head down due to gravity.  The stem will elongate up in a curve as it grows.  When it straightens out the seed is pulled through the soil and this helps the plant pull the seed coat off.  Some say to put the pointed end down, this will work but it takes a little longer.  Pumpkins pull the seed out of the ground, other plants push their way up.

-- Roger

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Incredibly fascinating stuff isn't it? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Do file your seeds and pre-soak then. Do practice seed filing and seed germination well before the time to plant - use extra seeds or purchase regular pumpkin seeds for practicing.  Do use a thermometer to monitor germination temperatures - pumpkin seeds seem to germinate best at temperatures between 85 and 90 degrees.  When using the baggy method it is extremely easy to cook your seeds.  Don't rely on anything but a thermometer to determine the correct temperature. Do stagger your seed germninations and be sure to germinate back up seeds in case of germination failure, early season frost, or martian invasion. By practicing over the winter you will avoid a lot of frustration come spring time.

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Sunday February 4, 2001



Early Season Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

OK, you now have a seedling - either it is indoors in a peat pot or bucket (and likely becoming root bound) or it is a child of the direct start method and it has begun to poke out of the soil.  Time to get busy. What is next?

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to early season care and protection of Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on early season care). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

When's the move?

Move the plant outdoors when first true leaf gets to be 2" across.  Remember to shelter it from frost and if possible cover with a blanket at night to keep heat in.

-- Bob Marcellus

How to go?

If you have a small patch and want to maximize the size of your plant, then you'll need to transplant your seedling on the edge of your patch and have it grow to the other side.  Just remember that the plant will drop to the ground and grow in the direction OPPOSITE the first true leaf.

-- Rick Inzero

What's that?

The main vine will go in the opposite direction of the first true leaf. Additionally, If you look at the bottom of the seed, you can see two holes. One is at the very bottom of the seed at the point and the other is up a bit higher. Nine times out of ten, when the seed sprouts, the main vine will go in the opposite directions of the hole on the top. If you direct plant, this will give you a shot at positioning the seed in the direction that you want the main vine to grow. Of course there are always exceptions.

-- Bob Troy

Simple Protection

The biggest problem in the early season is cold nights in the more northern climates. If there is frost, your seedling will die. If it is in the thirties, your plant will slow or stunt it's growth. Use of some cover or cold frame is strongly recommended.  I placed my first plant in the garden on May 10th. I cover it each evening with a five gallon bucket and uncover it before I go to work. Simple as that.

-- ???

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Do transplant your seedling outdoors after the first or second true leaf has appeared.  If you wait much longer, your seedling will become root bound and/or leggy. Do provide some sort of early season protection against the cold - a simple cold frame, a bucket, soil heating cables or some such thing.  Don't trust the weather man - when Henry was growing last year an over night low of 38 was predicted for mid May - the temperature dropped to 22 degrees and Henry was starting over. Don't rely on plastic sheeting to provide protection from the cold - it has almost no insulating properties - use blankets instead.

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Wednesday January 17, 2001



Watering Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to watering Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to water). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Over or Under,  That is the Question

Some people prefer not to water their foliage. Others water the leaves on purpose , to take advantage of the evaporative cooling to keep the plant cooler. I need the evaporative cooling because the temperature in inland Connecticut gets too hot. I usually grow 4 plants - 1,000 square feet per plant so that will take a few feet of drip tape. The spacing of the drip tape will depend on soil type. A sandy soil will require closer spacing - the water tends to go down and not far laterally. A heavy soil, you might spread the tapes 2 or 3 feet apart. I might need 1,600 feet of tape for 4 plants. It's easier for me to put out two netafim mini sprinklers to cover the entire 1,000 square feet. They use about one third of a gallon per minute each. Throw on a fertilizer injector and a automatic valve and I'm under the tree drinking iced tea. Well, maybe not that easy. Disease will not be a problem with overhead watering if you have on/off cycles where the foliage is allowed to dry out completely, in between watering cycles. Knock the beetles out once a week and use a fungicide containing Chlorothalonil once a week. Note: I have a good drip irrigation system that is free, that you can use when the plant is small. Take a plastic, 1 gallon milk jug and prick it with a pin. If it doesn't drip fast enough, use a bigger pin. Plant gets bigger ....use 4 of them. Put a little peters or miracle grow in the milk jug,....now you have fertigation.  I do a lot of high tech stuff, but you don't have to. I've been overhead watering on time clocks for 15 years. Don't let anybody tell you that the water droplets act like magnifying glasses and burn the plants....it's a bunch of bull. To each his own.

-- Pumpkinguy

Another Way

I use overhead watering just before dawn after the Pumpkin setting season.  If you water at that time during flowering you will hurt pollination.  During flowering I water 12 midnight and 3 a.m. any later than that the flowers may be damaged.  On a warm night they can start opening at 4 a.m. around hear.  I deep soak every 5 days unless there is an 1" of rain then I start the count again.  I also supplement with buckets of rain water at the root zone.  I have only seen minor Powdery Mildew on AG's but I do have that problem with over squash plants but not before the middle of August  - the combination of heavy dew and cooling night temperatures bring it on even if you don't water.  I use an alternating fungicide program using Benilate and Daconil.

-- George Brooks

How Much Did you Say?

To water 1000 square foot of your garden with 1 inch of water it takes 623 gallons (1 gallon = 231 cubic inches) This is 89 gallons per day, or 178 gallons every other day.  For 1 1/2 inches of water per week it takes 934.5 gallons per week.  133.5 gallons per day, or 167 gallons every other day.

If you don't know how much water comes out of your hose,  here is one thing you can do - (if you don't want to by a flow meter)  Get a five gallon bucket - turn on you hose the same as when you water your plant using the same nozzle, sprayer, just straight out of the hose or whatever.  Time how long it takes you to fill the 5 gallon bucket.
For the example above, (133.5 gallons per day), say it took 35 seconds to fill the bucket.  Convert the 35 seconds to minutes, which is 0.583.  Take 133.5 divided by 5 gives 26.7 (# of  5 gal. buckets needed per day to get 1 inch of  water per week) Then take 26.7 x  0.583 = 15.5 minutes.  Thus with your flow rate, you should water your 1000 sq. ft.  garden for about 15 min. 30 sec. everyday to get 1 inch of water on it.
If you have sprinklers you can put some rain gauges in the patch.  Run them for a set time, say 30 min. and measure how much water you have in the gauges.  Try to be as accurate as you can. You might want to take an average of several different gauges. (the more the better- a empty tuna type can makes a good watering gauge)

Say you measured an average of 3/8 inch (0.375 in.) of water in you gages in the 30 minutes. Divide 30 by 0.375 which gives 80 minutes. (The amount of time required to get 1 inch of water on you patch) Multiply by 1.5 if you want 1 1/2 inches of water on garden per week, or 120 minutes.  Divide by 7 to get a daily
watering time = 11.4  minutes for 1 inch of water or 17.1 minutes for 1 1/2 inches of water in your garden per week.  Double these numbers if you water every other day instead of everyday.

-- Gordon Tanner

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

Wow is that interesting.  Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Don’t use drip irrigation - it's expensive to set up, doesn't seem to water deeply, and often will miss part of your patch.  Henry thinks that the best way to water you plants is by hand - with a water wand.  This can burn up a lot of your summer.  Last year Henry spent at least 30 minutes a day, every day watering one plant. If you'd like to see your kids occasionally and keep your relationship intact, then overhead watering may be the way to go.  Do be sure that the foliage has a chance to dry before nightfall or you're just begging for disease problems.  Do be consistent with your watering - this reduces the likelihood of splitting your pumpkin.  If you have access to a warm weater source, Do use it - it might just give you those few extra pounds.

There you have it. Good luck and keep cool.


To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Sunday January 25, 2001




Pruning Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to pruning Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of pruning approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to prune). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.


