The Great Pumpkin Challenge

My mom and I have been going to a little greenhouse, Mulberry Lane Greenhouse, which happens to be owned by one of our neighbors just a few miles from where we live. We’ve had so much fun shopping there for garden veggies and flowers to plant. It’s a really neat little greenhouse that has a wide selection of plants, seeds and other garden related supplies, so if you live locally, you really ought to go check it out.

One day we stopped there and saw they had some Dill’s Atlantic Giant Pumpkin plants for sale. The greenhouse was having a pumpkin growing contest and who ever bought a plant would be entered. My mom and I looked at each other and decided we had to try growing some. We each picked out a plant and decided we’d challenge each other to see who could grow the biggest one. I’ve grown pumpkins a few times, but haven’t been too successful at it. So once we got home, I did a little research to see if there were any good tips or tricks to growing them. As I was reading, I was thinking…. whoa… holey moly…..those things get BIG….oh man, I’m not going to have any room in my garden…. I really need to learn to research before buying. I suspected just by the name, they would be big but had no idea they would be that big or require THAT much space.

The next time I saw Mom I told her how big they could possibly get. She had planned on planting hers in front of her house and letting it vine into the front yard. After hearing how big it could get, she decided that she really didn’t know if she wanted the front yard taken up with a pumpkin, so she gave hers to me and we decided to grow them together. I didn’t have enough space in the garden, so we decided to move the compost pile over and plant them at the edge of the pasture so they would have unlimited growing space.

Several days later, Mom went back to the greenhouse to get a few things.  She saw the pumpkin plants sitting there and thought growing a ginormous pumpkin in the front yard seemed crazy but it could actually be a lot of fun, so she decided to get herself another one…. plus another for my sister… and one more for my other sister…..
Then the challenge was on…

This is what mine looked like at the end of May.

I fertilized, mulched and have kept them sprayed with raw milk and neem oil. I’ve read that raw milk mixed 50/50 with water is good at keeping bugs away, controlling fungus, and adding nutrients to the soil. This is my first time trying it, so we’ll see if it works. I’ve used neem oil the last 2 years and it works well. I did find that it’s best to use it on a weekly basis and start before the bugs invade the garden. If they’ve already invaded, it won’t be as effective. So far every time I’ve sprayed my garden, it’s rained… and not just a little, enough to make me think about investing in a boat so we can get to town. I think the milk has probably been washed away each time so I haven’t noticed any difference. I need to go spray again, but yikes, I don’t want to make it rain any more.

One of the first blooms

 Everything was going good and the pumpkins looked great until the first heavy rain we had. The leaves got torn up by small hail and wind which made them look pretty bad. Then more rain came, and soon the squash bugs invaded them. I aim to grown everything organically, but this year I have decided when it comes to squash bugs I’m breaking out the chemicals. The last two years I battled those bugs with organic methods and ended up not getting much squash. This year I’m using a small amount of Seven spray on the squash and a larger amount on the pumpkins since we’ve got this big competition going on and I’m determined to not let those pesky squash bugs take me down. I sprayed them one evening, then the next morning I went out and half the vines were wilted. I don’t know if the squash bugs got to them or I put too much spray on them, or what. I was expecting the rest of the vines to wilt but they never did. That day we cleaned the barn and needed to dump some old bedding on the compost pile. The wilted vines were in the way, so to get the tractor through, I decided to move them over a bit. When I lifted them, I discovered that the vines put out roots (which I never knew),  I ended up ripping some of them out of the ground, which happened to have a small pumpkin forming on it.  I was so mad I did that.

Here is what they look like now, not the greatest but they seem to have perked up the last day or so. I plan to post more as they grow, provided they don’t die on me, and will also share how my Mom’s and sisters’ are doing. Do you have any good tips on growing large pumpkins? How do you keep squash bugs away?

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