Common asked questions growing Big Giant Pumpkins

10 Steps to a Giant Pumpkin

FAQ on Growing Atlantic Giant Pumpkins

For many, conditions in the old pumpkin patch are not great yet. Don’t jump the gun as many beginners do. If conditions are sloppy…..wait. They will get better soon. It is about time for some to start seeds inside. Some of us must wait a little longer. By starting a plant 3 or 4 weeks early, you are hurting yourself. Large plants do not transplant well and get all stressed out. Determine a good transplant date for your area and count back 7 to 10 days….. no more. That is the right seed starting date. You will also hear of people who jump the gun. What good does it do to have a 15-foot vine in a greenhouse now? You will have a mature pumpkin at the beginning of Sept. Atlantic Giants only grow about 130 days unless you are in a cool climate. So wait until your garden warms a little and when all the jackrabbits have quit growing in August and September, you will pass them by!!!!!!!!!!! P.S. If you are sitting with an enormous, pot-bound seedling and are wondering if you have made a big mistake, start some more plants…….. I haven’t put a seed to the soil yet and don’t plan to for a few more days. Good luck!!!!!!!

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Split stems/Stem stress

I grew a 300# plus pumpkin last year. When it started to grow tall the stem began splitting from the vine. I have had this trouble before. Should I cut the root that grows from the stem or will that slow the growth of the pumpkin or do you have another solution?

Stem stress is very common in pumpkins over 200 lbs. My 28 page growing manual goes in to it in depth but basically most people cut off the tap root at the pumpkin and a couple on either side of the pumpkin. This allows the vine to raise off the ground as the pumpkin grows tall. You can also have trouble with the shoulders of the pumpkin growing so large that they push against the vine and split it off that way too. When the pumpkin is about the size of a basketball you can slowly move the pumpkin perpendicular to the vine. This should be done in small steps over a period of a week or you will snap it off. There is no warning when the pumpkin is about to crack off so go slow and don’t move it much each day. Also if the fruit sets on the left side of the vine, you can train the vine to the right which gives the shoulders more room. Side vines can also wrap around the large pumpkin and cause splits. Train the side vines away from the area where the pumpkin will eventually be so there is room.

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I water deeply, the whole patch, every five to six days from the last watering or 1″ of rain whichever occurred last. I may, at times, give additional water at the root zone depending on weather conditions and growth rate. I often border on the disaster to push for optimum growth but this must be learned by trial and error, hopefully not too much error. George Brooks

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Could you suggest any chemicals for weed control on pumpkins…give up on hand control on 10 acres!

Concerning weed control on pumpkins. For competition pumpkins, I believe mechanical weeding is the only way to go. With black plastic you have trouble with the taproots rooting and there is the possibility of decreased oxygen in the root zone. Chemical weed control may kill some weeds but it will also make your Atlantic Giants half sick. Use a swan neck hoe and skim them off shallow when young. A weed that is one half inch tall is much easier than a 6-inch weed. If you skim and don’t disturb much soil underneath you will not bring up new weed seeds. Weeds usually only germinate in the top two inches of the soil. If you skim weeds twice you will have little trouble, plus the plant shades out a lot. I am also a commercial grower of regular pumpkins……they are a different story. Many farmers use mechanical methods…. the same principles apply…let me come up and skim them when they are young. You can use a 4-foot black plastic mulch layer that can also lay drip tape underneath at the same time. Plant in rows about 10 feet apart… plant spacing every 2 feet. This keeps the young plants weed-free. Just before the vines crawl off the black plastic you cultivate (shallow) between the rows with a harrow or rototiller. I have a large tractor-mounted rototiller that works well. I put the tractor in third gear and move fast. This clips off the weeds and doesn’t penetrate the soil too much. By the way, as the vines crawl I side-dress with Urea then till, so I incorporate the Urea and clip weeds at the same time. The one problem with this method is the plastic is a pain to remove. I have a mulch pulling machine that works great on sandy soil. On heavy soil it is tough going and mechanical or chemical weeding is best. Chemical wedding…… I have a license for the restricted use of chemicals. What I am about to say should not be followed by home gardeners…. only properly trained and licensed applicators. There are two types of weeds… broadleaf and grasses some chemicals control one and not the other. Prefer is registered for pumpkins in my state to control grasses…. growers claim mixed results. Command controls broadleaf weeds but WARNING!!!!!!!!!! overspray on a windy day may turn the neighbor’s trees white. Not a good idea. Command on wet Spring soil can also damage the pumpkin seedlings. Premerger was a good one but it was taken off the market. If you don’t have a good feeling about these chemicals… you are right! There are not many or any good choices out there. The stale seedbed method may be the best. Plow, harrow and prepare your seed bed and apply prefar for grass. Don’t disturb the soil and let the weeds come up. When the weeds are about 2 inches tall burn them off with Paraquat or round up. Remember!!!!!!! Check with your State. What is allowed in my State may not be in yours? I wish we had better weed control for pumpkins but it isn’t out there now.

The last time I checked, the only herbicides cleared for pumpkins in Illinois were Command ( which is excellent for grass control but misses pigweeds) and Ambien ( difficult to find, but does get the pigweeds). The command must be used carefully because it turns many plants white—including lawns and shrubs. I think there is a new product coming out, but not yet available. I find hand weeding 3 acres is too much—so I agree that on 10 you need help! Check with the local Cooperative Extension Service office for recommendations in your area. Many herbicides require a pesticide applicators license to apply. Harold Reetz

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I currently have two pumpkin plants growing. One has a green stem the other one has a yellow stem. Both have green leaves. Which is better & what can I do about it?

