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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bream Creek Show

GROWING GIANT PUMPKINS

Growing giant pumpkins in Australia and throughout the World is becoming something of a craze. Giant pumpkins are very similar to grow as the smaller varieties of pumpkins but they grow a lot larger than any normal variety.

Big pumpkins have long been a highlight of the Bream Creek Show but the pumpkin world was revolutionised in the 1970s when a Canadian dairy farmer, Howard Dill, bred the Atlantic Giant. Before that, the biggest pumpkins were only a fraction of the size of the monsters of today and his pumpkin is credited with launching an international cult following – with a strong contingent turning up at Bream Creek year after year.

During the late eighties the show’s pumpkin competition became serious and the pumpkins were of such size that it took several strong men to lift them on to a ute to get them to the showgrounds. Local farmer Derek Kingston’s 90 kg pumpkin set the challenge for the years that followed and the record stands at 170kg.

We have a way to go yet though. At the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth annual weigh-off in 2002, Al Eaton, of Canada, claimed a new world record with a 657-kg monster.

So the challenge continues – are you up for it?

At the Bream Creek Show we welcome new competitors – the more stakeholders and the closer the competition the better! So, we’ll even help. Follow these instructions and you could be the proud winner of the Bream Creek Show’s legendary giant pumkin competition, possibly even a world record holder (aim high as they say!).

Giant pumkin people around the world have developed their own growing methods, and most likely the winning formulae are a secret. You may develop your own secret methods over time but for your first go, here are the basics (derived from a variety of sources and methods).

Seeds

Okay so you can’t pop along to the supermarket, pick up a packet of pumpkin seeds and expect them to turn into a wopper. You need the right variety and good breeding. There are some who claim the size potential is all in the seed - we think it’s a bit of everything really and a lot of luck but anyway…

Good genetics may well give you a heads up on the competition, so it’d be great if the seed you buy is from a known pollination (as opposed to open pollinations – i.e. pot luck), even better if it comes from a family of big ‘uns (not necessarily record breakers). Some seed sellers will provide you with a family background with your seed (a bit like papers with a pedigree pup). You may also like to check if the seed have come from plants grown in conditions similar to those of your garden.

The true competition variety - is ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’. 'Prizewinner', 'Big Max', or 'Big Moon' also can produce winners. Just don't plan to dish any of these varieties up with a roast - they are not much on taste and texture. They are available in Australia via mail order or online at:

Eden Seeds: www.edenseeds.com.au Freecall: 1800 188 199 Tel: (07) 5533 1107 Fax: (07) 5533 1108

Diggers Club: www.diggers.com.au Tel: (03) 59871 877 Fax: (03) 59814298

Atlantic Seeds (Giant Pumkin Specialists): www.atlanticseeds.com.au Tel/Fax: 61 3 9786 0337 Mobile: 0409 259 195

If you want to source overseas suppliers try these:


The man himself, Howard Dill (pictured here). Find him at: www.howarddill.com




This man, Don Langevin. He appears to be something of an expert and definitely an enthusiast.

Find him at: www.giantpumpkin.com He has also written a book called, “How to Grow World Class Pumpkins” if you’re really keen. He’s the one who guarantees his pollination.


Seed prices range from approximately $4 to $20 for 6, depending on where you buy, quality and breeding.

Pumpkin seeds are a delicious healthy snack. But don’t eat your seeds, you won’t win and you might grow a giant in your belly which would be most uncomfortable.

When to Plant

Giant pumpkins are usually planted around the same time of the year that smaller pumpkins are planted in your area. They do not like frost, so care should be taken to avoid the last frost, if you must plant before frosts are finished for the year, protect the young plant. Here in Tasmania and in Southern Australia, the best time to plant is October/November.

The Patch

To prepare the soil for your pumpkin patch, care should be first taken to select the correct piece of land. It should be well drained, spacious and sunny but in a wind protected area. The ground should be turned as early as possible, with manure (cow is best) or some other type of food (i.e. pea straw or similar type legume) added to give the ground nourishment and compost.

Planting

You have a couple of options here:

1) Plant the seeds in small pots (1 seed per pot) filled with a good seed raising mixture. Place the pots in a warm, sunny spot until they grow to about 2 to 3 inches high, or are in the 3-leaf stage. Then plant them carefully into your patch, leaving plenty of space between each plant – about 25 feet. The transfer process requires delicate handling of you little plant and its fragile roots.

2) Your second option is to plant the seeds directly into the ground, again about 25 feet apart.

Watering & Feeding

The most important thing when planting a giant pumpkin seed is; DO NOT OVER WATER the ground or pot until the seed has germinated (sprouted). Too much water will rot the seed. Keep the soil damp but don’t drench it.

Once you have a strong vine, water it regularly (even daily in dry weather) but again, don’t over water, especially in humid conditions. Giant pumpkins can rot very easily.

As they have a fair bit of growth to do (3.5 to 5.5 kg per day for the big mummas!), your pumpkins need weekly feeding with liquid manure or liquid compost.

Growing

A giant pumpkin takes approximately 5 months to grow - about 70 to 90 days before any fruit appear on the vine and a further 60 days or so for the fruit to reach maturity.

It is recommended that only 1-3 fruit be left on any one pumpkin bush and only one per main vine. The more fruit the more competition for food. So as the first fruit appear, select the best shaped ones and remove the others. Then pinch off any that appear later.

To become an eye-popping behemoth, your pumpkin has to grow at a good steady rate. So, do everything you can to protect its leaves. They supply nutrients to the stem of the pumpkin. If you're growing in a windy location, construct a temporary wind break, or plant some corn around your pumpkin patch to keep the plants from being damaged.

Pumpkin leaves need lots of sun, but direct sunlight on the pumpkin itself will harden its outer skin, limiting its growth. If necessary, put a shade cloth over them.

A pumpkin is mature when the skin of the pumpkin hardens off and begins to look a bit rough. The colour sometimes fades when this occurs. A giant pumpkin will only last approximately 2 months once cut off the vine, and you should never cut a giant pumpkin off the vine until it is ready for competition unless you think rot or disease may kill the fruit early if left on the vine.

GOOD LUCK AND WE’LL SEE YOU AT THE BREAM CREEK SHOW!

Entry forms available from Maria Woolley – 62535183
And while you’re at it, why not whip up a batch of your best scones, take some awe inspiring photographs or paint a masterpiece for entry into our Hall of Industries. Getting involved is a prize in itself!

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