Now this may be PNW (Pacific Northwest) terms, but here is the rundown on runner names. To begin you have the main runner, the first one that comes out of the stump. The runners that come off the main runner are secondaries, in fact any runners off the mains are secondaries. Then there is the Back Main that most usually comes out directly opposite the main runner. Any other runners that shoot out of the stump are also mains, such as third Main, or fourth Main. Okay, now that mains and secondaries are established, now come the Teritiary runners, they are the suckers that come off the secondaries that you do not want. They drain more from the plant than they produce. Cut them, kill them, or let your dog eat them.

-- the Pumpkinguru

Christmas Tree Approach

The Xmas Tree method is much easier to use visuals to describe, but here it goes in words...

First of all, Xmas Tree describes the shape of your pumpkin plant as it grows using this style. Imagine taking a x-ray of a Christmas tree, you have the trunk and side branches that come off at 90-degree angles. Now lay that x-ray down on the ground and grow your plant to look like that x-ray. The base of the plant will be the stump, the main runner will be the trunk, and the secondaries off the main will be the branches. Important items of note, do not allow back growth, period. Also, no tolerance for tertiary runners off the secondaries. Remember that symmetry is the key, and to a point, less is more, don't crowd your soil with unnecessary vegetation. Doing this allows you to grow two plants in one 40 x 40 foot site to avoid having to pollinate one plant with itself, or it allows you to try out two seeds instead of one.

When using the Xmas Tree method, only the main runner gets to stay along with its secondaries. It seems like a harsh way for a plant to grow, but it works.

-- the Pumpkinguru


I first heard about this technique from Joel Holland's video.........Holland was interviewing Jack Larue............ Jack was trying this method ......the method is this once your main has reached the edge of the patch you begin to take off all secondaries and leave the main growing around the border or perimeter of the patch.

-- Brocfarm

Trimming the Secondaries

Vine length seemed to be very important. I let the main vine grow and trimmed off every other secondary vine. I let the secondary vines grow to the end of the patch, which was about 20 feet in each direction. I let the main vine on the 449 Marcellus grow without terminating it. I don't know if that made a difference but the pumpkin kept growing until it was picked. Once the main vine on this plant got to about 40 feet long, I pruned off any secondary vines and just let the main grow.

Last year I started pruning right away. I pruned off the first two side vines most growers call these "T" vines. I had problems with the mains as they started to vine. Each plant had a little twist in the main vine so I had a side vine going straight up into the air. To avoid losing the plant in the wind I had to cut them off. From that point I left the next side vines and cut off every other side vine.

-- Jon Hunt (grower of the 991 in 1999)

More From Jon Hunt

This is an exciting topic to discuss. I used the Christmas tree type of pruning myself. I found that once the side vines got to about 17 feet long they slowed way down on the daily growth. When the first couple of side vines got to the edge of the patch I cut them off and buried them. After about a week of terminating the side vines I noticed all the side vines slowed way down about the same length about 17 feet. I decided to terminate all the side vines at that length thinking it was at that point the vine became predatory to the plant. In other words, it was growing vine to support vine not fruit. This is the point where you were saying 7 feet is too short for side vines and 20 feet is probably too long. Last week I was at a growers gathering in Napa and I had a chance to chat with a local winery owner about this very subject. He asked me how I pruned the plants and after explaining my technique he told me U. C. Davis has done extensive research on wine grapes and found that the canes coming off of the vines became predatory after about the 14 leaf on each individual cane and didn't put any energy back to the bunch of grapes on that specific cane. When I visited with another Napa grower earlier this year I noticed he pruned one plant heavily that specific plant produced a nice pumpkin but not as big as the rest of pumpkins in his patch. This would lean towards plant size and selective pruning techniques to produce world class fruit. By trimming every other side vine, I noticed I had more air between the leaves. This left room for the overhead sprinklers to get good coverage and hit bare soil not just leaves and run down the leaf stalks. This also helped the leaves dry out faster once the mister system turned off in the early evening, thereby decreasing the chance for mildew. One other factor was having space between the leaves allowed the leaves to grow larger. The larger leaf gave what appeared to be the same amount of photosynthesis as a plant that wasn't pruned in the same manner.

-- Jon Hunt

Chris Andersen Pipes In

Yes the 1006 plant that grew the 977 was close to 1,200 sq. ft. I did not prune any side branches. Reading Jon' thoughts on pruning every other side vine and having seen other heavy hitters use this technique of pruning with consistent success I would venture to say there is definitely some merit to this theory and method. I am going to concentrate on this next season.

Another question for Jon, how much sun exposure did you have on your patch? Full sun all day or was the plant in partial shade during certain times of the day? I am wondering if in hot climates, shade while cutting some photosynthesis down might not be harmful but actually beneficial. I bring this up as the 977 was grown on a plant which received only partial sun. In the morning, the North 1/2 side of the plant received full sun until about 1PM. By this time the North half was in the shade and the South 1/3 of the plant was in the full sun until about 4 PM, then filtered light the remainder of the afternoon. This blew the theory for me of full sun, all day, and the farther North you are the more sun light you have which is also believed to be the reason more large pumpkins come from Latitudes farther North.

-- Chris Andersen

How Big is Big Enough?

Three to five hundred sq. ft. will do just fine! Don't expect a 1,000 lber but with the right seed and a little luck it is possible to obtain 500-700 lbs. Last year we had a grower here in CA who had a 10x10 plot in the middle of his concrete patio. One plant two pumpkins, one almost went 700 lbs. the other was approximatly 623lbs. Over this past labor day weekend I went on a growers tour in N. Cal and was amazed and the number of fruit in the 400-500 lb range with little or no room. One grower from Napa who's patch I viewed which was no more than 300-400 sq. ft. brought a 740 lber to the HMB weigh off.  In these confined spaces it does require good conditions, good soil, good fert program, watering the entire area, good weather, good seed and luck. If you don't pop a big one right off the bat don't get discouraged! Heck look what happend to me 977lbs 1100 sq ft., 815 lbs. 800 sq. ft. 634 lbs. 1,000 sq ft.! This year 444lbs 1100 sq ft. and 420.5 lbs in 1,200 sq ft.

-- Chris Andersen

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Fascinating stuff huh? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Don’t let you plant go wild – you’ll have a huge mess on your hands which could prove lethal as you hop about your patch - you’ll be tripping over everything in site. Do select a pruning method (Henry like the Xmas Tree method – why not – it reminds him of Christmas) and stick to it – it will be a lot of work but who said it wasn’t going to be. Besides what else would you rather be doing?

Don’t let those nasty tertiaries get going – after all, you want a big pumpkin not a big pumpkin plant. Do trim the secondaries – remember you will have to decide how long to let them get.

Henry likes the idea of pruning alternate secondaries – while untried in Henry’s patch there is no time like the present – so why not give it a shot and you can compare notes with Henry…

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Friday January 26, 2001



Pollination Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to pollinating Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to pollinate – nudge, nudge). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

It’s you or the Bees

It really isn’t a choice at all. You will want to hand pollinate to improve the likelihood of successful pollination and to control the genetic offspring of your plant. If a new female hasn’t been successfully pollinated, it will soon lose that shiny appearance and gradually turn pale. It’s done and so are you - time to try again. Pollination is most successful when performed in the early morning and must be done with a newly opened female flower. Within a few days, you will be able to determine if pollination has been successful. Most growers recommend pollinating everything in site and then selectively culling the pollinated pumpkins, leaving the best.

Read on to learn more rules for pollinating giant pumpkins.

-- Henry

A Biology Tutorial

In corn, you must have a successful pollen grain on each of the 300 silks of one ear. The same is true for each of the many stigmas in a strawberry or Rubus flower, sunflower, etc. I realize I do not know the situation for Cucurbits. I also realize that if no pollen gets onto a segment of an AG stigma there will be no seeds in that carpel (as in a slice of an orange or apple). In lilies, apples and other fruits having 3 to 5 carpels, the fused stigmas make a tiny structure and you can easily get every section of the stigma pollinated.

What about Atlantic Giants?

Will there be unfertilized ovules (eggs) unless I get pollen on the bottom of the stigma? Is the stigma analogous to the fused 300 silks of a corn ear so that a successful pollen grain must germinate on each tiny area serving an ovule?

My Methods

Before dark last night, I taped male flowers closed and picked some to make a bouquet of blossoms. This morning not one blossom had opened. Under 7 to 15X magnification, I examined flowers after tearing away some petals. Every pollen ridge of the stamen had opened. I counted 20,000 to 30,000 pollen grains in each AG male. At 11:00 am I looked at non-taped male flowers and counted 20 pollen grains per flower (plus about 100 in crevices where the insects did not reach). The taped male flowers had slightly better heaping of the pollen grains, but I will pick my male flowers the night before.

-- Harold Eddleman Ph.D. Microbiologist

More from the good Doctor

The main reason for absence of pollen is that bees and wasps carry it away for food very early in the day. Therefore, plant breeders commonly collect pollen before the anthers split open. If you examine anthers (the yellow things dangling on the tips of filaments) in most plant species, you find the anthers split open after dawn and about the time the bees begin working (the bees know the right time). Therefore, plant breeders commonly cut the male flower off before it opens and carry it to the lab or living room where it is warm and dry. I plan to try cutting the male flowers from the vine the evening before they open. I place them in petri dishes or saucers and some breeders hang a light bulb above the drying male flowers.

-- Harold Eddleman Ph.D. Microbiologist

Pumpkin Flowers are shy – be sure to cover them up

I cover the male and female flowers the night before with cheesecloth. I had great success with pollination this year. This has not always been the case - over the last few years, I have improved. In the first few years I hand pollinated my blossoms early in the morning because I had to be to work at 6:00am. It wasn't until I was talking with Pete Glasier about the poor success rate I was having with fruit set he asked what time in the day I was pollinating. He then explained to me that the pollen on the males isn't ripe until the temperature warms up the blossom and the male blossom wants to burst open when uncovered. After looking at a male blossom in the early morning, I noticed there wasn't any loose pollen available on the stamen. Later that same morning I saw hundreds of grains on the stamen. From that day on I went to work late on pollination days. As for how many males, I usually use three male blossoms - any more than that my back starts to hurt from being stooped over for so long. Besides there is usually so much pollen on the female blossom it starts to pile up. I was talking to Al Eaton earlier this year about seed count. He said around 500 seeds is about average in a big pumpkin. Now I have not done any research on this but I would have to agree with his thoughts.

-- Jon Hunt (grower of the 991 in 1999)

If you don’t want to cut the cheese (cloth)

I use a technique from Suzanne Ashworth's excellent book "Seed to Seed" which I find to be less work. The evening before I pollinate, at about dusk, I go through my pumpkins, and use masking tape to tape shut the male and female blossoms I want to use. A single loop of masking tape around the petals keeps them from opening. In the morning, whenever I feel like it, I go to the patch and collect the male flowers that I taped shut the night before. I take them to the female flower I wish to pollinate, and use a pocketknife to cut off the male flower petals at the base, and as little of the female petals as I can. I apply the pollen directly using the stem of the male flower as a handle (or several male flowers if they are available) then tape the female flower shut again so bees can't get in to contaminate the pollen I have chosen with unknown pollen. I always find loads and loads of pollen in the male flowers and it is fresh.

-- Shaun

When hand pollinating, I know that the female flower should be bagged before it opens... Is it also necessary to bag the flower after it has been hand pollinated with the male? If so - how long should the bag remain on?

Good question, here's the answer. You need to bag both the male and the female flower before their opening if you want to assure a pure cross. If you don't bag the males, the bees may have been to your neighbors hubbard squash before visiting your AG males and deposited some of the pollen from the hubbard in your flower, then when you take your male over to pollinate your carefully protected female you end up with a portion of the pollen creating hybrid seeds.

I am trying something new this year for protecting flowers that I think will work well. I expect to pollinate my first one tomorrow and I've covered the flowers I expect to use on both plants with my wife’s old nylon stockings. I used a knee high and cut some lengths from some old pantyhose that ran and tied knots in one end. Stretch them out and spread them over the flower and them gather the open end around the stem. Those bristly hairs on the outside of the flower and on the stem grab and hold the nylon quite well. It will let air and light in but keep the little critters out. After pollinating, I tie the female blossom shut with a short piece of twine. In a few days the flower dries up and drops off. Then I re-use the twine.

-- Chris Michalec

Rain, rain, go away

I have heard a few different techniques to keep the pollen dry. I use the large Styrofoam cups inverted upside down to keep males and females dry. On the other hand, any other plastic cup that fits well over the flowers would work. Pollinating with wet males is not too successful. The pollen should be visible ......looks rather like a fluffy light powder on the male. In the morning when the male first opens it may not show very well but after a couple hours of being open, it gets more visible as it dries - then transfer to the female. Keep it dry too. I use this technique when I have fertilized and still need to water from overhead sprinklers. Keep the cups on the females for a couple days. Works for me!

-- Shellie Cramer

When you’re hot, you’re too hot

The day before you expect to pollinate, fill either 2 liter plastic soda bottles or 1 gallon plastic milk containers (whichever happens to be in the garbage at the time) and put them in the freezer. After you hand pollinate in the morning, put a paper lunch bag over the flower. Put one frozen container on each side of the flower. Then, put a Styrofoam cooler over both bottles and the flower. Wrap your wife's best bathroom towels around the bottom of the cooler to seal it. Finally, throw a tarp over the whole thing to further insulate it. I'll do this around 7:30 in the morning before I go to work. When I get home at six, there is still ice in the bottles and the flower is nice and cool even on days when the daytime temperatures are in the 90s.

-- Mike Nepereny

We all have different methods but I simply use an old 35 quart Thermos cooler with the lid open and placed upside down over the female with a 2 liter soda bottle filled with water and then frozen. Place the frozen bottle beneath the cooler being careful not to let the bottle touch the plant in any way. The insulated cooler will keep the ice in the bottle from melting too quickly.

-- ???

If the weather is hot and I’ve got a female ready to open on the right vine, and in the right position, and I think she’s the one, then this is what I do. I cut off the leaf and secondary near the flower. I then take a take a cheap Styrofoam cooler (you can get them at the grocery store) and on each end, I cut openings to make room for the vine. I invert the cooler and place it over the flower. If it is going to be very hot – I’ll also place some ice or a frozen soda bottle under the cooler. If it is going to be very, very hot, I soak a white towel and drape it over the cooler.

-- Henry

Where or where should my baby be?

Don Black had a world record holder set out about 3 or 4 feet on a side vine. Pollinate everything that looks good and decide later.

-- pumkinguy

The Basics

-- Bob Troy

Beyond the Basics

Controlling the pollination process is one of the critical practices that has led to the continual increase of pumpkin weights. Hand pollinating results in a better fruit set. This will insure that more seeds develop inside the fruit, and those seeds will have a controlled genetic makeup. To ensure that the cross was pure, both male and female flowers that are to be used in the cross must be covered the night before. The covering must keep the flower from being invaded by bees or filled with water, and allow ventilation. Cloth or paper bags work well along with panty hose. I prefer panty hose because it holds the flower closed and is very breathable. Pollen germinates best at approximately 72º F so the female flower should be kept at this temperature during pollination. Approximately 1-1/2 hr. before the female would normally open, take several jugs of warm water, blankets, and Styrofoam and create a makeshift sealed insulated structure around the fruit. Place the jugs of water inside with the female bloom. Use the warm water to raise the temperature between 70- 75º F. It is unnecessary to do this if the temperature is 70º overnight. It is critical to pollinate as soon after the female has opened as possible.

