Grower: Chris and John Lyons
Planting Site: Baltimore, Ontario, Canada
Experience Level: Heavy Hitter
GROWING THE BIG ONE: World Record Squash 900.5 lb., October 1994
We start with a soil test and huddle with the local farm fertilizer supply company since only they can decipher the analysis form. The fertilizer people can make sure that you don't overdo it and kill everything within 100 feet. Make sure that they understand you are growing massive pumpkins and usually fertilize twice the usual rate.
Anyway, a couple of loads of well rotted manure, and well worked in, seems to get things started in the proper direction. Our garden is high on the side of a hill and the wind problem is controlled by snow fencing. The wind is a serious problem and can make a mess of the growing vines. About the last week of April, place a cold frame or tarp at each seedling site to warm the soil.
The seed is germinated about May 1st and placed in 6" plastic pots. After about 5 or 6 days the seedling is placed into its prepared site in the garden. Do this before the roots touch the inside of the pot and start to circle, once started, this will delay root growth and you won't get the extensive root system the plant needs. We place a plastic cold frame, with a hinged top, over each seedling. Don't forget to stake it down so the wind won't blow it away. Leave this protection over the seedling as long as possible.
Orient the plant's main vine to run in the North/South direction. You will get more sunshine on the leaves. You will need about a 40' space between plants. Start the main vine off in a straight line and allow side vines every 20-24 inches. Pin them down gently to stop the wind from rolling them. Don't force them down, they might snap off. We dug shallow ditches in the proper directions, and buried the the vines as they grew along them. Everyday check vines and snap off any suckers. Don't let the plant run wild. This is important to grow really massive fruit.
During all this time proper watering is important and 1994 was the first time we had water available every three days. Try to keep the garden just damp, not wet. A water soluble fertilizer was mixed into the system on a regular basis (be careful).
By July 4th the flowers had been pollinated and the fruit set. All the fruit had very long stems, about 11 - 12 inches. At this point carefully select the best candidate, good stem, not tangled in the vine, no scratches, lots of room for growth, and not closer than 10¹ from the main root. On July 24th we removed all other starters on the vine except that best candidate (do keep a back-up on the vine in case of an accident). The vine was very slow growing and we waited until August 1st before terminating growth on the vine itself There were only 320 leaves on the plant.
All vine runners are terminated, cut off and deeply buried. Get real stern here, no growth allowed. The plant will try, suckers all over, but it will finally put all its energy into the fruit. (Your back-up should be off by now). On August 5th, the fruit measured out a total of 190" or about 150 pounds.
Shelter from sun, hail, and bad weather is needed now and we erected a 5' X 5' frame over the fruit and covered it with a cheap plastic tarp. A must also is a regular program of spraying. Once the nasties get started, it's almost too late, so a weekly application of combo Fungicide-Insecticide is in order. Another tip is to place the small fruit on a bed of clean sand a couple of inches thick to keep away slugs and other chewing things.
Once the Squash is well under way, it's time to keep records. We measure girth, end to end, and side to side. This will enable you to tell which of your plants is taking off, and you can take special care of it. If growth suddenly stops, there is usually a bad reason. It could be plant die back, bugs, or a split some where on the fruit. If there is a bad case of the gallopin crud, it might be a good time to remove all trace of the plant from your garden.
By the end of August we had a squash estimated at 720 pounds (330 inches) and still growing by 16 to 18 pounds a day. On cold nights it was tucked in with blankets and if frost was expected, we placed a large poly tarp over the whole plant. Most Septembers are bad news. The temperature dips up and down and this interferes with the plant's ability to sock on pounds to the fruit. If there is a series of cool days and nights, followed by a warming trend, the plant might start forcing too much growth into the fruit and it will split. We controlled this sudden surge by removing some leaves or making a notch about half way through the vine near the stem end of the fruit. On September 22nd we chopped off the main root. Now is a good time to start those "Nerve" pills. On September 29th we lost our nerve, and cut the fruit from the vine. At that time it was 366" and an even 14' in girth. Using the old charts of Len Stellpflug that should have weighed about 1,043 pounds but the official scale had the final say at 900.8 pounds. A new world record for squash.
Getting our personal best to the weigh-off site is another story. We almost didn't make it. The rental van we had paid for almost a month previous was grabbed by somebody else, the forklift developed a flat tire and the driver forgot anyway. After a considerable flap, the Green Giant was safely nestled and sound in another van and off we went to Port Elgin.
Good luck with you 1995 efforts - and we will see you at the weigh off.
John and Chris Lyons, Baltimore, Ontario
TOTAL INCHES: Girth + Side to Side + End to End AUGUST SEPTEMBER 5 190 1 333 6 197 2 335 7 204 3 336 8 ----- 4 338 9 ----- 5 340 10 ----- 6 rain 11 235 7 344 12 241 9 346 13 247 9 348 14 255 10 349 15 260 11 351 16 265 12 351 17 269 13 353 18 274 14 354 19 280 15 355 20 284 16 357 21 291 17 359 22 294 18 359 23 299 19 359 24 302 20 359 25 306 21 362 26 312 22 ---- 27 316 23 363 28 318 24 363 30 326 25 ---- 31 rain 26 364 27 ---- 28 ---- 29 366 FINAL MEASUREMENTS: (14' even) and cut Length (S.T.O.B) 47" Width 58" Height 33" Girth 168" Side to Side 102" End to End 96" Total 366"
Last Updated: Mon Apr 15 10:30:00PM CST 1996