Yellow Stem is a trait that often shows up in Atlantic Giant Pumpkin plants. To my knowledge, it is neither good or bad. There is also a trait that Yellow Spots show up on the leaves off an on. Pumpkinguy may have some more info on this. George Brooks

GBpumkin is right on the money. I have seen large pumpkins on both yellow and green vines. It is a genetic trait like blue eyes or brown eyes. Some vines are half yellow and half green. Some day you may see a big flat vine about a foot wide…..they are bad……… we can talk more about them later. Squash vines are usually green but pumpkins could go either way.

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I am considering using heating cables because of the relatively low temperatures we are seeing this spring in Wisconsin. I would like to know what type of heater others have used in the past. I am assuming that pipe heating tapes or gutter/roof heating cables are used. The problem I see is thermal control. Pipe and gutter heaters don’t seem to regulate in the right temperature region. Has anyone come up with a better thermostat solution? Does bypassing the thermostat and letting them run wide open make sense? Help!

I use a (7 watt ?) soil heating cable with a built-in thermostat. Never bypass the Thermostat, they work very well as manufactured. I’ve been using them for 10+ years, your seeds will jump right out of the ground in 4 -6 days. They can be bought at most Garden or Farm Stores. If you need more info let me know and I will see if I can find the package. George Brooks

Out of curiosity, do those of you who use heating cables to warm the soil around your pumpkins leave them all summer? Here in Central PA, the ground is still too wet to till. Without some really good shelter, it will be too cold to start outside until around June 1. Most of us will start our plants inside around May 15 and put them out around June 1.

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Not sure what this mounding is that you speak of. Some people grow pumpkins on raised beds. A raised bed would tend to warm a little quicker in the Spring. If you tend to have wet spring soil, a raised bed would help to keep your pumpkins feet from getting too wet. My guess would be that a large mound or raised bed would be a waste of time. When I say large I mean 10 by 10 feet or larger. By the time the roots get out that far it is June and things are warming up anyway. One beauty of this sport is that no two growers do things the same way. Everyone has their own growing techniques and many works quite well. One thing that all top growers share is that they all follow good gardening techniques. Another type of mounding or soil covering that many people do is to bury their vines or taproots. Putting soil on the vines helps hold the vine down and encourages more tap rooting. If you put soil on the vine where the leaf stem connects, you will develop a second tap root out of the top of the vine. You now have double-tap roots………. how about that!!!!! Double the tap roots…..that can’t hurt. Some people plant pumpkins in hills… this doesn’t necessarily mean that you plant the seeds on a hill. The term hill also can mean a group. Some farmers still plant pumpkins in hills (groups) in a square pattern. The benefit of this is that they can cultivate in both directions. I plant about 13 acres of pumpkins in rows so I only cultivate in one direction. Lgourd hills his young plants for weed control and it sounds like it works quite well. One of

my farmer buddies does a similar thing with his cultivator. When the young plants are tall enough to take it, he cultivates shallow and close to the plants and it is set up just right to kick soil on the plant without covering it. By the way…. on Atlantic Giants it doesn’t hurt to mound up some soil around the base of your plant. Just before the plant flops over and turns into a vine, it is very vulnerable to sudden wind. It can snap the plant right off, so hill some soil around the base of the plant for extra support and don’t forget wind protection. GBpumpkin would be a good one to talk to. He has a modified raised bed and composting approach that seems to work well. There are some top growers who mound or use raised beds but it is by no means a universal or required growing technique…. to each his own or to each her own. Top 3 growers in the world last year were women!!!! Come on guys get on the stick.

The main reason I have heard for mounding is improved drainage and increased soil temperatures. Pumpkins are real heat lovers. The mounding method increases the daytime soil temp in, say, the top 6-12 inches of soil in comparison to outer areas. Also, the term “hill” refers to the technique of planting more than one seedling or seed in a small clump. The term applies to the planting technique even if no mounding of the soil in the middle is performed. My 2 cents, Dan Gardner (

There have been some questions about mounds so I thought a photo might help. Attached you will find a Photo of my Pumpkin Mounds. It is in a .jpg format that can be viewed by all Photo Reader programs or imported in most Word Processors with a JPEG Filter. If someone would like it in a different format, let me know. George Brooks

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When growing under a cover, especially glass, watch the moisture level. They can dry out fast even in wet weather. Never fertilize with granular fertilizer, they give off a gas that can burn the vegetation in an enclosure. Use a liquid fertilizer, preferably a mild one made from Fish or Seaweed. Pumpkin leaves will often be lighter in color during cool weather giving the appearance of lack of nutrients. Avoid fertilizing in cloudy weather, it will encourage growth that may not be adapted to sunlight and may burn when the sun comes out again. In areas affected by this pest, it is very active in early Spring. Corn Seed Maggot, eats the seeds before they can germinate, making it look like the seed was infertile. Treat seed hole with an insecticide that is listed for maggots of any kind. Beware of Ant activity around your young plants. This could mean they are farming Strawberry Root Aphids on your young plants. When you thin your Pumpkin Plants look for greenish-blue aphids. Treat with the same insecticide you would use on ants. Good Luck George Brooks