The extreme of waiting by the female and gently helping it open will work, but do not force the flower or damage it severely. This may be one of the most critical steps. I have observed a difference of 800 seeds produced because of a two-hour difference in pollination time. Plan to use a large number of male flowers for each female (as many as 8, no fewer than 3). Remove the petals from the males and roll them gently on the receptive surface of the female. Cover 100% of the receptive surface, but don't try to continue covering over areas that have already been covered once. This will damage the receptive surface and limit pollen germination. One of the major factors concerning whether pollen will germinate is the receptive surface's protein coded inhibitor. This will prevent pollen from germination that is too dissimilar. Usually this means that all similar species will be compatible, but this is not always true with giant pumpkins. Dissimilarity in visible characteristics is not a good indicator of this, and only a very high power microscope can be decisive. If you are trying to make a specific cross and nothing will set regardless of other practices, it is advisable to use the second best male for a cross and see if it will take.

Now that the pollen is applied, the female should be gently closed. Be careful not to stress the flower or bump the receptive surface with the flower petals in that this will remove some of the pollen. Now it is necessary to keep the female flower between 70- 75º F for the next 8 hours. This can again be accomplished with a makeshift structure of Styrofoam and blankets. As the temperature rises during the day, the warm jugs will need to be replaced with cold ones. For extra cooling, keep the outside of the structure moist relying on evaporation to cool the structure. With these measures taken, the flower should set. It is very possible to set fruit without going to this extreme, but in times of difficulty, this procedure will be of help. Employing this method at all times should increase the number of seeds in the fruit. However, if at any point the fruit is put under undue stress it could be aborted by the plant so at times simpler methods will yield better results. I hope this helps all who have questions. I am open to opinions on my method as well as questions. 

--- Nic Welty


Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Fascinating stuff huh? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Don’t let the bees do your dirty work – seed trading is a lot of fun, if your seeds are "open pollinated" i.e. if you haven’t controlled the genetic cross, you won’t get much interest in your seeds - so Do pollinate the flowers yourself. Henry’s had good luck with nylon stockings, and they also work well for bagging male and female flowers – Don’t go wearing the nylons while pollinating in your patch. Henry has tried taping the female flowers shut and has tried tying them closed with a piece of string – the string worked well for Henry. Do use something to tie the females shut after pollinating.

In closing, Don’t pollinate everything in site, just your pumpkins.


To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Friday June 30, 2000



Shade and Misting Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to shading and misting Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to shade and mist). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

To Mist or not to Mist, that is the question

It all depends on where you live, or rather, on where your pumpkin lives. In the American west or southwest, misting or shading is a must. Without it your pumpkin leaves will shrivel, dry up and fall off. Not good. Once again, you and only you will have to decide whether misting or shading are for you and your pumpkin. Regardless or where you live, most growers provide shade protection for the pumpkin itself. Shading the pumpkin fruit is thought to prevent premature maturation of the fruit and produce larger pumpkins. Does it? Who knows – it is up to you to find out.

Read on to learn more rules for shading and misting giant pumpkins.

-- Henry

Chris Andersen on Misting

My misting system is used to cool the leaf surface of my plants during high temperatures, above 85-90F. It has worked quite well in keeping the plants cool and eliminating leaf burning in high temperatures up to 111F. Many of the Napa Valley Growers now use such a system with great satisfaction. The idea is to wet the leaf surface area just enough to cool the leaf by evaporation of the water. My system consists of an Irritrol microprocessor controller (water timer) and micro emitters (sprinklers). A standard rain bird type water timer does not support the functions required to make the system work. You need a water timer or controller that provides for "Loop Cycling" and "Loop Delay". This feature allows you to program a "Start Time", "Stop Time" and "Programming of each Valve" for a specified run time in seconds or minutes in a cycle. Example: At 10 a.m. the first valve starts, runs for 60 seconds, shuts off, valve two starts runs for 60 seconds shuts off. The system then shuts off for 8 minutes, then valve one starts and runs for 60 seconds and so on until 4 PM or programmed shut off time when the entire system shuts down.

I turn them on once the temp reaches 85 F and shut them down by 4 p.m. Once the sun is low enough it won't burn the plants anymore. You only need to use them during the vegetative growth stage, once the leaves mature they won't burn as they do when they are young. I run them 2 minutes on and 6 minutes off. This keeps the patch pretty wet and you have to let it dry out every chance you get or if things cool off. As far as laying out the system, I use 3/4 PVC pipe that connects to a 48" high riser that is 1/2". The micro emitter sits on top of this and I use rebar to keep the riser straight up and down. For a water timer you will need one that has loop cycling, this is only found in the more expensive commercial types around $400 dollars. You can build one using a light timer and 24 or 48 VDC transformer for about $30 bucks but this will only come on and off about every 30 minutes. Not much control.

There is a difference between misters and micro-emitters. Misters provide exactly that, a fine mist almost like a fog. Micro-emitters on the other hand are actually micro-sprinklers that broadcast a very fine broken up water pattern. I prefer the micro-emitters as I find they cover a larger area and provide for better wetting of the leaf surface area. Misters on the other hand provide such a fine mist or fog that it tends to swirl around in an uneven pattern missing much of the leaf area. The micro-emitters I use are available in 49gph, 21gph and 8gph sizes. I have found for a large to medium size patch 3,000 square feet plus the 21gph work great, for smaller patches the 8 gph work great. These are available from Ewing Irrigation products Main Office 3441 East Harbour Drive Phoenix AZ 85034 phone: 602-437-9530. Part # for the 21 gph is 12002030. As a side note some of the Napa Growers may want to further comment on this subject as I believe they are using different micro-emitter heads which do not put out as much water.

-- Chris Andersen (grower of the 977)

Turkeys in the Mist

Misting is vital here in the west. Having contract turkeys has enabled me to work quite a bit with cooling. Misters I believe should be kept for cooling and not watering. Two different and complete systems should be in place. Low admittance per hour is better. 1 gallon per hour / head, I have found out is enough to cool the air, which is the main goal. These emitters at a spacing of 4 -6 feet seem to do the trick and upwind from the prevailing summer wind if any. Height should be high enough where the mist just reaches the leaves for cooling, maybe 6 - 10 feet. A booster pump will work and I have seen them in poultry houses. Having good piping and fittings is necessary because of the pressure. I have seen booster pumps set at 400 psi. Why so high?. At that pressure you break the water molecule and create not a mist, but a fog, which is actually ideal. Haven't got that far in the patch and still working in the turkeys houses. If you are near some kind of poultry production like I am, you can find these things at a poultry equipment distributor. Someone just recently was talking about dosatrons and dosamatic medicators for fertilizing. I also use them very extensively in the birds for cleaning and preventative bird health. In years over I have found the dosatron to be quite a piece of junk. The dosamatic is a good medicator, but depending on gallon rate i.e. 20 or 40 gallons/ minute they are pricey (approximately $280 - 450.).

-- Ken

Shading is another way to go

I used misters last year like Chris Anderson does. They work real well and wet everything nice and evenly. The problem I have is Powdery Mildew. Last year was not the first year I have had It, I seem to have it every year. Chris and others using misters have had no problems with Powdery Mildew. I think that if your air is drier you may be able to get away with misting without the powdery mildew problem. If so it may be a cheaper way to go. I plan on trying shade cloth this year. The guys up in Napa Ca. use it and I checked out their patches, they use up to 50% block. I think I will try 30% to 40%. The misters we use are actually mini sprinklers. The type used with the black poly tubing and drip type systems. We buy the threaded type and screw them into the reducers that screw on to 1/2" PVC. You can run them over head or along the top of the ground with risers.

