Have you ever wondered how to grow a giant pumpkin for Halloween? When you think about Halloween, you instinctively think of an American celebration with carved pumpkins at the heart of it all. However, the carved pumpkin didn’t start out in America, and didn’t even start out as a pumpkin! Legend has it, a chap called Stingy Jack in Ireland started it all off by carving a turnip and popping a glowing ember in it to light his way through eternity.

This was then taken up as a thing to do by cheeky lads, putting carved turnips into hedges to scare people and also by superstitious folk who wanted to keep their homes safe from the likes of Stingy Jack.

When the Irish immigrated to America they bought their turnip carving tradition with them, but soon discovered pumpkins were much easier to carve and much better for holding a candle in. Over time this tradition became firmly cemented as part of the culture of Halloween celebrations in America.

But carved or not, pumpkins are used to decorate the entire fall season in America and can be found displayed on front porches and even on the Thanksgiving table. There are so many varieties available that a splendid arrangement can be created to show them off in all their shapes and sizes.

And we couldn’t possibly talk about pumpkins without mentioning the magnificent Giant Pumpkins as keen growers challenge themselves to grow the largest ever. The record this year was broken with a mammoth pumpkin weighing in at 1,190kg, which is a lot of pumpkin!

While all this seasonal pumpkin action is going on in the Northern Hemisphere, down under in New Zealand we can draw inspiration for what can be achieved as we start to grow our own pumpkins.

This is a great activity to do with kids, and while they watch their pumpkin grow, you can show them how to build a bean tee-pee. Here’s how to grow a giant pumpkin for yourselves.

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

Once all risk of frost has past, it’s a good time to start growing pumpkins. They tend to sulk if you try to start them out too early and it is still too cold.

Find a large spot in the garden that gets a lot of sunshine all day as they do spread quite a distance. Add a lot of organic material to the soil like well-rotted manure, compost, leaf and grass clippings, old hay bales, coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, as much as you can.

While the soil is settling down and all the goodness is being incorporated into the soil, you can start to grow your seeds. You need a special seed to get a giant pumpkin. The Atlantic Giant Pumpkin is the most commonly found seeds here in New Zealand. You can source the seeds from places like Kings Seeds. Get a small container with seed raising soil. It should be moist, but not soaking and push your seed about 3cm deep and cover over. Keep them warm.

Once seeds have sprouted, and have the first set of big round-ish leaves, transplant them into a big pot with potting mix soil until the risk of frost has completely gone. Then you can plant the pumpkin seedling outside.

Water your plants well every day. Watering is best done first thing in the morning.

Once the pumpkin plant has several baby pumpkins on the plant, choose the one to be your giant pumpkin. This can be the biggest one or the fastest growing. Chop off all the other pumpkins.

Put a thick layer of straw, shredded newspaper or cardboard under your pumpkin to help stop it rotting from underneath.

Once your pumpkin starts to get fat, cut off any new shoots that start to grow on the plant. This makes the plant put all its energy into your pumpkin.

All you have to do now is watch your pumpkin grow bigger and bigger, and bigger!

Now that you know how to grow a giant pumpkin, you might want to find out How to make a compost oven.

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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Melissa Goudie-Park

Our Jack O lantern caught on fire this year! My youngest said that perhaps it was because our pumpkin was so small!! Going to grow one next year! Thanks 😀

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