Milk Fed Pumpkins: Learn How To Grow A Giant Pumpkin With Milk


When I was a kid, I looked forward to going to the state fair at the end of the summer. I loved the food, the rides, all the animals, but the thing I most clamored about seeing was the blue ribbon winning giant pumpkin. They were amazing (and still are). The winning grower of these leviathans often stated that to attain such great size, they fed the pumpkin milk. Is this true? Does using milk to grow pumpkins work? If so, how do you grow giant milk fed pumpkins?

Growing Pumpkins with Milk

If you do a search regarding feeding pumpkins with milk, you will find quite a bit of information with about a 50/50 split on the veracity of using milk to grow pumpkins. Milk does have vitamins and minerals, with calcium being the most touted. Most kids are given milk to drink with the idea that it will make them grow up strong and healthy. Of course, there is some dissention over whether cow’s milk is really very good for kids, but I digress.

Given that pumpkins need calcium and other micronutrients, it seems to be a no brainer that growing pumpkins with milk will definitely boost their size. In this case, there are some problems with the idea of feeding pumpkins with milk.

First of all, although I don’t have any kids in the house, I do have a rabid milk drinker. Therefore, I am very much aware of how much milk costs. Liquid fertilizers such as fish emulsion, seaweed fertilizer, compost or manure tea, or even Miracle-Grow will all add calcium and micronutrients into the pumpkin vine and at a significantly lower cost.

Secondly, when feeding milk to a pumpkin, one of the most common methods is by making a slit in the vine and feeding a wicking material from a container of milk into this slit. The problem here is that you have just injured the vine and, like any injury, it is now open to disease and pests.

Lastly, have you ever smelled spoiled milk? Try putting a container of milk out in the late summer in the hot sun. I’m betting it won’t take long to spoil. Ugh.

How to Grow a Giant Milk Fed Pumpkin

Since I have read both positive and negative reviews on feeding giant pumpkins milk, I suppose if you have the means and an inquisitive mind, it might be fun to try growing a pumpkin goliath by milk feeding. So, here’s how to grow a giant milk fed pumpkin.

First, select the variety of pumpkin you want to grow. It makes sense to plant a giant variety like “Atlantic Giant” or “Big Max.” If you are growing pumpkins from seed, choose a spot in full sun that has been amended with compost or composted manure. Make a hill that is 18 inches (45 cm.) across and 4 inches (10 cm.) tall. Sow four seeds to a depth of one inch in the hill. Keep the soil moist. When the seedlings are around 4 inches (10 cm.) tall, thin out to the most vigorous plant.

When the fruit is the size of a grapefruit, remove all branches but the one which the healthiest specimen is growing. Also, remove any other blossoms or fruit from your remaining vine. Now you are ready to milk feed the pumpkin.

It doesn’t seem to matter what type of milk you use, whole or 2% should work equally. Sometimes, people don’t use milk at all but a mixture of water and sugar and still refer to milk feeding their pumpkin. Some people add sugar to the milk. Use a lidded container, like a milk jug or Mason jar. Select a wicking material, either actual wick or a cotton fabric that will absorb the milk and filter it into the pumpkin stem. Punch a hole the width of the wicking material into the lid of the container. Fill the container with milk and feed the wick through the hole.

Using a sharp knife, cut a shallow slit on the underside of the chosen pumpkin vine. Very carefully and gently, ease the wick that is in the container of milk into the slit. Wrap the slit with gauze to hold the wick in place. That’s it! You are now feeding the pumpkin with milk. Refill the container with milk as needed and also give the pumpkin one inch (2.5 cm.) of regular irrigation per week.

An even easier method is to just “water” the pumpkin each day with a cup of milk.

The best of luck to those of you milk feeding pumpkins. For the doubters amongst us, there’s always liquid chelated calcium, which I hear is a guaranteed blue ribbon winner!


Whether you use them for carving or cooking, pumpkins do not disappoint. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest pumpkins!

Did you know pumpkins have been grown in North America for almost 5,000 years? It’s a lot of fun to grow this American native. However, note that pumpkins do require a long growing season (generally from 75 to 100 frost-free days) so you need to plant them by late May in northern locations to early July in extremely southern states.

Wait until ALL danger of frost has passed and the soil is warmed, as the seedlings of this tender crop will be injured or rot. Find your local frost dates here.

That said, pumpkins are easy to maintain if you have the space.

Of autumn’s wine, now drink your fill
The frost’s on the pumpkin, and snow’s on the hill.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1993

Planting Dates for PUMPKINS

Planting

When to Plant Pumpkins

  • Pumpkins do best when the seeds are planted directly in the ground. Wait until the plant soil is 70ºF or more before sowing seeds outdoors. Optimum soil temperature is 95ºF. Pumpkins are very sensitive to the cold.
  • If your growing season is very short, seed indoors in peat pots about 2 to 4 weeks before last spring frost. Be sure to harden off before transplanting.

Selecting a Planting Site

  • Pick a site with full sun (to light shade) and lots of space for sprawling vines. Vine varieties need 50 to 100 square feet per hill.
  • However, if your garden space is limited, no worries! Plant pumpkins at the edge of the garden and direct vine growth across the lawn or sidewalk. The vines will only be bothersome for a few weeks. You can also grow pumpkins in big 5 to 10 gallon buckets! Or, try miniature varieties.
  • Pumpkins are big, greedy feeders. They prefer very rich soil that is well-drained and not too soggy. Mix lots of compost and aged manure into the planting site before you sow seeds or transplant. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.

How to Plant Pumpkins

  • Plant seeds in rows or “pumpkin hills,” which are the size of small pitcher mounds. With hills, the soil will warm more quickly and the seeds will germinate faster. This also helps with drainage and pest control.
  • Prepare the hills in advance with an abundance of old manure dug deep into the ground (12 to 15 inches). If you don’t have manure, loosen the soil and mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost
  • Plant the seeds 1 inch deep into the hills (4 to 5 seeds per hill). Space hills 4 to 8 feet apart.
  • Your plants should germinate in less than a week with the right soil temperature (70 degrees F) and emerge in 5 to 10 days.
  • When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones.
  • In rows, sow seeds 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 6 to 10 feet apart. Snip off plants to thin to one plant every 18 to 36 inches.

Check out this video to learn how to plant pumpkins.

How to Grow Pumpkins

  • Use row covers to protect plants early in the season and to prevent insect problems. However, remember to remove covers before flowering to allow pollination by insects!
  • Pumpkins are very thirsty plants and need lots of water. Water one inch per week. Water deeply, especially during fruit set.
  • When watering: Try to keep foliage and fruit dry unless it’s a sunny day. Dampness will make rot and other diseases more likely.
  • Add mulch around your pumpkins to keep in moisture, suppress weeds, and discourage pests.
  • Remember that pumpkins are tender from planting to harvest. Control weeds with mulch. Do not overcultivate, or their very shallow roots may be damaged.
  • Most small vine varieties can be trained up a trellis.
  • Larger varieties can be trained upward on a trellis, too—though it is an engineering challenge to support the fruit—usually with netting or old stockings.
  • If your first flowers aren’t forming fruits, that’s normal. Both male and female blossoms need to open. Be patient.
  • Bees are essential for pollination, so be mindful when using insecticides to kill pests. If you must use, apply only in the late afternoon or early evening, when blossoms are closed for the day. To attract more bees, try placing a bee house in your garden.
  • Pumpkin vines, though obstinate, are very delicate. Take care not to damage vines, as this can reduce the quality of fruit.

Growing the Perfect Pumpkin

  • Pumpkins are HEAVY feeders. Regular treatments of manure or compost mixed with water will sustain good growth.
  • Fertilize on a regular basis. Use a high nitrogen formula in early plant growth. Fertilize when plants are about one foot tall, just before vines begin to run. Switch over to a fertilizer high in phosphorous just before the blooming period.
  • Pinch off the fuzzy ends of each vine after a few pumpkins have formed. This will stop vine growth so that the plant’s energies are focused on the fruit.
  • Pruning the vines may help with space, as well as allow the plant’s energy to be concentrated on the remaining vines and fruit.
  • Gardeners who are looking for a “prize for size” pumpkin might select the two or three prime candidates and remove all other fruit and vines.
  • As the fruit develops, they should be turned (with great care not to hurt the vine or stem) to encourage an even shape.
  • Place a thin board or heavy cardboard under ripening melons and pumpkins to avoid decay and insect damage.

Pests/Diseases

  • Squash bugsand cucumber beetles are common, especially later in summer. Contact your local Cooperative Extension for potential controls.
  • Aphids
  • Squash Vine Borer
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Anthracnose
  • Poor light, too much fertilizer, poor weather at bloom time, and reduced pollinating insect activity can negatively impact fruit set.

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Pumpkins

  • Your best bet is to harvest pumpkins when they are fully mature. They will keep best this way. Do not pick pumpkins off the vine because they have reached your desired size. If you want small pumpkins, buy a small variety instead!
  • A pumpkin is ripe when its skin turns a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties).
  • When you thump the pumpkin with a finger, the rind will feel hard and it will sound hollow. Press your nail into the pumpkin’s skin if it resists puncture, it is ripe.
  • Harvest pumpkins and winter squashes on a dry day after the plants have died back and the skins are hard.
  • To slow decay, leave an inch or two of stem on pumpkins and winter squash when harvesting them.
  • To harvest the pumpkin, cut the fruit off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners do not tear. Be sure not to cut too close to the pumpkin a liberal amount of stem (3 to 4 inches) will increase the pumpkin’s keeping time.
  • Handle pumpkins very gently or they may bruise.

How to Cure and Store Pumpkins

  • Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and then stored in a cool, dry bedroom, cellar, or root cellar—anywhere around 55ºF.
  • If you’re saving pumpkin seeds, they should last for 6 years.
  • Check out this video for tips on curing and storing pumpkins.

Recommended Varieties

  • Miniature pumpkins: ‘Jack Be Little’ miniature pumpkin variety, perfect for a holiday table. Vine variety. Days to maturity: 90 to 100 days. ‘We-B-Little’ is an All-America Selection winner, and ‘Munchkin’ is another great miniature pumpkin. Miniature pumpkins are very productive and easy to grow, sometimes producing up to a dozen fruits per plant.

Photo Credits: National Garden Bureau. On the left, ‘Munchkin’ miniature pumpkins. On the right, ‘Wee-B-Little’ miniature pumpkins.

  • Pumpkins for carving: ‘Autumn Gold’ great for carving, decorating. All-America Selection winner. Vine variety. Excellent for Jack-o-Lanterns. Days to maturity are generally 100 to 120 days.
  • Giant pumpkins: ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’ jumbo variety can grow to 200 pounds. Great for those who want to grow a giant pumpkin. Vine will spread to 25 feet, so space is a must. Days to maturity are 130 to 160 days, so plant early! Thin to the best one or two plants. Feed heavily but keep cultivation shallow. Remove first 2 or 3 female flowers after the plants start to bloom so that the plants grow larger with more leaf surface before setting fruit. Allow a single fruit to develop and pick off all female flowers that develop after this fruit has set on the plant. Take care that the vine doesn’t root down near the joints to avoid breakage.
  • Perfect pumpkins for pies: ‘Sugar Treat’ semi-bush hybrid. Ideal for cooking and baking. Days to maturity are generally 100 to 120 days. ‘Hijinks’ and ‘Baby Bear’ are both All-America Selection winners and have sweet flesh for pumpkin pie. ‘Cinderella’s Carriage’ is also perfect for pies or soups. ‘Peanut Pumpkin’ also produces very sweet flesh and can be great in pumpkin pie or pumpkin puree.

Photo Credits: National Garden Bureau. On the left, ‘Cinderella’s Carriage’ pumpkins. On the right, ‘Peanut Pumpkin’.

  • Colorful pumpkins: ‘Jarrahdale’ has blue-green skin and makes for great decorations. ‘Pepitas Pumpkin’ is orange and green, and ‘Super Moon’ is a large white pumpkin.

Photo Credits: National Garden Bureau. On the left, a ‘Jarrahdale’ pumpkin. On the right, a ‘Pepitas Pumpkin’.


Do Milk Fed Pumpkins Grow Bigger?

It is possible but I’ve found no evidence of the hobbyists that spend a significant amount of time devoted to growing huge pumpkins backing this method.

In this hour long video master pumpkin grower Jamie Johnson goes over everything you need to know to grow a 1,000 lb. pumpkin. Here are some of the tips.

  • Pumpkin Variety – The genetics within the seed need to be capable of producing giant pumpkins. Choose a variety of pumpkin that’s known for producing huge pumpkins.
  • Soil Test – Grow pumpkin plants in healthy soil. This soil test will give you 13 nutrient levels and your soil PH.
  • Fertilizer – In the video Jamie gives two options. The basic fertilizer option is to use a fertilizer heavy in nitrogen for the first half of the plants life and then switch to a bloom booster fertilizer after pumpkins are pollinated. He also goes over an advanced fertilizer strategy that he uses and covers in the video in detail.
  • Space – The master pumpkin grower recommends giving pumpkin plants between 400-800 square feet apiece!
  • Vine Burying – By burying the early part of the vine in the soil the plant will grow extra roots along the beginning of the vine that will help feed the giant pumpkin.


Pumpkin

In this section…

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Pumpkins, the source of many a young girl’s daydreams. Turns into a carriage, takes you to the ball, something about glass slippers and a happy ending! As a young girl, and even as a not so young girl, I was never one for the whole Cinderella thing, but I too had dreams of pumpkins! Well, more specifically, my Mum’s pumpkin soup! The secret ingredient to this oft imitated, never duplicated soup, was home grown pumpkinney goodness (or ginger, I can’t quite remember). So now you too can grow your own giant orange balls of tastiness!

Planting Schedule

Warm Areas: All Year Round!
Temperate Areas: After last frost in winter
Cool to Cold Areas: After last frost in winter

Position, Position, Position!

The biggest thing to remember about pumpkins is that they LOVE space, and I reckon that each vine needs about 1m². So, here’s a hot tip: find a sunny spot out of the way a bit (like the forgotten side of the house or shed), pile up some compost, whack in two vines and walk away. Pumpkins like their privacy, and can suffer a bit if they are trod on, cut or damaged.

Talking Dirty

Growing pumpkins is so easy, even my evil stepsisters can manage it (that’s a joke by the way!). Pumpkins love compost, I mean they really love compost. That’s why you’ll often find a pumpkin vine growing out of old compost piles. So, the more compost the better! Pumpkins vines will root where they come into contact with the ground, and this should be encouraged as it produces more pumpkins and stronger plants.

Feed Me!

If you have planted your pumpkins in a nice, rich, compost filled Yummy Yard, there is absolutely no need to feed!

What about the Water?

The other thing that pumpkins love, in addition to compost and space, is a moist, well-drained soil. Soil with a high compost content will retain moisture, as will a nice mulch layer. Now, before you go nuts on the end of the hose, use your moisture sensor! What do you mean you don’t have one? Your pointer finger is the greatest moisture sensor in the world… and most of us have two of those. Stick your chosen finger in the soil, and remove. Is it damp, and is there dirt stuck to your finger? If yes, it doesn’t need a drink. If no, read on! Water in the morning, to avoid water on the foliage as the temperature cools down, and never, ever, ever water pumpkin with greywater!

Are We There Yet?

Pumpkins, depending on the variety, take between 70 – 120 days to mature, which is a bloody, long time, but totally worth the wait! You can tell when a pumpkin is ripe when you give it a knock on the side, and it sounds hollow. The skin should feel hard and the tendril closest to the fruit should be dead. When removing the pumpkin from the vine, be sure to keep about 5cm of stalk on top.

If you don’t plan on chowing down or carving up your pumpkin straight away, I recommend “curing” it by sitting it in the sun for a while (about a week), and then storing it in a cool, dark (but not damp) place. Well-cured pumpkins can last for up to ten months.

Pests and the Rest

A common problem with pumpkins isn’t so much a pest issue, but a pollination problem. For years I grew pumpkins with magic vines, but no real fruit. The problem was that small fruits would form, go yellow, and fall off. I overcame this with hand-pollination! The trick is to pick the boy flowers (the ones without the tell-tale bump at the base), take the petals off, and lightly rub the pollen on the sticky bits of the female flowers.

As for real pests – well, there’s not much, but keep an eye on fuzzy mildews (like Powdery Mildew or Downy Mildew). Have a read of those two factsheets should these little fungal nasties appear!

Hot Tip

Don’t grow pumpkins in the same patch as tomatoes or potatoes, ‘cos they just don’t get along! Also, crop rotation is a big deal, so wait two years after planting other members of the pumpkin family (including cucumbers, melons, squashes and zucchinis) before you whack in your pumpkins. This just helps cut down the risk of disease and bad stuff happening to your pumpkin patch.

Eat me!

Pumpkin Curry

This is the ultimate in kinship. This sauce and pumpkin go together so well that you’ll pass this recipe on through the generations.

Preheat oven and bake the pumpkin while the sauce cooks. Wash and cook some jasmine rice too. Cut up and stir fry a few greens to complement it if you so desire.

Pumpkin Curry Sauce

1 onion
1 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
1 clove garlic
2 cm knob ginger
½ butternut pumpkin or about 500g other pumpkin
1 can coconut cream or milk
1 tsp garam masala
2 chopped chilies
juice of half lemon or lime
1 star anise
1 tsp brown or palm sugar
1 tsp soy or fish sauce

Preheat oven to 200°C
Prepare rice and place it on to cook. (The absorption method is best)
Peel pumpkin. Cut into small chunks. Place pumpkin on greased baking trays and bake until tender. (Will take approximately as long as the rice and the sauce or 25-30 minutes).
Finely dice onion and chilies.
Crush garlic and grate ginger.
Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until soft.
Add garlic, ginger, chilies and garam masala. Stir for 1 minute until fragrant.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer gently until rice is cooked and pumpkin tender. However, the sauce will thicken quite a lot, so keep an eye on it.
When sauce is the thickness you desire, or the rest of the meal is ready, turn the sauce off. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
In this time, you could stirfry some greens. A green salad with Asian inspired dressing also goes well with this dish.
Remove star anise from sauce. Taste sauce and season if necessary.
Place pumpkin on top of rice and ladle the curry sauce on top. Serve by itself or alongside your greens.


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Want to grow a truly giant pumpkin? Here's how

If you've got the space and inclination, try growing your own monster pumpkin - for competition of just for fun.( Photo by Jim Myers/OSU Extension Service)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - One small seed is all it takes to produce the gigantic pumpkins entered in fierce competitions around the world, including the record set in 2016 with a 2,624.6-pounder that weighed almost as much as a Volkswagen bug.

Maybe you won't achieve quite that size but plant 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' and you'll grow a whopping pumpkin, said Jim Myers, a vegetable breeder for Oregon State University.

"I've had these types growing in fields and without doing anything special to them I've gotten 400-pounders," he said. "They certainly need plenty of water and lots of space to grow. People who grow them competitively have their own secret formulas that they don't talk about and use different strategies. It's a very small group that does it competitively and they're very fanatical about it."

Modern monster pumpkin genetics go back to grower Howard Dill, a Nova Scotia farmer who spent 30 years selectively breeding giant pumpkins. He came up with 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' - and every world champion since has come from offspring of those seeds.