-- Bob Troy

Shade the fruit with a hoop structure

The ones I have made the past two years were small but they worked fine. I simply got some 10' lengths of PVC pipe and 3/8" rebar cut to 2' to 2½' lengths. Push the rebar into the ground at angles opposite each other about 6'and space them out about 3' apart so you have a series of them looking like some kind of giant ribcage sticking out of the ground. Spread your plastic sheeting over the top and staple the ends to a some long boards like firring strips or 1X4's. Use some sort of re-enforcing fabric so the plastic will not pull off the staples easily. Let the boards lie on the ground outside the PVC pipe and rebar or bury them. I close the ends off with wooden stakes driven into the ground and a 3" wide sheet of plastic stapled to them. Usually the top of the ends has a little gap so there can be some cross ventilation. I have not done anything very elaborate because they are only going to be up for a month or so anyway. I haven't had any problems exempt for wind damage last year as I didn't staple the plastic to a board like I did the year before and I tried to get away with just burying the ends of the plastic sheeting. This spring the boards will be back as I had to rebuild the things every time the wind blew hard. I'm sure you can find plans to make them bigger and more elaborate but this method is simple effective and relatively inexpensive. It's not a very time consuming project either.

-- Chris Michalec

Jumping through hoops

I have found the easiest and best shade is made by PVC hoop structures. Pound four or six 3-ft pieces of rebar into the ground around the pumpkin and then slide 2 or 3 10-ft. lengths of small diameter PVC piping over the rebar to form hoops. Take another piece of PVC pipe and place on top of the hoops and duct tape into place. Cover hoops with tarps, sheeting or what have you. Fasten the tarps to the PVC using spring clamps that can be found in any hardware store.

-- ???

Why stop here? Let’s shade the entire plant

Here is my method. I take two 15' pieces of 2" PVC pipe and connect them. Then I connect the covering to the pipe, a few small screws along the tarp edge work well. Try to leave some room on the edge of the piping for anchoring. I erect three vertical pieces in the middle of the plot about 2' higher than the plant. Put one on each end and then one in the middle of the plant area. Then you can run pipe length between the three. This middle one is just to keep the tarp off the plant. I also put vertical pieces in each corner, with connectors attached. Pull the tarp over the plant and connect the tarp pipe ends to the vertical pieces. I usually do not glue the pipes so I can pull them apart later. I've used this method for 2 years and it has worked great. Handles wind well, and assuming you pound the PVC pieces deep enough, they will easily stay up all season. What I really like about it is that when you don't need it, you can roll up the tarp on the pipe and keep it to the side for quick use if you need it. We get hail up here in Minnesota, and a quick response is needed in those moments. Total cost of piping is around $20, and will last longer than your tarp will.

-- Pumpkinpiper

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

Fascinating stuff huh? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Don’t mist if you don’t need to. If your summer is filled with many 85-degree days – then you will need to do something. Henry built his misting system based on information from Chris Andersen. It is easy to build, works well, and can be used year after year. The expensive part can be the timer. Do buy the best timer you can afford – you will need as much control as possible – and Do shop around, prices can vary.

Henry also tried using shade cloth for the first time this year. So far so good. If you have a small growing area and can afford the shade cloth, it should work well for you. By using shade cloth instead of misting, you will also reduce the likelihood of fungal diseases, some of which like damp conditions.

Do shade the pumpkin fruit – building a PVC hoop structure is also easy to do. Henry has had great luck using spring clamps to attach the tarp to the PVC structure. Give it a try. Don’t build the structure too close to the fruit and Do allow adequate ventilation – you’re not building an oven.

There you have it. Good luck and keep cool.


To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Sunday July 2, 2000


Disease Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches for preventing and treating Giant Pumpkin plant diseases. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to handle pumpkin diseases). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Taxes, Death, and Pumpkin Disease

You will have to deal with diseases to your pumpkin plant. Unfortunately, they are inevitable. Pumpkin diseases are easier to prevent than they are to cure. So do your best to prevent them and then learn how to treat them when they arise. The Internet is an incredible resource for learning about plant diseases. For more information, check out the following links. Read on to learn about some real world experiences in treating and controlling pumpkin disease.



Great page with tons of photos of diseased plants


Mosaic virus guide


Bacterial wilt information


Phytophthora blight


Gummy stem blight


This site has it all


General info on common garden insects


More Insect Information




Clusters of pear-shaped green or black or purple etc. insects with long antennae in front and 2 short "tailpipes" at the rear are found on tender shoots and branch tips of plants. Some have wings. Empty white skins are noticeable amongst the insects. They pierce and suck sap out of the plants causing them to discolor, wilt or deform. Aphids can't metabolize all the sugar and will secrete "honey-dew" which attracts ants. A black fungus ("Sooty Mold") may grow on this "honey-dew. Some Aphids cause galls (on Spruce); others cover themselves with white or grey wax (Woolly Aphids).

Life cycle:

Aphids over winter as eggs. In spring newly hatched insects are all female. These will give birth continuously to live nymphs as many as 10 per day. When crowded out some will develop wings and fly off to "greener pastures". In the fall when temperatures go down some males are produced. These mate with females who lay eggs on plants and trees for over wintering.


Garlic, Chives, Anise, Coriander, Nasturtiums and Petunias will repel Aphids. If Nasturtiums do attract Aphids then the soil may be too acid and should be "sweetened" by adding lime. Mint may discourage ants as these insects will "farm" aphids and protect them from predators.


Dormant Oil in the winter will kill over wintering eggs on trees and shrubs.

Physical Control:

Water will wash Aphids off the plants. They will not crawl back on by themselves but Ants will carry them and put them back. Sticky barriers around the stems will help prevent this. Remay cloth will prevent flying Aphids from landing.

Biological Control:

Lady Beetles and their larvae will eat aphids, as many as 2400 in their lifespan. Green Lacewings (devour up to 100 per day), Aphid- Midges (orange larvae), Spiders, Assassin Bugs and Soldier Beetles are also beneficial. Chalcid and Braconid Wasps lay their eggs on aphids, that hatch into larvae who tunnel into their host.

Chemical Control:

Diazinon Insect Spray and Malathion 50 are good controls on Vegetables and Fruit Trees. Rotenone Dust contains a natural (botanical) insecticide and can be dusted on vegetables up to 1 day before harvest. Rose Dust, Rose & Flower Insect Killer and Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer are all Ready-To-Use and contain pyrethrum (a botanical insecticide). For House Plants use House Plant Insect Killer, or House Plant Bug Killer indoors.

When using pesticides always read the entire label on the container and follow the directions.

White Flies

White flies are tiny white insects that can be found on the bottom of pumpkin leaves. They are a sucking insect that can spread disease. I believe the pesticide of choice against sucking insects like white flies and aphids is Malathion. I am told less potent insecticidal soaps will work too.

-- G

Yesterday I found some on the underside of the leaves on the 991. I sprayed with Safer soap. This was effective. They are gone for now but no doubt, they will be back. Just a reminder, keep checking the underside of the leaves everyday. Those white flies, aphids, mites and other bugs love snacking on young pumpkin plants.

-- George Webster

Bacterial Wilt

I continue to have problems with my AG (Burke 1092). I have no fruit set. While the 1092 had flat vined, it did produce numerous secondary vines. In a earlier post, I mentioned that I thought the plant had bacterial wilt. Since then, I have learned of two simple tests for bacterial wilt and my plant failed both. My local extension office suspects Fusarium Wilt. They ventured fumigation and soil solarization as possible controls. I considered throwing a virgin into the volcano but opted instead to seek a scientific solution. I need Help! Here is a run down of observations and symptoms. I do not know if all are related.

This started at the base of the plant and has been moving down select vines. Two thirds of the plant has now been removed. The stump seemed ok when I buried it about 30 days ago after removing a number of secondaries and leaves from the area. The garden is in full sun except early in the AM and later in the day before dusk. No borers present. Squash bugs early in the season, but seemed to be killed by insecticides. Cucumber beetles continue to survive in small numbers despite repeated applications. Plot is ~500 sq. ft. and is surrounded by turf grass (mixed variety).

I sent plant and soil samples to the University of Illinois plant pathology lab. Yesterday I received the answer. Bacterial Wilt. This pathogen is transmitted to the plant by the bites of cucumber beetles. The bacteria is usually fatal. There is no cure. Control of the beetle from very early in the season (1 - 2 leaf stage) is the only solution. I am done for the year. No pumpkins. You will be able to find lots of info on the internet for both the cucumber beetle and bacterial wilt on curcubits. Hope you can pull some good ones through.