I am not an advocate of early seed starting ……. best to plant when growing conditions are right. However, at this point in time, you are running out of growing days. If your weather is that bad, that late in the season you should build a small greenhouse out of 2 by 4s and plastic and provide ventilation……. temps over 90 to 95 are N. G. IT is not a good idea to have big potbound seedlings to transplant. I would start some right away and build some protection for them and put them out next week. Plants that have just come up, transplant much better than big ones. The greenhouse doesn’t need to be big. 4-foot square and 3 feet high is good enough. Try to get the plants in the ground by mid May. The 2 extra weeks may help if you have a big one that is still growing in mid-Sept. good luck

Zach, Tough to say what is wrong with the plants without seeing them. You should use sterilized seed starting mix…that will eliminate any soil problems. In a greenhouse, you can suffer ethylene injury to plants if you use a space heater that is not vented to the outside. Another problem with wilted or weird 3rd leaves can come from over-fertilization in pots. Actually, if you can get a plant up quick and transplanted within a week or 10 days you should not put any fertilizer on them at all until you transplant and then use a high phosphorous starter fertilizer like a 15-30-15. The problem most people run into with fertilizer burn is that the normal fertilizer strengths that you use in the field is way, way to strong. One or two tablespoons per gallon will zap them every time. As the pot begins to dry out, the fertilizer is still there but the water has decreased so soluble salt levels increase. In a normal root hair, the level of salts inside the root is higher than the level in the soil. This enables the water in the soil to pass through the cells of the root hair and into the plant. Where the problem arises is when soluble salt levels are greater in the soil than inside the root. The root shuts down and can’t take up water. The plant (3rd leaf) wilts, turns dark green and may have a crinkled look. Up quick and out within 10 days, no fertilizer until transplanted, and you will have nice seedlings every time. If the plants are really messed up, start some new ones right away. As far as the proper temperature in the Spring…..most areas don’t get warm until mid-May so if you want to be an early bird you must create a greenhouse environment to bring temps up to an acceptable level. A typical Spring day in New England may only be 50 degrees. For all practical purposes, photosynthesis does not take place at 50 degrees and below so the plant can’t make food for itself. As the temperature increases to 60 or 65 things start slowly. At 70 to 80, things are going along at a good clip. Temperatures of 90 and above are not good and are something that hurts me where I grow. As the plants begin to wilt from the heat, photosynthesis begins to shut down again. The metabolism of the pumpkin plant is similar to our own body. Photorespiration and respiration burn up some of the food in the plant. For every 10 degrees C increase in the temperature, the rate of respiration DOUBLES! Very hot days and hot nights are not the friends of the pumpkin plant. Too much photosynthate is burned back up by the high rates of respiration. You will notice on a map that virtually all of the giant pumpkins have come from 42 degrees N latitude. Day length is slightly longer at 43 or 44 degrees but just a matter of 5 or 10 minutes in July or August. Temperature is the main problem down South. This is a matter of some debate but I would take a temp of 80 degrees in the day and 55 or 60 at night. Unfortunately, I fall outside these temps quite often. Howard Dill doesn’t like to plant big, old seedlings so he plants a few, weights a few days, plants a few more, etc. When conditions get bearable, he puts out the nice young seedlings. He also uses a little greenhouse for Nova Scotia weather can be rough in the Spring. I hope some of this helps you.


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In analyzing the ungerminated seeds, I noticed a milk-like substance from the seed. I wonder what cause this and how I can increase my germination rate? I do know it could have been a variety of things such a heat, excessive watering, etc. I feel my failure was due to watering and potting soil. The potting soil had an incorrect ratio of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite, and I watered too often. I assume the potting mixture should be almost dry before I water again. I have planted new seeds. COMMENTS PLEASE

Duncan – You are not the only one with the problem of expired seeds appearing milky inside, and my germination rate is less than yours if its any comfort. Rather than write to you personally, I’ll share my thoughts with the group, as I’d like the same answers. I just happened to see Pumkinguy’s helpful response after I typed this, but will send it anyway. As you know, Duncan, we have a glassed-in porch in which there is a portable heater and a bench covered with sand. Under the sand is a heating cable, and 12 inches above that a grow light. I have surrounded the light and peat pots beneath it with a plastic camping blanket with a reflective silver coating on the inside and covered in at both ends to reduce drafts and heat loss. In this compact chamber, I can maintain an air temperature of between 70 and 85 degrees. I found that the pots dried out awfully quickly inside, so I decided to lay some thin cedar planks between the pots and the sand and saturate the planks with water. This seemed to raise the humidity, and reduce the need for excessive watering. I planted more seeds yesterday and hope this helps. What p….s me off, after all this technology, is that when I turned my compost pile over the other day, there, at the bottom, were dozens of squash seeds germinating like crazy! By the way, I’m using Sunshine Mix #1, made by Sun Gro Horticulture of Bellview, WA, which is supposed to be pretty good stuff. To be certain of sterilization, I nuke the mix in the microwave before planting. I only have room for one pumpkin, and my only successful seedling sits, in near dormancy, in a gallon bucket outside in the cold frame – apparent healthy, but no doubt cursing me for being planted too soon.

The milky stuff was a fungus. You probably didn’t put an antifungal powder on your seeds. Then you watered too much and at the same time didn’t have a high enough temperature to germinate your seeds. They sat there in a temp not high enough to sprout and rot. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of advice on this one because I think it happens a lot.

Regarding your question about germination, I and many of my friends have had the same problem. I have spoken with Howard Dill recently about this and he said he has received many phone calls from all over and everyone seems to be having the same problems with last year’s seed stock, it only seems to be from the seeds dried out of the 1995 pumpkin stock. If you have older stock try germinating that. He’s not sure to be Howard thinks it could be from people not taking the seeds out of the pumpkins early enough and they are cooking inside the pumpkins, and not being dried out properly. The other cause could have been from last year’s weather there was so much heat and so little water, the seeds could have cooked inside the pumpkins last growing season. In any event, they seem to be already dead and we are planting them which is causing them to rot and decay in the soil and that is the white film you are seeing.

