‘Tis the season.
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Dubbed the Super Bowl of pumpkin weigh-offs, this year’s winner is a gourd that weighed 2,191 pounds. That’s about the same as a young bull.
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Between 300-900 square feet is the ideal plot size for growing a giant gourd.
In other words, it needs up to the same amount of space as does a studio apartment in New York City.
Farmers should pick seeds of pumpkin varieties that are genetically predisposed to grow bigger than more modest veg.
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For example, big pumpkins need a lot of water to grow.
Plants that grow fruit with tougher cell walls can withstand higher volumes of water traveling through tissues — so picking a varietal with that trait can help.
As with all plants, the leaves kickstart the process of photosynthesis — turning sunlight into sugars.
But a giant pumpkin doesn’t necessarily make more sugars than its smaller cousins.
In 2014, researchers published a report on giant pumpkins, finding that the plants have another trick for getting so large.
Far before a pumpkin enters a weigh-off, it has to compete with other fruits growing on the same vine.
While sunlight is essential for the plant’s leaves to make food, too much can do damage.
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When the pumpkin starts to gain weight, growers will shade the crop to avoid the Sun damaging its tough skin.
Even the smallest crack can disqualify growers of giant pumpkins from a competition.
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Giant pumpkins that grow too fast or that grow irregularly can be prone to bursting.
Sometimes, farmers will put a thin layer of sand underneath their crop so that the fruit slides easier on the ground as it expands.