-- Greg Schraiber


Powdery mildew is caused by hot daytime temperatures and cool night temperatures. Along with DRY weather, which it thrives in. Downy mildew thrives in cool moist weather, especially in the fall of the year. I recently had a bout with powdery mildew. I keep up with a spray program. I mix carbyral and daconil together when spraying. If I see signs of mildew, I go one step further. By mixing 4 to 6TBLS. of baking soda and 3TBLS. of bleach and one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid added to 2 gal. water. I spray the infected leaves where it actually kills the mildew on contact. First, go into your garden and prune heavily infected leaves to get more air circulation into the area of infestation, before it spreads any further. Try not to let the infected leaves touch any other leaves when pruning to prevent spreading. Then spray thoroughly both top and under leaves and vines, anywhere you see the mildew. Caution: try not to saturate non-affected leaves it might damage them a little. A light misting will not harm them though. I lightly spray the remainder all through the garden to kill of any I missed. I hope this helps people out there, it works for me.

--- William Brown

More on Mildew…

The mildew prevention program I use was designed by a fellow grower, Buck Meier, therefore I can not take credit for the following plan. In 1994 and 95' I lost plants to powdery mildew and downy mildew. The effects on the pumpkins I had set were twofold; a) growth came to a stand still, and b) early maturation of the fruit. This resulted in a loss of two hundred plus pounds to each pumpkin. I went to the Half Moon Weigh-off as a spectator in 95' and a grower referred me to Buck whom I called and he told me of the simple plan of prevention.

From planting until vines are about 4ft. long, spray with a weak solution of Daconil (1/2 the recommended rate) once a week-preferably 3 hours after watering in the evening. To be more specific he makes sure he is done watering two hours before sunset.

After the vines are 5ft. and they have secondaries he applies Daconil at full strength following the same schedule as above.

The second week of June he sprays the plants with Maneb instead of Daconil. He uses Maneb once a month only and it's always the second week. There isn't a reason for using the second week except it works in his schedule best so I just followed it also. Maneb has a different chemical make-up than Daconil and he feels this is good preventative for downy mildew and gummy stem blight (which many growers seemed to get this year). He applies Maneb mid-week, not scheduled, only if the weather keeps his soil wet.

On August 19th, he applies Daconil after every watering, rain or by hose, he also washes his plants with a tablespoon of liquid Dawn dish soap per 5 gallons of water every two weeks. This eliminates spores, residual chemicals and the plant is more responsive to fertilizers and fungicides.

Finally, up to and 10 days after setting the fruit, he sprays his leaves with liquid seaweed once a week. He believes the seaweed helps the plant build up it's own natural resistance to disease.

This is Buck's plan and it has worked for him and myself and others . However, it may be to extreme for growers in other areas and they will have to tweak it so it works better for them. I hope this helps.


More still…

After fighting this off for years on AG's and other plants, I have this program.

Hope this helps.

-- John in San Jose

And more…

I grow around 50 acres of pumpkins down in Florida. When I get powdery mildew, I use bayleton. It comes in a 2-pound box and costs around $100.00. You only have to use 2 ounces per 100 gallons so a 2-pound box can go a long ways. Tomorrow I am going to use a new product that I have never used before it is called REACH, my spray salesman gave me a couple of gallons to try. He said it is supposed to work very good on the powdery mildew, and I have a few spots that are starting to pop up, so I thought I would try it.

-- David

And more and more ….

To those new to using greenhouses to cover there seedlings. This is my first year to use greenhouses to cover my plants and I have made a rookie mistake. It has been very dry here in CT. until a few days ago when we got more rain then we needed. The day after was nice and sunny and I left for the day. I did not vent the greenhouses and when I returned some of my plants had yellow spots on them, a sure sign of powdery mildew. The greenhouses without being vented had duplicated the weather of late summer, hot and humid. The mildew set in. I sprayed with Daconil (1 Tablespoon per gal.) also added liquid seaweed and Miracle Grow to the mix. As I wrote to the group a few months ago, I read that Cornell U. had discovered that baking soda in water was a good cheap and safe cure for many types of mildew. However, I did not know the mix ratio. Today I read in the book 600 Garden Answers, by the editors of Organic Gardening, that researchers in Japan have announced that baking soda and water applied weekly at a rate of 1 teaspoon per quart will prevent infection by mildew spores and stopped mildew infections when caught early. In my next mix, I'm adding baking soda to it. What I really want to know is who gets the credit Cornell U, or the Japanese? I had my first male flower open today! (935 Lloyd X 600 Jones) My last year 480 estimated

-- Alan R.

Give your plants a bath

I use 2 teaspoons of Dawn dishwashing liquid per gallon of water to combat powdery mildew, and I think the group should also take advantage of this (I used 3-1/2 teaspoons due to the severity of the infection). This works great and saves you a lot of money.

-- Scott Parsons


I tried about five different types and had no luck until Benemyl. I spray the entire patch and with a sprayer once at dusk every three weeks. I heard that the plant absorbs the chemical in the leaves and the roots.

Plants under stress (lack of water, heat, diet deficiencies) are much more susceptible to this than healthy plants.

Good luck

-- Tom Bahlo


Hail No

Not really a disease, but you have to treat it like one. George Brooks has the solution….

Unfortunately, I have had four or five hailstorms in the 20 years that I have been growing these.

Remarkably, the AG doesn’t need anywhere near the number of leaves that we thought it did quite a few years back. (I think I was the last to believe that) Therefore, if you have quite a few leaves still upright you should be ok. In severe cases, the vine can explode when hit by a large hailstone. Also it can bring on early maturity if the plant is stressed too much. If it is, the pumpkin will stop growing within two weeks.

-- George

Soft spots and stem treating

If you have a soft stem or a spot or exposed meat on the pumpkin, think of it as cancer. Dusting over a bad spot will allow the soft rot organisms to keep doing their thing. Scrape it out to solid clean pumpkin meat, rinse with water, let dry. Apply a concentrated solution of fungicide, captan, bravo, or both. Keep the wound dry, block sprinklers and rain from hitting it. Don't pack a wound with captan, it stays moist and is not needed. Just a good strong dose of fungicide, then let the air get at it and dry it out.

-- pumkinguy

The secret I found was to scrape or rub off all the "rotted" stem then dust lightly and circulate air with a fan right on the stem. I had this problem 2 weeks ago and this has worked wonders. I now run the fan about 5 hours a day say from 10 till 3 or 4 .

-- Dan Carlson

If the soft spot is not to the cavity, here's what to do. Get a fan and some baby powder, take a spoon and dig out all soft /rot material, then cover the exposed flesh immediately with baby powder and then put the fan on it to dry, It may still be legal.

-- Bob Marcellus


Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Mind numbing huh? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Do use good field sanitation practices and control weed growth. Prevention and early detection are key. If possible, Do water in the early morning and allow you plant leaves to dry before evening. Do inspect your plants regularly – check both the top and undersides of the leaves for insects and disease symptoms. Do treat the disease as soon as it is detected. Don’t assume the plant will heal itself. And above all keep a positive attitude.

Good luck – we have all been there.


To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Monday July 3, 2000



Late Season Rules for Giant Pumpkin Growing

By Henry

OK, the season is almost over, Jack Frost is nipping about, but you still need a few extra pounds for that world record.  Time to get busy. But what can I do you ask?

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to late season care and protection of Giant Pumpkin plants. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on late season care). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Protection from Frost

For those asking about covering plant/fruit, here's my method. My fruit has  4 - 5' posts around it for sun shade, I just wrap a long blanket around  outside of posts and it makes a nice/warm house for the fruit. I also put 8-10 gallon jugs of warm water (sun warms them in day) in the shelter. Last year when it hit 39 degrees outside, it was 52 degrees in the shelter from the warm water. I pull the blanket off in daytime unless the temp is below 50 degrees. I also cover my entire plant at night with a 30'x30' tarp I bought last year. By buying long enough pvc pipe, you can roll tarp on it. I also in beginning of season, place a pvc post on each end of plant space  about dead center, then slid the length of pipe I need into the ends in fall. This gives me a nice support beam down length of plant which keeps the  tarp off the plant. By placing metal posts in each corner, I can roll tarp out and tie down by myself in less than 5 min., and it easily can be rolled up it daytime. Hope this helps gain a few more pounds on your fruit this fall. Happy growing!

-- Steve Thorson

Another Way

Rebar & pvc pipe - 2 ft sections of rebar 1 ft in ground 1 ft out 10 to 20 ft pvc pipe in the rebar. or... just lay the remay over the plant.. let the
plant support it.  secure the edges..bury them .. whatever.. seal the edges to the ground all the way around if you can. you can put hot water in milk jugs under your remay to help add heat.  or an extension cord and a light bulb... just make sure the bulb isn't close to anything or it will heat it up which could cause a burn or fire. you can put blankets directly on your pumpkins and plant too, for that matter.

If you plant completely freezes... the you should cut the pumpkin and store it in cool dry place till you want to bring it out.  if it just partially freezes
then you can leave it out to see if you get any more fruit growth.

-- Gordon Tanner

The Remay Way

P-30 or P-17 remay is good. P-30 has more frost protection. Don Fleming is in one of the coldest places in Vermont. He has 4 by 4 posts in the garden about 6 feet high with smooth plastic lids nailed to the top of the posts, so he can pull the remay over without tearing it. The trick to remay is to keep it off the pumpkin plant. If it lays on the plant, you will get frost damage. You need an air space between the plant and the remay. P-30 is probably good down to about mid 20's. If it is colder than that you will need aux. heat.

-- Pumkinguy

How About This?

Drive a few 2x2 or 1x 2's in and around the plant.....edges and in the middle.....before you drive them in ..drill a hole in the end down a ways..say 2"..then string some light rope through the hole...aaand just keep going.....kinda making a network up above the plant..it does not have to be all that beefy right?? it's just plastic your holding off.....then let the rope support the plastic off the leaves......Another Idea would be to get some tin buckets and light some charcoal fires in a few buckets up under the plastic...SMALL fires..don't want things to get out of control...LOL!!! mAybe add a few brickets (like that spelling!!LOL)  say after 4 hours to keep them going through the night....Hey just Ideas I have come up with IF I ever had a situation where I had something worth while to protect....

You know watering usually protects up to say 29°....overhead sprinklers that is..just let them run all night.....the water is usually 55° or so!!

-- Dan Carlson

Help Please

I live about 15k north of Trois-Rivières. Last night we had a visit from jack frost. My pumpkin is OK (it was covered) but my plant is almost totally destroyed. Our "official" weigh-off is on Oct. 2. Being new in this sport (not to mention new in gardening in general), I don't know what to do. Should I leave it on and hope the plant will last a bit longer? Should I remove it? If I remove it how do I keep it?

My pumpkin's no monster but it's my one and only, and I think that my chances of winning as of now are decent. Friendly neighborhood comp, but I
have to face the others for a full year before I get revenge, so I any advice I get will be really appreciated.

--  Rock

Leave it on the vine.  If your going to have another frost cover the vine back from the Pumpkin to where it comes out of the ground.  The Pumpkin may grow for several days after the leaves are dead running on reserves.

-- George Brooks

Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Last year Jack Frost came a visiting in mid September.  Henry went ahead and constructed an elaborate PVC and rebar structure - the pumpkin survived but the plant got hit hard.  Another grower in the same town,  suspended plastic above his plant and ran his misting system all night long - the plant came through with flying colors.  So the next time Henry is in this situation the sprinklers and/or misters will be a humming.  Henry's advice - if there are still several weeks left in the growing season - Do whatever you can to keep the plant alive.  If there are only a few days left in the season - Do protect the pumpkin, say goodbye to the plant, and get ready for the weighoff.

To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Wednesday January 17, 2001



Seed Harvesting and Storage

By Henry

Well another season has come and gone - the thrill of your appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" has passed, and you are staring face to face at six long months of winter. What to do, what to do. You could learn another language or stop world hunger, but you are first and foremost a giant pumpkin grower and there is always something more to do. Why not support the US postal service by sending bubble packs of pumpkin seeds throughout the world? But first, you’ll need some seeds to air mail…

What follows is a brief outline of several popular approaches to harvesting and storing Giant Pumpkin seeds. Following the list of approaches are Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts (Henry’s take on how to save ‘em). As always, remember Henry’s second Rule of Pumpkin Growing – it is up to you to decide the rules. Good luck and have fun!

Warning: Giant Pumpkin Growing is highly addictive.

Harvesting ideas

I dry my seeds on old window screens I get at the dump. I wash them in a pail and pour them onto the screen. The screen lets them dry from both sides. Others I have put on old towels to dry. Many ways work.

-- Alan R.

Wash them off in a vegetable strainer in the sink. Spread them out on a window screen, block it up so air flows under it if possible, and put them in a cool dry place for about three weeks. You can also spread them out on newspaper somewhere. Store them in a barn, loft, spare bedroom, garage, or whatever. Some growers prefer not to wash them. If they’re not too slimy, you may not have to. Before storing them, make sure they are completely dry.

-- Bob Troy

To save your seeds, remove them from the pumpkin, clean them off with water, then dry them. You can set them on out on a piece of newspaper in a warm dry place. Make sure they are completely dry, like 2-3 weeks sitting out on your kitchen counter. Some people put them on paper towels on a cookie sheet in their oven with just the light on. If you do this just make sure that there is a note on the oven- so no one turns it on preheat to cook something. You can cut your pumpkin then display it - then later remove the seeds. You can not take out the seeds and then display it... because it will rot quickly... like within a few days. Sometime if it is displayed in a warm area, the seeds will germinate inside.

-- Gordon Tanner

Harvesting and Storage ideas from a Professional

Pumpkins used for seed saving must be grown until fully mature. Pumpkins have a greater number of viable seeds when cut from the vine and left to sit for three weeks or longer. Pumpkin seeds will remain viable for six years when stored in cool, dry, dark conditions.

-- Suzanne Ashworth, from the book "Seed to Seed"

Storage Advice from a Professional

Storage of pumpkin seeds in dry climates is very simple. The main factor for long storage and maintaining the viability of the seed is that they are as dry as possible. In climates where the relative humidity is low, you need just air-dry them. This should take a couple of weeks. To maintain this low humidity, place the seed in a ziploc bag of appropriate size. Be sure to leave some air in the bag when you seal it. The bag of seeds should then be placed in as cool a spot as you can find in your home. Do not put them in the refrigerator. The refrigerator contains a high relative humidity and this could age the seed at an accelerated pace. Seed stored this way will retain its viability for up to five or more years.

You can also freeze the seed. Again, the main thing is to have the seed as dry as possible and sealed so that the seeds cannot take up moisture while being stored. Freezing will definitely prolong the storage life of the seeds.

-- Jim Bruce, National Seed Storage Laboratory

Taking it a step further

I e-mailed Jim Bruce at the National Seed Storage Lab and asked him if the way I was saving my seeds was adequate. I save my seeds in the plastic 24 count Excedrin bottles which comes with a small capsule of desiccant in it to keep the tablets moisture free. I make a label with all the seed information and attach it to the bottle. I keep them in a box in the bottom of the bookcase and Jim said that this was excellent. The desiccant will take care of any excess moisture and I could keep seeds in this manner for periods exceeding 10 years. I could also freeze the bottles and keep them even longer. Everyone saves their bottles for me and it has turned out to be a neat, organized, uniform manner to keep up with Atlantic Giant seeds. Again, thanks to everyone who has donated seeds to me. Just thought I would share that with you all.

