How would have Cinderella gotten to the ball without a pumpkin patch? Or poor Linus, after being ridiculed by Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang sat in his pumpkin patch through the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive and proclaim his was the most “sincere”. Another masterpiece of American literature asks the question; why did Brom Van Burnt laugh out loud when people talked about the broken orange pumpkin found near Ichabod’s old dusty hat? Who knew the little jack-o-lantern would ever be raised to such cultural prominence?
Now, just for clarification, the pumpkin is not a vegetable, botanically speaking, it is a fruit! Cucurbita pepo is the Latin name that catches a large representation of the grocery produce isle: acorn squash, cucumber, summer squash, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, gourds and the pumpkin. For the record, Ron Wallace from Greene, Rhode Island has grown the world record pumpkin. His behemoth tipped the scale on September 28, 2012 at a mind blowing 2009 pounds! Pumpkins of that stature come from good genes. Two of the favorite seed names are Goliath Giant and Atlantic Giant.
Following, is a list of important tips for growing the big ones from www.pumpkinnook.com. Start with great soil and lots of organic material. Seeds should be started indoors since these giants take 140 days or more to size up before harvest. The vine is a heavy drinker, so poor on the water. There is an art to the fertilization regime and here is a stripped down sketch. Fertilize with high nitrogen in spring. Switch to a high phosphorus mix in advance of blooming and fruit set. Once the fruit is getting some size, change to high a potassium formula. Finally, an important micronutrient not to be forgotten is calcium.
The life of a regular sized pumpkin must first be field sown 85-110 days before one can begin to create all the wonderful tricks and treats this seasonal favorite has to offer. Give them room it is a sprawling vine. They have many insects and diseases that creep up; for example, cutworms, cucumber aphids, squash vine bores, powdery mildew, fruit rots and wilts. Their flowers are edible and the plant bears separate male and female flowers, so insect pollination is critical for fruit to be produced. Nutritionally, pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant Beta carotene.
If you venture to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Bridgeville, Delaware be sure to have nourishment for the ride with a pumpkin bagel from Panera Bread Company and a pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks!