Column: How to win big growing giant pumpkins

Let’s be honest.  You can’t celebrate autumn without its leading role - the pumpkin!  There are so many things you can do with a pumpkin.

Our members have taken it to a whole new level.  We get together every year early summer to tour some of our members’ gardens.  One couple, Janet Love and Dave Chan, had an intriguing operation underway on their property.

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They were early into a season of growing giant pumpkins to enter an annual Giant Pumpkin Contest held at Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery, in Langley in the fall.  We were all astounded by the size of the operation to create just a few of these monster pumpkins.

Most of the giant pumpkin growers use Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds, planted in early April.  Growers have to hand pollinate the blossoms to fertilize the plants all summer. 

These spectacular pumpkins need 100 gallons of water a day, and temperatures need to be between 15 to 25C for them to grow.  Lots of fertilizer and liquid calcium contributes to the outcome.  Then, protection is needed from direct sun and those nasty pests that can damage the crops.  Tents over the pumpkins work well to shelter them from harm and to keep the shells of the pumpkins soft and pliable during the growing season.  The tents also prevent any splitting.

The skin of these pumpkins can sometimes be up to a foot thick!

These particular pumpkins are not good to eat because of their high water content. It creates a very bland taste. 

There have only been 12 pumpkins grown in BC that have weighed over 1,000 pounds.  Our member Dave Chan won second place with a 1,379 pound pumpkin.  His wife, Janet, placed fourth with her 892 pound pumpkin.  These folks are serious!  The largest pumpkin grown in BC was a heavyweight at 1,543 pounds in 2017.

You can make some money growing these mega pumpkins.  Many growers haul their giant pumpkins to Washington State and even San Francisco.  There are contests that even have corporate sponsorships.  Winning pumpkins can get you $7 per pound (about $10,000 in prize money, with an additional $30,000 if it breaks a world record).

We now have some seed sharing going on amongst our members for those that have the room in their gardens and the time and energy to grow their own giant pumpkins!

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.  For more photos of the Giant Pumpkin Contest at Krause Berry Farms visit  Thank you to member Alice Jensen-Stanley for her photos and information on giant pumpkins.

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