As I write this, Minnesota is in line to get hit with another Major Winter Storm.
I know many of you in the northern latitudes can sympathize as we’ve all been hit, but it’s mid-April, and even by Minnesota standards, this is demoralizing. Proms are being cancelled this weekend, the grocery stores are crazy, everyone’s watching the radar while they make soup, and I … I have averted my eyes from the window so as to better ignore the wet slop coming down and better focus on my garden planning!
We hope to have strawberries this year for the first time, and I have a bazillion flower seeds to start this weekend, but I’m also planning ahead just a couple weeks so we’re ready for Giant Pumpkin Seed Starting Day on May 1st.
In Giant Pumpkin Suite, Rose and Thomas find the mysterious seed their neighbor, Mr. Pickering, has started on May 1st. May Day is the day I start my giant pumpkin seeds — this is, I believe, our 5th year growing giant pumpkins. We are not the least bit competitive, but it is always an amazing experience, and the starting of the seeds is my favorite part.
I get my seeds from the St. Croix Grower’s Association. These are solid seeds from prize-winning pumpkins and the money supports a great local organization. Look online for your own local supply.
First, I file the edges with a fingernail file. This helps water penetrate the hard casing of the seed. Once filed, the seeds soak for a few hours. Water is very important for germination — water is important in the whole growth process for giant pumpkins, in fact!
Finally, when the soil temperature in the pots is above 85 degrees (this requires a bit of a set up, as you can see below — and, yes, I use a thermometer to check the temperature) and the soil is just past damp, but not soggy, I plant the seeds, pointy end down. These seeds are notoriously fussy and difficult to germinate; hence, I always start more than I will need.
They will spend a couple of weeks indoors in the laundry room’s make-shift giant pumpkin nursery, then I’ll take the precious fussy little plants outside for a few hours each day for a good week so they can acclimate before they go in the ground.
Usually, the pumpkin patch is full of tulips in May … but maybe not this year.
May in Minnesota is notoriously unpredictable. We’ll wait for mother nature to even out a bit before subjecting the plants to the elements. In Giant Pumpkin Suite, Rose and Thomas have to build a tent over the pumpkin plant and use a space heater — I’m always hoping to avoid that.
Last year was kind of a bust for us on the giant pumpkin scene. A hailstorm in early June shredded the leaves and the plants never quite recovered. Hoping this year will have a better showing. I want to be clear — we do this for fun at our house, not for competition. Once the plants are in the ground, they mostly fend for themselves. Growing real giants takes a lot more work.
My favorite part, as I said, is the starting of the seeds — it’s astounding how fast they grow. The details in Giant Pumpkin Suite are not exaggerated at all. If you’d like to see some pictures from last year, you can find them here.
If you’d like to follow our household’s growing adventures this year, check out my Instagram.
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The description of how much the pumpkin grew each day in “Giant Pumpkin Suite” was incredible! Wow! As much as I love (carving) pumpkins, my own attempts at growing them as a kid never amounted to much as the raccoons always got them first. It was fascinating to vicariously “grow” pumpkins reading your book!
We have a problem with SQUIRRELS getting at ours, David. But if we rub the hot peppers we grow on them, they’ll leave them alone. I always plant a hot pepper plant, but realistically, we use about 1⁄2 of one for ourselves – the rest are used as squirrel repellent.