Giant pumpkin tips from record-breaking grower Ron Wallace

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Posted: Oct 22, 2015 1:11 AM
Giant pumpkin tips from record-breaking grower Ron Wallace

COVENTRY, R.I. (AP) — Ron Wallace is renowned in the world of giant pumpkin growing as the first man to break the 2,000-pound barrier, after he grew a 2,009-pound pumpkin in 2012. This month, he broke the North American record with a 2,230-pound pumpkin, the largest grown worldwide this year and the second-largest ever grown in the world. The pumpkin will be on display in the New York Botanical Garden through Nov. 1.

Here are some tips from Wallace on how to grow a giant pumpkin:

GETTING STARTED

Wallace recommends that anyone who's interested in growing giant pumpkins should check out www.bigpumpkins.com , a website for growers to ask questions and swap ideas. There's also the 1993 book "How-To-Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins," by Don Langevin, once considered the bible for pumpkin growers, and how many pumpkin growers today got their start.

IN THE GROUND

To get a really big pumpkin, there's no substitute for hard work. The plants need to be checked and tended to at least daily. They need fertilizer, lots of water, pruning, and to be checked for disease, rot and other issues. Wallace spends so much time growing and swapping tips with people that this year he developed his own line of products called Wallace's Organic Wonder. The product includes, among other things, mycorrhizal fungi, a superfungus that helps get water and nutrients into the plant.

THE WEIGH-OFF

"Pumpkins always tell you when it's time to get weighed," Wallace says. Often, it's just that a disease has started to creep in, and it's time to go for it.

Wallace has developed several strategies to keep his pumpkins' weight up. He waits to cut the vine until the last possible moment, and cuts it long enough so it can be kept in water. He'll cover the gourds with damp sheets to prevent evaporation.

ADVANCING SCIENCE

Wallace sees practical uses for what he and other growers have learned as the hobby has developed. He says medical marijuana growers have already approached him because they're interested in maximizing yields, and that what they have developed has even broader applications.

"I really feel that giant pumpkin growers are shaping how the world grows produce," Wallace says. "We are doing a lot for farming."