The record for the biggest pumpkin in the world is a holy grail for giant vegetable growers: these days you need a forklift truck just to get your pumpkin to the showground for weighing.
Most of us can't manage pumpkins quite that big, but it's fun to see how big a monster you can manage. A pumpkin growing competition is also a great way to get the kids involved in gardening.
In our garden centre in Willington you'll find all you need for your crack at conquering the giant pumpkin world: just follow our easy steps to success.
- Choose the right seed: 'Atlantic Giant' is a recognised monster pumpkin, but other varieties to try include 'Hundredweight' and 'Mammoth'.
- Sow seed: in April sow one seed to a 10cm pot and keep in a frost-free greenhouse, heated propagator or on a sunny windowsill.
- Keep the plants warm: cold will set back growth so bring your pumpkin indoors if nights are cold. Pot on into larger containers as it grows.
- Dig a pumpkin pit: in late May, dig a hole in the garden about 1 metre wide and deep. Fill with a 50:50 mix of compost and well-rotted farmyard manure, and add slow-release fertiliser.
- Plant out: Plant your young pumpkin plant into the pit once all threat of frost has passed, and cover with a lantern cloche until the plant grows too big.
- Feed and water: Make sure your pumpkin never goes short of water, and feed weekly with liquid seaweed. When it starts flowering, switch to tomato food to encourage fruits.
- Pinch out surplus flowers: After three fruits have formed, pinch out others as they appear. Eventually, select the biggest one and remove the rest so the plant puts its energy into just one fruit.
- Lift the fruit: raising your pumpkin off the ground onto a pallet or straw helps get the air underneath it, ripening the skin and avoiding rotting.
- Hire that forklift truck! Once your pumpkin has mellowed to a rich orange in around October, it's time to harvest.
Please ask the staff in our Willington garden centre for more information and advice about growing giant vegetables in your garden.