Did you use a fungicide on the seeds? I have had lower germination numbers when I fail to use it. Daniel J. Gardner ( Internet Pumpkin Enthusiast Giant pumpkin webmaster: |

There are a few things you can do to improve germination percentages. The seed itself could be a factor. Some seeds are better than others. Assuming that there is not a problem with the seeds, next look at temps….. . The Atlantic Giant is temperature sensitive and should never be started at temps of 70 or lower…. you will get little or no germination. Soil temp should be a minimum of 80 degrees and is even better @ 85. 90 to 95 degrees will make them come up quick but I hesitate to recommend a temp that high unless you have precise temperature control. If your temperature runs away and gets up into the 100s you may cook the seeds so 85 is a good safe temp. The white exudate that you see is just the mush (highly technical term) from the broken down seed. Bottom heat is good for seed starting and propagation mats are available from greenhouse supply places. Sterilized lightweight seed starting mixes are the best. My favorite is Peters seed starting mixes….. they are easy to wet too. Some people file the edges of the seed to help it crack open… don’t file too deep and damage the seed. Some seeds just aren’t viable or are hollow inside. Al Berard likes to take his seeds and drop them on the kitchen table from a height of about 6 or 8 inches. The hollow seeds don’t have the same ring to them. That is about it. Oh, also you may try a little Captan on the seeds @ planting.

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I have one question I need answering. I have four plants started in one of the greenhouses at a farm I work at. The plants look weak. One has a droopy third leaf while the others look like they have deformed leaves with little yellow spots on them. Should I be worried? If so, what should I do to correct the problem? I plan on putting the pumpkins in the ground within the week. I was also wondering what temperature it should be outside to plant the pumpkins. Is it too early? Last year I started late and had some trouble. This year I hope to start on time. Am I on time. Thanks, Zach

Zach, I’d start some back-up seeds on a regular schedule, just to be sure. If you aren’t happy with the looks of the seedlings you can go for the next group. Too much moisture/heat may be your problem in the direct sun greenhouse. Try to put a sun blocker above the seedlings to block some of the direct light and heat. You’re not too late! I’ve not planted a seed yet. Ray Waterman/WPC

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Is it possible to get two different seed colors from the same pumpkin?

I have seen slight differences in seed coats when looking at seeds from the same pumpkin. It seems to me that it was the Holland 792 that had some smooth seeds and some that had tiny pockmarks the size of a pinprick……. I may be wrong on this one but I am pretty sure it was the 792. Weir’s 914 had seeds that were shaped the same but some were a little darker…. kind of off-white and light brown. Since 1983 I have carved probably 4 or 5 hundred Atlantic Giants for my Halloween celebration and virtually all were either brown or all white. In a brown seeded pumpkin, you will see some white ones but they are usually skinny and not viable. I have never seen plump dark brown seeds and plump white seeds in the same one. I have seen brown seeds with white tips on some. By the way, in case some of you hadn’t heard, some of the largest pumpkins have come from white seeds, so they are not necessarily inferior. Lgourd may have some input on this…. he has cut open a few. I am quite confident that if you use different types of male pollen on one female flower that the genetically different pollen grains will germinate, grow pollen tubes, and send different genetic material into each ovule that will end up being a mature seed. I had some seeds in 1986 that if you planted 10 seeds….8 would be beautiful orange and 2 were pure green squash. It is quite common to see many traits from seeds out of the same pumpkin. The 792 will give you nice big orange ones or smaller white pumpkins that are shaped like cartwheels. To straighten one out genetically would take 5 or 6 years of inbreeding and type selecting to produce consistent specimens. When making a true hybrid ( which the Atlantic Giant isn’t) you must inbreed two lines until you get consistency …. usually 5 or 6 inbreeding then you cross-pollinate the two dissimilar types. The resulting seeds from that cross will be hybrids and may show heterosis or hybrid vigor. Many (most) people cross-pollinate different males and females, hoping to get some hybrid vigor but the seeds are such an open-pollinated hodgepodge (genetically) that there is no predictability. Seeds are a big gamble, even when you are using good ones.

P.S. My guess would be that the color of the seed coat comes from a gene from the female……If the seed coat color gene came from the male flower, you could pollinate with white seeded pollen and some brown seeded pollen and get half of each color in the next batch of seeds. I have not seen this happen so I must assume seed coat color is a female trait.

Not usually but it can happen, it may also mean one of the colors is infertile. George

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Is there any correlation to enormous seed leaves and a very thick stalk at an early age to the growth of a larger than average fruit. The seed leaves of this plant grew to well over 5″ before the growth of true leaves even began. Also, the stalk of the plant at 21 days is well over 2″

I have not always had the best plant produce the largest Pumpkin.

Large seed leaves and a 2-inch stalk @ 21 days does not insure a larger specimen, but I’ll tell you what……….. given a choice, I’ll take a nice vigorous plant like that any day. Large seeds don’t seem to have any bearing on ultimate pumpkin size. You have to like the position you are in right now. Things are getting serious in my part of New England now. We need a drastic weather change very soon. Waterlogged soil and air temps of 50 if we are lucky. I normally prepare my patch with tractors, etc. I actually got stuck with a 4 wheel drive tractor today……that’s bad. 55-degree soil temp today…… transplants are still in the greenhouse and must be transplanted in the next 3 days so they don’t get too big.

