- Your patch should be in an area that receives full sun if possible.
- For each plant you intend to grow, you will need a minimum of 400 square feet of area, with the ideal size being 600 square feet. Many growers have seen success in recent years growing in an area closer to the smaller area and new philosophy is showing a trend toward smaller patches. However, there are those who still opt for an area upwards toward 1000 square feet per plant.
- Soil condition is perhaps the most important ingredient in growing a giant pumpkin. Get a professional soil test done as soon as possible. This will provide you with a guide as to what your soil conditions are and what is needed to get your soil in the best condition it can be in. There are dozens of places you can send your soil sample to be analyzed and a few of those are listed in the Information section. Ask another grower for help in interpreting your soil test results as they can be confusing sometimes.
- In the fall is the best time to add amendments to your soil. General practice is to add soil amendments such as manure, compost, leaves, lime or sulphur and any fertilizers that donít leach out quickly in the fall.
When starting a new patch in which to grow giant pumpkins, haul in and spread at least a couple loads of manure, preferably aged or composted. Cow manure has less weed seed in it than horse manure and is usually a better choice, but use what you can get.
Aged compost is an excellent amendment that can be added in the fall or spring. Compost not only increases the organic matter level of the soil, but contributes beneficial microorganisms that make your soil healthy.
Add in as many leaves as you can get to help increase organic matter levels as well. Oak leaves have a coating on them, which break down slower than other leaves and walnut leaves contain a toxin, which is bad for plants, so try to avoid these types. Shred or chop the leaves into smaller pieces so they will break down faster. Running over them with a lawnmower several times works if you donít have a shedder.
Amendments to adjust your soil PH toward an optimum reading of 7.0 should be added in the fall. Add lime if your soil test shows your PH to be low. Some types of lime are magnesium based and others are calcium based. Check the level of these two nutrients in your soil test when choosing which type of lime to spread. Agricultural sulphur can be added if your PH is high. Consult with another grower to determine amounts of lime or sulphur needed if your soil test does not indicate how much. Remember that is will take several months to move your PH level.
If your soil test shows that specific nutrient levels are low, you can add fertilizers in the fall to bring those levels up, however many nutrients tend to leach out of soil over time so more of these fertilizers may need to be added in the spring. Remember that more is not better, as you are striving to reach a balance of nutrients in your soil that is suited to growing Atlantic Giants, so it is best to consult an experienced grower to help determine amounts needed.
- As soon as your soil is dry enough to work, and your Spring fertilizers have been added, till your soil. Many growers will place clear plastic over their patch to help thaw and heat up the soil, however the plastic will need to be removed a couple weeks or more before tilling to allow the soil to dry out. Never try to work your soil when it is too wet as you will do more harm than good.
- After your patch is tilled, erect a small hoophouse or coldframe over the area where your seedling will be planted. The purpose of this mini-greenhouse is two-fold. Your plant needs the ground to be warm before planting and your plant will need to be protected from cold weather on those early spring nights. The enclosure should be large enough for the plant to grow inside for up to 3 weeks so a 3í x 3í area should be the minimum area it covers. Remember if you keep the top of the enclosure fairly low to the ground, you will retain more of the days heat after dark. Many growers utilize lightbulbs or heaters to keep the temperature up at night, however care must be taken to protect not only the structure but the plant itself from too much heat which could kill your seedling or even worse, catch your enclosure on fire.