Dill reinvigorated giant-pumpkin competitions in 1978 by breaking a 75-year-old record set in 1903 by William Warnock, whose 403-pound oddity was then displayed at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. Dill's champion 438.5-pound pumpkin sounds wimpy next to those grown today, but it was outlandish enough to gain a spot in "Ripley's Believe It or Not." Dill held the world record four years straight and landed in the Guinness World Records book in 1981 with a 493.5-pounder.

To grow a monster pumpkin, it takes a monster amount of land, water and fertilizer. A single pumpkin can cover 1,200 square feet and the big boys need up to 500 gallons a week. If you'd like to try, Myers offered the following advice:

  • Use 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' seeds. Competitive growers seek out offspring of the champions, but be aware seeds are expensive - a single seed of a champion has been auctioned for as much as $1,600. For beginners, find seed online from local mail-order nurseries
  • Germinate monster pumpkin seeds at air temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees and soil temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees.
  • Grow pumpkins indoors from seed and move the starts to your garden about five to seven weeks later. Plant in late May after the last frost.
  • Full sun is important - avoid sites with full or partial shade.
  • Avoid soil compaction in the field. Some growers use stepping stones or boards to minimize impact during the season.
  • Place plastic around the base of the pumpkin about two weeks before planting to bring the soil temperature to about 60 degrees. A high tunnel or hoop house can also be used, especially during the early part of the season to create a warmer environment for the plant.
  • Provide your pumpkin with plenty of room to spread - a single plant may use as much as 1,200 square feet, or roughly a 40-foot diameter circle.
  • Remove enough flowers and fruit - pumpkins are actually fruits - to force the plant to put all its energy into producing one behemoth fruit instead of lots of smaller fruits.
  • Hand-pollinate pumpkins to increase the number of seeds that develop and the likelihood for bigger fruits. Pull off the petals of male flowers, which look like straight stalks, and dab these on the female flowers, which have little round ball-shaped ovaries at their base.
  • Give pumpkins 130 days or more to mature. Because of this, they are best suited to western Oregon.
  • Check soil daily. The ground needs to be evenly moist - but not soggy - at all times. Keep water off foliage to discourage disease.
  • Apply aged manure in fall or in spring put down compost, up to 5 cubic yards per plant. Then use a fertilizer periodically through the season. Apply lime in fall to bring soil to a more neutral pH if a test determines it is on the acid side. Fertilize every two weeks or so with decomposed manure, compost or fertilizer.
  • Maintain a weed-free area around plants.
  • Stake down or bury leaf nodes along the vine. These will root and help prevent wind from rolling the vines.
  • You can place the growing pumpkin on a large piece of cardboard or piece of wood to repel soil-dwelling insects.
  • As the fruit gains size, shade it to prevent scalding and reduce overheating. The skin will also remain more flexible and the fruit will be less likely to split.
  • Harvest your pumpkin at the end of the season just before the first frost. It won't color to the bright orange of a jack-o'-lantern type, but it will appear pale yellow to orange-ish red when it is ready.
  • To qualify as a pumpkin and not a squash, the surface area must be shaded red, pink or yellow, rather than blue, gray or green.
  • At harvest time, be careful that the pumpkin does not develop cracks, which will disqualify you in competitions.

After you've entered your pumpkin in weigh-off competitions, you might be able to sell it to businesses. Casinos or restaurants will sometimes purchase a champion and contract with a professional pumpkin carver to create a short-lived sculpture, Myers said. Or you can roast the seeds. Be forewarned, though, the flesh is not very palatable.

"It's something that's interesting to do. There's not a lot of practicality. There might be a little prize money and it's good for notoriety," Myers said.


9 Quick Tips to Make Jack-O’-Lanterns Last

Nothing says Halloween like jack-o’-lanterns, but what good are they if they rot before you can say trick-or-treat? Before you go to the farmers market, read 9 quick tips to make carved pumpkins last longer. From selecting the best to inhibiting moisture, we’ve got ideas you can use, right here on Gardener’s Path.



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