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Where can I buy good seeds?

You can buy Atlantic Giant Pumpkins seed at any licensed retailer or seed distributor. Check your local major nursery store. You can buy the seeds via mail order by reading the Secrets page.

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How do I enter a contest?

Join a local Society that is defined on the Unofficial Giant Pumpkin page

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Are there any good books or other sources of information?

How-to-Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins – by Don Langevin

The Pumpkin King – by Al Kingsbury

Pumpkin Growing Tools

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Who holds the world record?

Please see this page for the current record

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With new seedlings planted, 1) What is the correct fertilizing program prior to pollination? Daily or weekly applications? 2) What is the fertilizer ratio? When the pumpkin is pollinated, 1) What is the correct fertilizing program after pollination? Daily or weekly applications? 2) What is the fertilizer ratio?

If you ask 20 top growers, you might get 10 different answers on this one. Before any fertilizer is put on a soil test should be done to detect deficiencies or more likely fertilizer levels that are too high. Many giant pumpkin growers get carried away with fertilizer amounts. Every fertilizer has a salt index….. the higher the number, the more likely it will burn the plant. If your potash levels are very high it would not be a good idea to use a high potash (K) blend. I surveyed 20 growers a few years back and the general trend was to use a high phosphorous fertilizer like 15-30-15 in the beginning. In cool spring soil, the blend should have some of the nitrate forms of nitrogen in it. Nitrates are available to the plant when things are cool. After pollination, many use a higher nitrogen and potash formula 20-20-20 or even higher on the first and third numbers. A point of information…. The first number on the bag is the Nitrogen, second Phosphorous, third Potash.

Foliar feeding has become very popular lately and I do it myself. Foliar feeding, however, does not work very well and I’ll tell you why. Two years ago I had a long talk with one of the technical experts at Peters plant food. A VERY small percentage of the foliar fertilizer actually enters the plant through the leaf cuticle. Peters did studies where they covered the pots that the plants were growing in and they found little plant response to foliar applications. Other plants that didn’t have their pots covered showed a good response. What was happening was that most of the foliar-applied fertilizer was actually being washed off and entering the plant through the roots. If you look at an Atlantic Giant leaf, you will notice that if you apply water to the leaf it will run down the leaf, down the stem, and right into the taproot at the base of the stem. So foliar feeding does work but it doesn’t enter the plant ( at least most of it doesn’t) enter through the leaf but through the roots when it is washed off with watering. A small percentage does enter through the leaves and the best form of foliar nitrogen is urea….stay away from high ammoniacal formulations. As far as doubling or tripling dosage…. some do it but it is a risky business. Remember this is fertilizer and it can burn. I would personally go with rec. dosages.

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Plant stress

I have a plant that is 28 days old on Sunday it’s about 4 ft long. The question I have is it has a lot of male flowers and a pumpkin out on the main vine. What would cause the plant to do that a such a young age?

Stress can cause a pumpkin plant to flower and show fruit prematurely. Too much fertilizer, water stress, etc. I have seen Atlantic Giants in small pots that had dried out and had flowers and small pumpkins on a one-foot vine. If the area you have planted in is way too hot (fertilizer wise) it is not too late to start another plant but time is of the essence. Study what you are doing differently this year and you may have the clue. Megadoses of foliar feed might do it. There is something definitely wrong for a healthy plant that doesn’t reach your stage for 50 or 60 days depending on climate.

I thought of another thing that could cause a small vine to have flowers and fruit. Too much water in the root zone (flooded soil with no air). I planted some field pumpkins on the edge of a field where the drainage was poor. We had a wet spring and with all the water in the root zone, there was no oxygen and the roots were damaged and stunted. The result was that I had very small plants with early fruit and blossoms in that area. The rest of the field was OK. With the unusually cold and WET spring that we have had in New England, that is another possibility.

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Would someone advise me on how to deal with cucumber beetles? In previous years I’ve been using Thiodan to control vine borers, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. This year Thiodan doesn’t seem to be working. I never have seen so many cucumber beetles. They just destroyed three of my plants in one night. Also, would someone tell me how many main runners I should allow to set on? Last year I let my plants go wild. I’m told I should trim. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Seven is the most effective weapon again cuke Beetles. George Brooks

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Leaf wilt

My plants are 4 wks. old and have been outside in a greenhouse. I removed the greenhouse when it finally got sunny and warm. My plants seem to be growing well and have good color. This is the first time since they have been growing we got good sun, as soon as the sun hits the plants they start to wilt and look bad if the sun goes away or I shade them they perk back up and look fine. They have plenty of water may be too much. I’ve been using Maricle grow 15-30-15 once a week on them. I don’t understand what is causing them to wilt when the sun hits them. I hope someone can help me with this.

What you are seeing is temperature stress. As you have said, there is plenty of water in the ground but they wilt. On the underside of your leaves, you have stomata (pores), When the temperature gets hot with full sun, the leaf temperature soars…..10 to 15 degrees higher than the air temperature, the stomata close to conserve water and the plant wilts. I have been battling this for years in Connecticut. On a day where it is 90, you may have field temperatures of 110 to120 degrees….. put a thermometer out there in the patch….you will be amazed. I have used intermittent water sprays for the last ten years during the heat of the day. Don’t believe the stories you hear about water droplets acting like magnifying glasses and burning the leaves…..old wives tale. You will not have any extra disease pressure as long as you don’t keep them wet too long. Use a low volume sprinkler like a Naan Turbohammer…. about 7 dollars each. They will spray a 30-foot circle with only .33 gallons per minute. Leave the spray on for 5 or 10 minutes with the rest of the hour off so the leaves dry. That is the trick to keep the disease under control …the leaves must dry in between watering cycles. The tiny sprinklers will not make a muddy mess because there is little coming out of them. The evaporative cooling will make the leaves come right up. To try this just take your hose and spray the leaves for 5 minutes on one plant, wait another 5 minutes and your plant will be standing at attention. Shading will accomplish the same thing but too much shade will cut down on photosynthesis.

