Giant Pumpkins "Go Heavy" This Halloween

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
October 27, 2005

It took a forklift and a cargo net to remove the massive vegetable from Jim Beauchemin's Goffstown, New Hampshire, pumpkin patch.

But from a padded perch at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts, the gourd placed Beauchemin on top of New England's giant pumpkin world.

His pumpkin became the New England champion when it tipped the scales at a hefty 1,314.8 pounds (596 kilograms).

"The Topsfield Fair is the elite weigh-off in the country," Beauchemin said. "To win it—I call it the pinnacle of my growing years. That's why we do it, the hope of someday winning a title."

How to "Go Heavy"

Beauchemin is part of a growing group of giant-pumpkin aficionados who thrill at watching a well-tended pumpkin swell to massive proportions.

"You plant a seed the size of your fingernail and end up with a thousand-pound {450-kilogram] pumpkin," said George Hoomis, director of the New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association. "That's incredible."

Pumpkins grow in the cool of the evening, so New England's climate offers prime conditions for "going heavy."

Still, cultivating a giant takes at least an hour or two of daily tending during the five- to six-month growing season.

Gardeners spend that time carefully pruning, prepping soil, and keeping a sharp lookout for the twin banes of gardeners: pests and diseases.

The pumpkins begin to germinate indoors in late April. Beauchemin's champion pumpkin moved outside under protective cover in May. By mid-July it was only the size of a golf ball.

During an explosive growth spurt in August, the pumpkins may suck up nearly 50 gallons (190 liters) of water a day. In a single ten-day period they can pack on up to 35 pounds (16 kilograms) a day.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.