Gardners Grow Giant Pumpkins Weighing One Ton or More
Giant Pumpkins - A Challenging Gardening Hobby
In today’s world many people feel that bigger is better and this is apparently true of pumpkins as well as other products.
Like other agricultural products, growers and scientists have been busy searching pumpkin patches for pumpkins displaying different traits and then cross breeding these with the traditional orange pumpkins to produce red, white and blue varieties of pumpkins as alternatives to the common orange variety.
Then there are giant pumpkins, another new variety of pumpkin. Unlike other new varieties of pumpkin where commercial appeal has been the driving force in their development, the main force behind their development has been the challenge among farmers and hobbyists to grow the biggest pumpkin.
It's All About Size
Giant Pumpkins, and here we are talking about huge pumpkins whose weights have recently passed the one ton (2,000 pounds) mark. To date the largest pumpkin on record is the 2,032 pound pumpkin grown by Napa Valley, California grower,Tim Mathison, in 2013.
Unlike other varieties of pumpkins, these huge behemoths, which require cranes to lift and flatbed trucks to move them, have little use beyond the fleeting fame and prize money growers gain on the competitive pumpkin growing circuit. The competitive pumpkin growing circuit is a large network of pumpkin growing clubs and associations.
What Giant Pumpkins Look Like
The challenge on the pumpkin circuit is to grow a pumpkin that is larger than any before it.
Because size alone is the goal, the resulting pumpkins have little, if any commercial value and the only financial return these amateur growers hope for is prize money if their pumpkin turns out to be the largest one grown that year.
The meat of the pumpkin is too tough for making pumpkin pies and other culinary treats and too big to sell for making jack-o-lanterns. Many of these pumpkins don’t even produce much in terms of seeds which have commercial use both for growing more pumpkins and as a popular snack product . A giant, 1,810 pound pumpkin grown by Chris Stevens of Wisconsin in 2010 contained measly 26 seeds.
Gian Pumpkin Growing is Dominated by Amateurs
While a number of seed companies sell seeds for growing giant pumpkins, the giant pumpkin market is relatively small. Advances in the area of producing giant pumpkins are more the result of hobbyists with big backyards than with commercial agriculture. Growing giant pumpkins is a competitive sport and hobby rather than a commercial endeavor.
As mentioned above, there is a network of giant pumpkin clubs and associations in which growers, mostly hobbyists, compete to see who can grow the largest pumpkins.
Financial gain is available in the form of cash prizes awarded by clubs and associations to those who set new records for growing the largest pumpkins. Tim Mathison, whose 2013 giant pumpkin set a new world record received a little over $30,000 in prizes and awards.
However, like most hobbies, growers of giant pumpkins do it more for the challenges and satisfaction it offers than for the money. Similar to other people who immerse themselves in a sport or challenging hobby, most growers of giant pumpkins invest far more time and money into growing giant pumpkins than they ever expect to gain financially. Few, if any, are able to even recover their costs let alone make a profit growing giant pumpkins.
Seeds from Prize Winning Giant Pumpkins Have Great Value
While a small packet of giant pumpkin seeds can be purchased from seed companies online or in stores for under $10, seeds from championship giant pumpkins can fetch a thousand dollars or more each at auctions.
However, those willing to pay huge sums for seeds from a prize winning giant pumpkin, are serious amateur giant pumpkin growers, not the average backyard gardener looking to grow a big Jack-O-Lantern.
While a single seed from a prize winning giant pumpkin may sell for over $1,000 at auction, the sellers are usually giant pumpkin clubs or associations rather than the growers. Growers, generally donate seeds from their winning giant pumpkins to a pumpkin growing club or association. The seeds are then auctioned off by the club with the proceeds going to club activities and prizes to those growing the largest pumpkins.
Howard Dill The Canadian Farmer Behind the Giant Pumpkin Craze
One man, the late Howard Dill of Windsor, Nova Scotia in Canada, did make a commercial success out of his giant pumpkin growing efforts. In fact, Dill appears to deserve much of the credit for turning simple contests at county fairs into a competitive hobby. Thanks to Dill, luck and guesswork have been replaced by skills in agronomy and plant genetics combined with serious work and financial investment.