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Weighing Process

Some time ago I read how one could judge the weight of a pumpkin by the circumference of it. Does someone have information about that? Any thoughts for judging the weights as they grow would be helpful.

Measure your pumpkins at least weekly. Gains in circumference can average four to six inches in a 24 hour period. Measure the circumference of your pumpkins first parallel to the ground around the entire pumpkin, from blossom end to stem. Next, measure over the top in both directions: from the ground to ground along the axis from stem to blossom end, then perpendicular to the stem-blossom-end axis. Add these three measurements together (inches), then multiply by 1.9 to give an estimate of the pumpkin’s weight.

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Which vine to choose

Well, it’s done or die time. Should I pull up my largest pumpkin vine or will it eventually come around? My largest of three vines refuses to flower while my other vines already have several promising candidates on each. Is there some type of “infusion” I should try before yanking the big one. The reason I hesitate to pull it is this plant should produce the best because of its lineage. Any ideas?

How long is the vine? If it doesn┬╣t produce by 15′ I would take it out but that is a very personal decision for you to make. George Brooks

I agree with GBpumpkin. If you are out over 15 feet with no blossoms, something may be up. It seems to me that one of the lady growers had an 800 or 900 pounder out about 20 feet last year. Can’t remember who it was. You must have started very early to have vines that long already. Most growers don’t set fruit until late June or early July. It seems to me that the lady that set fruit @20 feet, set fruit around the third week of July. If the plant is not crowding the others out, I would leave it. If you are in a warm growing area, 70 days after fruit set is enough time for fruit development, meaning if you set fruit now you will be close to done by the end of August. That’s a long time for a ripe pumpkin to be sitting around waiting for the October fairs. Growers up North or in the Pacific Northwest have cooler weather and long slow growth. They need more time. Pumpkin has a biological time clock so if you start early they end early. An extreme example of this would be a grower in Florida. He could start a plant in Feb but it will not continue to grow until Oct. ( 240 days). Environmental factors will speed up or slow down the biological time clock ( number of degree days) . Where it is hot ( where I am ) we might be good for 140 days. Joel Holland might go 160 days in the cool Northwest. I say don’t yank it unless it is crowding the others if so get out the knife.

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My pollination questions are 1. Will a single giant pumpkin pollinate itself satisfactorily, or would it be better to let all plants grow to the flowering stage so they could cross-pollinate each other? 2. On the other side of my yard there are some other varieties of pumpkins growing, – small jack-o-lanterns and lumina – should I be concerned about these crossing with the giants?

1. In rare cases, Atlantic Giants have produced only female flowers. You may want to line up another grower to supply male flowers in an emergency. 2. I’ve never had a problem with cross-pollination with Butternut, Frosty Bush Pumpkin or Baby Bear Pumpkin. George Brooks

A normal Atlantic Giant plant will have male and female flowers aplenty. I have seen occasionally where a plant would have all males or all females until quite late in the season which would not be good if you only have one plant. Usually, you should have a few males to do the job. If you are not trying to do specific breeding, you can hand pollinate some of the male pollen on to the female gently with a soft-bristled brush. Also, you can let the bees do their thing for additional pollinating. You may have trouble pollinating on days of 90 degrees and up. Just keep trying and you will succeed. Atlantic Giants are in the Cucurbita Maxima family and will not cross-pollinate with a regular field pumpkin which is a Cucurbita Pepo. Atlantic Giants will cross with many members of the winter squash family. I can’t help you with the Lumina…. I assume it is either a Pepo or a Maxima, but I am not sure. GBPumpkin or gourd may know…. if not, ask the seed supplier what the family is. Leaving the other plants(Atlantic Giant) plants in as pollinators is O.K. as long as you have room. The stem of the Lumina may give you a clue as to what family it is in. Maxima have large soft stems generally like winter squash. Pepo has a hard gourdlike stem. I have seen Luminas but can’t remember what the stem looks like.

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I get just infested with vine borers …I spray roentgen(sp) and still I end up cutting them out by the dozens in the vine…it basically stops all growth of the pumpkin…even when covering the vines with dirt. Is there a better way?

Try Methoxychlor each week in June and July. During times of heavy infestation, spray every 5 days and after heavy rain or watering. Rotenone is not as potent a killer as Methoxychlor. pumkinguy@aol,com

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PH levels

Hello Again. Does anyone know how big my plants should be at this stage in the year? Also, I checked the pH of my soil. It’s about 7.2. Should I put some stuff in the ground to bring down the pH? What should I use? Is it too late? Any water-soluble stuff that I could use?

Although 7.2 pH is slightly high, I would leave it as is. There have been some massive pumpkins grown at that pH and higher. Len Stellpflug comes to mind….. he has grown some 600, 700-pound squash in that pH range. Sulfur or Aluminum sulfate will lower your pH but let mother nature do it. Also, most fertilizers have a slight acidifying effect.

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HELP! Despite all that I have learned about starting seeds indoors, I still must STILL be doing some things wrong.

