Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 5
   October 2009
   The World of Giant-Pumpkin Growing

There's something fascinating about extremely large vegetables—it's not every day that you see beets as big as basketballs, tomatoes too large to hold in one hand and watermelons the size of toddlers. The unfamiliar bulk of these oversized organisms make them seem like plant matter from another planet. Giant pumpkins are the heavy hitters of the large-vegetable world. Instead of the round, bright-orange gourds most of us are familiar with, these mammoth vegetables look like deflating oversized balloons with pale skins.

In the thriving subculture of giant-pumpkin cultivation, enthusiasts embrace each growing season as a new opportunity to produce their heaviest pumpkin yet. Just 40 years ago, a 100 lb pumpkin was considered huge; these days, new records are set regularly, with pumpkins creeping up in weight each year. In September 2007, a world record was set at a Massachusetts weigh-in where a pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,689 lb.

For Brian Christensen, a record-setting giant pumpkin grower in Rexburg, Idaho, satisfaction comes in setting—and reaching—heavy goals. Last year, his largest pumpkin weighed in at 1,071 lb, the heaviest pumpkin recorded in the state.

His interest in giant pumpkins began early; in second grade, another student brought in a 200 lb specimen for show and tell and he was fascinated by it. However, it wasn't until nine years ago that he ordered his first giant-pumpkin seeds after seeing an advertisement for them while browsing through a seed catalog. After his first year of growing a mixed vegetable garden with only two pumpkin plants, he decided to focus solely on growing pumpkins.

Dr. Brian Christensen and one of his giant pumpkins
Dr. Brian Christensen shows off one of his giant pumpkins.
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