Kate Mumford stands behind a giant pumpkin she grew //photo credit: Rob Mumford


Some vegetables can be more than food

In addition to providing nutritious healthy food, veggies can provide other things to you. Some people like to try different things and after a few years of gardening, there are always more options to try. One gardening option is giant vegetables. This is just a fascinating speciality within the gardening “family”. Producing these can be very entertaining and can impress visitors to your garden plus raise some interesting conversations.

I think for many of us, gardening is a hobby that runs very deep. My uncle Lorne was an avid gardener many years ago when I was a child. Although he lived alone, his garden was about a third of an acre. Now, as anyone who gardens knows, this size of a garden can produce an immense amount of food, especially for one person.

In the 1970s his garden and small three-room trailer were situated in the corner of one of our fields. His transportation was a Ford tractor which he started by popping the clutch as it rolled down the hill to the road because the starter didn’t work. I don’t remember the starter ever working, maybe it did at one time but that would have been before I was born for sure.

Once every week or two, he would drive out to Blanche’s Country Store a couple of miles away and get some supplies. She had lots of candy and other goodies there too so my brother and I sometimes went for a ride to the store—sitting on the fender or standing beside him on the steps. There was no cab of course, or seat belts, but we were oblivious to any other way of riding. You know, I can still remember the smell and sound of that diesel engine. He wasn’t the only person in the community whose main source of transportation was a farm tractor. It was amazing just how different things were then.

Oh yes, did I mention that he also had a greenhouse and dabbled in giant pumpkins and squash? He certainly did, so I need to get back on topic.

There are a great many things you can do to produce giant pumpkins and squash. You will need to start with seeds that have been bred to produce large fruit. These can be obtained from most seed catalogues, or better yet, if you know someone who has this hobby, see if they’re willing to share their seeds. There are many sources of information on the internet but I will list some of the basic things I am aware of.

The vines of these plants grow very large so you will need at least 50’x50’ space for each plant. It may look a little odd at the start of the season having a small plant in the middle of a large space, but the vines will fill in that space and more, believe me. The basic crop management items include lots of water, fertilizer, and sunshine. I use a drip hose that I put on the ground at the start of the season as I see fewer issues if the leaves remain dry. Depending on the weather I would irrigate for a few hours every three or four days in the evening. I also use a lot of triple 20 liquid fertilizer at the label rate injected into the irrigation water because it can be applied easily and absorbed quickly by the plant.

You can also work in granular fertilizer as the vines spread, concentrating where new roots are forming on the vines. The plants respond well to these simple things and usually generate an impressive result. Of course, if you decide to get more serious about maximizing your production, look at applying generous amounts of manure and lime, allowing only certain fruit to grow on a vine, training your vines to get best light interception, specialty fertilizers, shelterbelts, coverings to avoid sunburn of the fruit, and padding to go underneath the pumpkin. If you have the right genetics and are serious about this, some reach over 1000 lbs. Isn’t that amazing?!? Did I mention that you can get a friendly competition going between your friends? It can be great fun and there are pumpkin weigh-offs in numerous places. If you are a part of a group that is interested in this type of thing, give it a try.

There are giant versions of many garden veggies; I have heard of giant cabbage, gourds, cabbage, watermelons, and squash. There are likely others so you can pick one that interests you. Now is a good time to source seed as you would need to start the seed indoors sometime in April to produce a transplant to extend your season.

Oh yes, if you want to see some “old” pictures of giant pumpkins, check out the archives of the West Prince Graphic. They weren’t giant by today’s standards, but they were at the time. They would be from the 1970s.

I guess that’s all for now. I am going to grab another cup of tea and check out my seed inventory for giant pumpkins. Stay safe and happy gardening.

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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