-- Scott Parsons

More details

The best way is to reduce their moisture content to 8% or less, then freeze them in airtight containers. A quick and easy test is this: seeds will break instead of bending if their moisture level is 8% or less. You can speed the drying of seeds by putting them in jars with silica gel, which absorbs a tremendous amount of moisture, for seven or eight days. Then remove the silica gel and move the seeds into a freezer. Color-indicating silica gel is the best as you can tell by its color (pink or blue) whether or not it is unable to absorb any more moisture. You can then reuse it by drying it in a 200 degree F oven for eight hours. Dried frozen seeds can maintain viability and vigor for years using this technique.

More details can be had in Suzanne Ashworth's excellent book "Seed to Seed" on pp35-38.

-- Shaun in Spokane

And more

OK here's my 2 cents.

I grow a lot of Heirloom vegetables and it is very important for me to store the seed properly. I store most of them in Barrier Pouches - for those of you who haven't heard of these before they are white envelopes lined with a type of foil that is heat sealable with an ordinary clothes iron. When the seeds are dried and sealed properly in this type of pouch and stored in your refrigerator they are supposed to keep seeds viable (5) times longer then any other types of containers. I can personally vouch for these. I opened up a pouch of bean seed last year that was dated June of 1981 and had a 75% germination success. Usually bean seed is only good for about 4-5 years. Be sure to make sure that the seeds are good and dr. I usually wait a few weeks after I think there good and dry. They come in two sizes, the small ones hold about a dozen large AG seeds and the large ones hold about 3-4 times that amount. I get mine from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange- www.southernexposure.com

-- Elkskin


Henry’s Do’s and Don’ts

There you have it. What could be more interesting? Now, let’s see what Henry has to say.

Don’t harvest your seeds immediately after the pumpkin is cut from the vine – hang on and wait a couple of weeks to increase the number of viable seeds. Don’t store your seeds in your gym bag. Do make sure they are adequately dry (for those of you with time on your hands, the silica desiccant works great) and for long term storage consider storing the containers in your freezer next to your lamb chops. Do learn more about seed storage (believe it or not, Henry finds the storage of seeds to be fascinating) by checking out the National Seed Storage lab web site:




To discover more rules for growing Giant Pumpkins, check out Henry’s Rules of Giant Pumpkin Growing. Have fun!

Revised: Tuesday, October 31, 2000




Pumpkin Home

Rules for Cloning Giant Pumpkins

Or How To Keep "Clones" Growing During The Winter

By Madman Marc


What follows is an article written by Madman Marc outlining the approach to keeping a pumpkin "clone" growing throughout the winter.  In 2001, Madman is hoping to be the first person to successfully over winter a pumpkin and grow it the following year.  Henry wishes Madman the best of luck.

Picking a Good Pumpkin Clone

When fall arrives and the pumpkins have finally revealed their "true identity" by growing a huge pumpkin, it is time to decide which plant, if any, are worthy of keeping alive until the next season. This is an easy decision, the best genetic plant lives, the others die. Dill rings, splitters, weak plants, etc. are not the kinds of plants you want to grow, unless you want to grow another problem plant the next year! With frost always being a problem by October, it is best to choose a plant by the first week in September. This allows you time to get a vine rooted and ready to bring indoors once frost hits. It is best to make as many clones as you can possibly handle indoors, as a few may die off.

Picture of Kevin Holman and Joe Scherber with curious children in disbelief...a 1009 pound pumpkin...alive still in 2001! This has been growing during the winter, and will be the first pumpkin plant ever to grow for more than one season.

Getting Started

O.K. ...you are hell bent on keeping your best genetic plant alive! You know what one to grow, so the first step is getting one rooted in a pot which can be taken indoors. A window flower pot [those long and skinny ones] are probably the best. I have rooted all mine in all kinds of different pots, but the longer the better. Find a side vine that is healthy and showing new growth. Place the pot of your choice under the vine and bury it about 2 inches in the soil. Allow the tip some room to grow, as you want the plant to have a little room to grow before it starts growing over the edge of the pot. Make sure the soil is moist, but not too wet! No air means no roots! No water means no roots! This is the most important thing to learn when growing clones. Believe me, this is not as easy as it is to do outdoors! For some reason, if the soil is not just right once you start growing in pots, you will have a ton of problems, or death! Your soil type just needs to be a good light mix ...any soil type similar to "sunshine potting mix" will do. You can make your own or use any brand that is similar. The outdoor cuttings can be started in plain sand if you do not have the means to get a good potting mix initially, but lack nutrients so must be fertilized.

Free From The World

The first frost or freeze finally comes to take your plants to the other side...you sob, then smile! You need not worry! You have the clones to now fuss with! It is time to cut away the clones from the vine and bring them inside. You need to cut the vine back to the area where the first leaf node is rooted in the pot. If you did your work right the last weeks of  fall, you will have a rooted cutting ready to go. Make the proper cut and pull your new "clone" out of the garden...it is now "free from the world" and ready to travel where ever you want it to go!

The First Weeks Indoors

Now the fun begins. This is the difficult period to get it all going right. Mites, White flies, Aphids, and other nice insects also adjust to their new environment, and begin breeding out of control if you are not careful. Initial pest control is a must! Spray the plants, especially the undersides of the leaves, every 5 to 7 days for the first month. If you see bugs after that period of time, start the spraying program again until they are gone for good. Cool white 40 watt bulbs in 4 foot shop lights will do fine. Keep them on a timer set for 18 hours on and 6 hours off. MAKE CERTAIN NO LIGHT IS PRESENT DURING THE DARK CYCLE! Small fans should be present also for a constant BREEZE...not a wind tunnel! If the leaves on the plants are barely moving, you are doing it right! If you are growing in a basement like I am, make sure to keep pots off of cold concrete floors. Cool temperatures will keep plants from growing too fast, but too much cold may kill them. 55-65 degrees seems to be ideal. Older leaves will die off initially, so do not be too alarmed. Just make sure soil moisture is ideal. Too much water is sometimes the cause of yellowing leaves.

The Pot to Pot Method

Once all is growing well and the original plants are growing over the pots and sprawling, the time to re-clone has come. You will need to place another pot next to the pot with the pumpkin growing out of it. As with the original plant, you just need to bury the vine once again in the new pot, and wait for it to take root. Once it does, simply cut the new clone off, and discard the old plant. It is suggested that you keep the original plant just in case the new plant is not rooted enough. Once you see the new plant growing, it is safe to throw the old one away. If you have the space, lights, timers, and money for the electric bill, you may want to expand your clone area and keep as many plants as possible. This will help ensure your chances to keep a clone or two alive in case of unforeseen problems.


Sleeping With Your Plants

No, you will not need to sleep with your plants, but a daily check up all winter is required! You need to see what the plants are doing on a daily basis in order to detect problems and properly diagnose them. This only requires about 5 minutes a day. When you think about how much time you spend with them in the summer, this is a drop in the bucket! When springtime comes and your plants are ready to go outdoors again, all your efforts will pay off.

Picture of last years cloned plant: started from a seed in January 2000...this is an 8 month old plant...

Genetic Reasons to Propagate

You might ask, "why bother?" thinking there is no good reason for all this. What good can come from propagating pumpkins? Well, there are several good reasons. Keeping a "clone" of a great producing plant or a plant with desirable breeding characteristics will help eliminate some of the problems we all experience, as with "clones" one can breed a male and female KNOWING EXACTLY how both plants grow, and how the pumpkins will end up by seasons end. We sometime cross two plants, then find out a male or female we used had bad traits which might make for a bad cross. Splitting stems, dill rings, blowouts, holes, or splits all happen long after we have made our crosses. We cannot go back in time and pollinate our best pumpkin with pollen from a different, more desirable, plant. We never know what a seed will do once we set fruit. We make our crosses based upon what would seem as a good match on paper. Even using a "proven seed" is not a guarantee, as each seed has a different genetic code...some carry the traits we like, some have the bad traits we do not, and until grown, we never know! Having 2 pumpkins which every characteristic is already known eliminates the guess work, and better crosses will be created since all traits are already known.

The Madman...