Early this season a constructed a light table using eight (8) fluorescent shop lights (2 bulbs 4″ cool white type). This equals 16 each of the 40-watt tubes. I prepared my soil mix with fresh supplies of 1/3 perlite, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, and 1/3 shredded peat moss. I pre-moistened the mix slightly at the potting time to accept moisture. I treated a medium-sized pail of the moistened mix with about 2 teaspoons of Captan powder and mixed it around. I am using 4-inch peat pots with holes poked in the bottom and around the perimeter of the base. I wet the seeds I received from GBPUMPKIN for a couple of minutes and dusted liberally with Captan powder. I set the seeds in the mix with the points down and covered very loosely with about 1/2 inch of the mix. The surface temp of the peat pot under the lights was measured with an outdoor thermometer at 85 degrees. To reach this temp I supplemented the heat of the shop lights with a 500-watt halogen work light placed about 18 inches under the 1/2 plywood table. The lights are left burning 24 hours a day. The temp in the bottom of the pot holding trays did not exceed 90F. I run a dehumidifier at a medium setting in the basement. The lights are about 2-3 inches above the peat pots. The lights are placed very close together in the interest of raising the local temperatures. I placed several white corrugated cardboard pieces around the perimeter of the light assembly to hold the heat in and to concentrate (by a little reflection) some of the light into the main area. My initial watering was thorough. I have used no fertilizers. I basically added water to the moistened mix, with the seeds installed, until water flowed slightly from the bottom holes. Although I suspect I have overwatered slightly, from here things were looking ok. I got good germination percentages with the seeds up in about 4-5 days. Once the seed ejected from the soil, I carefully removed the seed jackets to expose the first two leaves. No damage was inflicted during jacket removal. Soon after, the seedlings just didn’t seem to progress. In fact, the 5/14/96 starts seem to have stalled. The seed jacket leaves expanded slightly, but not with the vigor I saw last year with Ray Waterman’s seeds. In fact, they began to curl under slightly rather than grow vigorously. One is showing signs of yellowing, but I have seen this before and not gotten too concerned about it. Yesterday I noticed that the first true leaf trying to emerge on some of them. On over 75% of them the first true leaf has become brown and shriveled on the ends, looking like it will not emerge properly. This has occurred before the first leaf is even 1/8 to 1/2 inch in size! I have noticed a general deterioration of the plants in the last 48 hours. I have backed off on heat and water a bit, thinking that I am cooking the plants and/or drowning them. I am stumped and GETTING RATHER NERVOUS HERE! I cannot bear the have the same failures I had last year. I am especially upset because I just committed the rest of my GBPUMPKIN seed stock (8 seeds) to the same method with a 5/25/96 start. If I lose those to this problem, I am hurting BIG TIME. I need a pep talk here and some strong advice on how to recover. My 50×50 is tilled. I have constructed a wonderful cold frame. I just completed it tonight. It is 6x6x4 in size (Howard Dill style design). The mound was formed by excavating a 5′ diameter circle to a depth of 34 inches. A mix of 75% compost and 25% topsoil filled the hole and formed a nice mound. Outdoors, I am ready. But, indoors are looking shaky and I am OUT OF SEEDS!


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I was wondering what everyone thinks the best times are to fertilize the pumpkins. 1, of course, is when you first plant them, but what about the other times when they start to run?, when the pumpkin begins to set? etc.I know there will be different opinions, but I would like to hear all you want to send me.

My opinion is that a constant feeding schedule is best, so you don’t get highs and lows. Every time you water, you apply to dilute fertilizer. On a small scale, this might work out to one-half tablespoon per gallon instead of one or two tablespoons, however, you are applying fertilizer continuously. 15-30-15 up until fruit set, then 20-20-20 or even higher on the second and third numbers after fruit set.

My opinion is that a constant feeding schedule is best, so you don’t get highs and lows. Every time you water, you apply to dilute fertilizer. On a small scale, this might work out to one-half tablespoon per gallon instead of one or two tablespoons, however, you are applying fertilizer continuously. 15-30-15 up until fruit set, then 20-20-20 or even higher on the second and third numbers after fruit set. >> Good advice, during the fruit growth stage if you put the plant through highs and lows it may cause premature maturity, resulting in a small Pumpkin. George

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Well, my pumpkin seedlings just got beaten from a little hail storm. They are bruised and battered but the inner leaves appear to be intact. My question is how much can the seedlings take before they give up and die? They have lost some of their “seedling leaves” and their second leaves are just coming out.

Give them liquid fertilizer right away to help them through the stress. You may also treat them with a Fungicide to help the healing and prevent disease. George Brooks

Fear not. Hail damage to leaves is not usually fatal. Hail damage to a young pumpkin can be more serious. Although they may look a little torn up now, give them a week and they will bounce back. The seed leaves are of little use now….they normally wither anyway.

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I know it is a little early to be asking this, but what do people recommend for putting under the pumpkin once the fruit is growing? I have heard some say sand, but in my case (growing on the lawn of my back yard) I don’t think I can be putting sand all around. I may need something else a little easier to clean up. What about a burlap sack, or landscaping mesh?

Clean soil is the best, I would not recommend anything else. George

Each year, when the fruit gets to be about the size of a football, I place a piece of 1″ styrofoam under each. I buy 4′ by 8′ sheets and cut these into four pieces. I feel the styrofoam helps keep the fruit up off the ground which helps to prevent pathogens from infecting the pumpkin. Also, it repels water and keeps the fruit bottom relatively dry. Will Nova Scotia,

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I know this topic was mentioned earlier, leaves wilting on hot, muggy days, but I’d like to find out more about it. I remember from a plant science course I took a while back that in order to grow, a plant must be turgid that is, full of water. My wilting plants have about 15-20 leaves and all the old leaves are wilted in the hot weather. The new leaves seem quite turgid, so I wonder if the wilting is a problem. The old leaves are no longer growing, so is the lack of turgidity, (a word?) a problem? I appreciate your comments.

It is important to try to keep the leaves from wilting if you can. The stomata close when the plant wilts so photosynthesis will be severely cut back. Although a leaf may be full-grown, it is very important to the plant as a photosynthate (food) exporter to other parts of the plant. A small growing leaf will consume more food than it produces so take care of those big leaves….they will be exporting food to that big pumpkin soon.

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Please do not slit your vine and try to milk feed your pumpkin… is the biggest wives tale in the pumpkin world. Cutting or splitting your pumpkin will destroy your vine and nothing will be taken up by a slit vine in the process. Milk has water in it (over 90% )…. that’s good but your hose supplies that. Milk has some calcium in it ( that’s good but limestone and calcium nitrate have that. Milk has some sugar in it (lactose)…. not the same type of sugars found in plants. Finally, milk has fat in it…that is REALLY BAD. The first thing a good composter will tell you is don’t add meat or fat scraps to your pile. I can’t imagine how injecting fat into a plant would help even if it would enter through the slit (which it won’t). I know virtually every one of the top growers in the world and to my knowledge NOT ONE milk feeds. The least damaging application would be to apply no fat milk to the soil and let the roots take it up. You will get a much greater effect by putting the low-fat milk on your cereal in the morning to give you lots of energy to take care of your plant the right way. Now go out there and gett’em and keep the knife blades away from your plant!

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Hello everyone again. I want to thank everyone for their help with my recent questions. I appreciate your time and advice. I have one other question though. Can anyone tell me if light green leaves are OK? The leaves on my two plants seem to lack a good green color. Is this a problem. If so, what can be done? Also, my plants are kind of small. Only three small true leaves per plant. Is this a bad sign. Thanks again.

Without seeing things it is tough to tell but I can tell you this…. we have had some terrible weather in New England…. cold, wet, and little sun. It is possible that the light green is not a fertilizer deficiency, but a lack of quality sunlight. If you have a week of dark nasty weather, the foliage will lighten. Chlorophyll can’t develop without proper sunlight ( hilling up celery blocks out the sun and blanches the celery to light green). If the plants are still inside, get them out…. there is not a grow light made that can compete with the real sun and that includes 1,000 watt coated Supermetallarc bulbs, which are many times stronger than a regular grow light fixture. So if they are out, just wait for a week that has temps above 70 and full sun…..we haven’t had it yet. If they are not in the soil, get them outside and water them in with 15-30-15 @ 1 tablespoon per gallon and hope for good growing conditions. The extended forecast for N. E. looks better for the weekend.

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Some time ago I read how one could judge the weight of a pumpkin by the circumference of it. Does someone have information about that? Any thoughts for judging the weights as they grow would be helpful.

Measure your pumpkins at least weekly. Gains in circumference can average four to six inches in a 24 hour period. Measure the circumference of your pumpkins first parallel to the ground around the entire pumpkin, from blossom end to stem. Next, measure over the top in both directions: from the ground to ground along the axis from stem to blossom end, then perpendicular to the stem-blossom-end axis. Add these three measurements together (inches), then multiply by 1.9 to give an estimate of the pumpkin’s weight.

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Its getting warm outside and I’m opening the ends of the hoop house to vent the heat. What is the acceptable heat range to consider? If it is 75F, do I need to open the ends? The evening temps range from 43-53F. When should I remove the hoop house? Next question: Now that my pumpkin is growing, When do I start mounding the vine? What is the distance I stop mounding the vine when I set a fruit? Please provide the radius from the stem of the fruit.

Temps above 90 are not the friend of the pumpkin. If you are covering the vine with soil, you have to wait until the vine is out a few feet so the side vines don’t get buried. If the vine is out 6 feet, you might be able to bury the first two feet of the vine.

Yes….the S curve is good and cut the taproot at the pumpkin and one on each side of it so the vine can lift. There are more exotic ways to leave all tap roots on and let the vine raise but they are a pain with a lot of tinkering.

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Please review these links to see the wonderful pages on Atlantic Giant pumpkins prior to reviewing this page. Join the newsgroup and learn the growing techniques. Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Homepage World Class Giant Pumpkin Homepage

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You can search the FAQ page 2 for additional questions and answers.

Additional Pumpkin Pages

How To Grow – RecordsClipartSeedsPoemsPhantom PumpkinCarvingPumpkinFAQ’s – How Big is it?


Starting Early | How do I enter a contest? | Are there any good books or other sources of information? |Who holds the world record? | Recommend for putting under the pumpkin once the fruit is growing? | Where can I buy good seeds? | Which vine to choose? | Milk feed your pumpkin.

Growing Tips

Watering | Mounding

Bug problems

Cucumber Beetles | Vine bores

Plant problems

Split stems/Stem stress | Yellow stem | Deformed leaves | Enormous seed leaves | Plant stress | Leaf wilt | Light green leaves are OK | leaves wilting on hot | Hail storm


Heating cables | Underminated seeds|Growing tips | Seed | Pollination |PH levels | Starting seeds indoors


Fertilizer program | Best times are to fertilize the pumpkins.


Weighing process | Weight table (over the top method) | Weight of a pumpkin

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