How To Grow a Thousand-Pound Pumpkin: Secrets of Giant-Vegetable Growers

If you’ve ever wandered through your county or state fair, you’ve likely seen the massive, award-winning vegetables on display, from thousand-pound pumpkins to beets as big as a great white shark.

Maybe you dream of having a blue ribbon pinned on your own tasty tomatoes or yard-long zucchini. But even if you don’t plan on entering your vegetables into a fair, you can still learn from these award-winning gardening pros.

Here are some of the pros’ secrets for growing enormous (and enormously tasty) vegetables you can be proud of right in your own backyard.

Start With High-Quality Seeds

If there’s one thing giant-vegetable growers take very seriously, it’s seeds. For them, this means starting with special vegetable seeds that have a track record of producing large, award-winning fruit.

Even if you’re not trying to grow giant pumpkins or tomatoes, you can still take this idea to heart. You can do everything right, but your vegetables will only be as good as the seeds (or seedlings) you plant.

Seeds vary depending on your goals. Do you want your tomatoes as soon as possible, or is intense flavor more important to you? These and other factors all come down to seed varieties.

So how can you tell which seeds are best? Zero in on heirloom varieties, which are seeds that have been bred for your specific climate and that historically produce tasty fruit. With time, you may even begin to save your own seeds from garden-grown vegetables you’re especially proud of; but until then, you can source seeds tailored to your region from local farmers, growers, and specialty gardening shops.

Give Your Plants Space

Giant-vegetable growers also obsess over how much space their plants have to spread out and grow. Giant pumpkins, for example, require at least 400 square feet per plant!

“Spacing is very critical,” says Danny Dill, president of giant-pumpkin seed company Howard Dill. “You need a lot of vines and foliage to feed and support something to grow 500 pounds.”

OK, maybe you don’t have enough space in your backyard to dedicate to one single plant, but the general principle still applies. It’s best not to overcrowd your garden, especially if you’re planting in raised garden beds or containers. Plants need room both underground and above ground to absorb water, nutrients, and sunlight. They’re more likely to survive and thrive if they’re not competing with their fellow plant brethren for resources.

When planting your vegetable seeds or seedlings, be sure to follow the spacing recommendations, which typically range from 12 to 72 inches and beyond, depending on the variety.

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