Dill was a farmer in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley who enjoyed competing with neighboring farmers at the annual pumpkin weighing event at the Hants County Exhibition.
Sometime around 1980 Dill decided to try the same techniques with pumpkin growing that he used in selecting bulls to breed with the cows on his farm. He started spending his free time studying plant genetics and cross breeding techniques described in agricultural magazines and books. He also made detailed notes of his experiments in growing ever larger pumpkins.
He became a regular winner in giant pumpkin contests and went on to start a company, Howard Dill Enterprises, which marketed and sold seeds for his giant pumpkins. He chose the name Atlantic Giant, and proceeded to register trademarks for the names Atlantic Giant ® and Dill’s Atlantic Giant ®.
The company is now run by his family with his son, Danny Dill, as President. The company’s seeds are now sold worldwide and are popular with giant pumpkin growing hobbyists and other producers.
Dill's Seeds are the Most Well Known Commercial Giant Pumpkin Seeds
Dill is best known for his seed company and for being the grower of winning giant pumpkins decades ago.
Howard Dill is generally credited with turning giant pumpkin growing into a hobby with enthusiasts organizing into today's world wide network of clubs and associations which sponsor annual contests for growing the largest pumpkins.
As the popularity of giant pumpkin growing has spread the size of today’s winning giant pumpkins are hundreds of pounds heavier than any of the Howard Dill’s winning giants.
Location of Dill Family Farm in Windsor, Nova Scotia
Location of the Dill Family Farm which still grows pumpkins and is open to tourists year round.
While the Atlantic Giant ® is probably the single most well known variety of giant pumpkin today, its fame rests more with its reputation as a good seed for beginners and for the nice orange color of the pumpkins.
While pumpkins grown from seeds sold by Howard Dill Enterprises win championships for their huge size in contests around the world, the objective for most backyard growers who purchase seeds from Dill's company is to produce a pumpkin that can be carved into the largest Jack-O-Lantern in their neighborhood.
Thus, while seeds sold by Dill can grow giant pumpkins, most buyers simply want to grow a large pumpkin with a good orange color.
Just as humans are a product of both heredity and environment, with no defined line where one leaves off and the other begins, so too are giant pumpkins. While one can’t hope to grow a giant pumpkin with an ordinary pumpkin seed, there is no guarantee that a seed from a winning giant pumpkin will produce another winner.
Growing a giant pumpkin that weighs in at 1,000 pounds or more, not only requires seeds from a giant pumpkin but also considerable special care and work during the growing season. Tending to the pumpkin daily, providing the right fertilizer and other special handling are needed for the seeds to develop into something more than simply a large pumpkin.
Most gardeners don't want to invest the huge amounts of time and money into the work and supplies needed to nurture a large pumpkin into a giant weighing a half a ton or more.
Instead, these growers are satisfied with simply growing a big pumpkin that can be carved into the largest jack-o-lantern in the neighborhood.
Links to My Other Hubs on Pumpkins
- Ghostly White Pumpkins
Ghosts and Jack O Lanterns are the most common Halloween symbols. This has led enterprising farmers to breed white pumpkins that allow people to create a Jack O' Lantern from a pumpkin that is a white as a ghost.
- Pumpkins - History and Lore
Pumpkins are native to the New World and were cultivated by Native Americans long before the arrival of Europeans. Europeans then created both pumpkin pie and the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern from pumpk
- How to Carve a Jack-O-Lantern
Carving a pumpkin into a Jack O' Lantern is a traditional Halloween custom. Here are six easy steps for turning your pumpkin into your own unique Halloween Jack O Lantern
- Easy to Make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Quick and easy recipe and instructions for making a delicious and nutritious pumpkin bread.
- Add a Tasty Vegetable to Your Meal - Baked Pumpkin
Pumpkins are members of the squash family and are thus vegetables. In addition to making a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin can be baked and served as a vegetable;e in a meal.
© 2014 Chuck Nugent