When Portland's Mark Thygesen planted seeds for a giant pumpkin in his front yard last year, he never dreamed it would become a neighborhood bonding event. Locals stopped by often to check its progress, so Thygesen posted its weight gain daily on a sign and sent out email newsletters. At harvesttime, he threw a pumpkin party, serving pumpkin-chocolate chip brownies, wasabi ginger pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin ale.
The following morning he drove his bounty to the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers' annual weigh-off in Canby, Oregon. And although it didn't win ― at 348 pounds, it took 36th place ― Thygesen was thrilled with his bumper crop.
Inspiration for his efforts came from reading How-to-Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins, a three-volume classic by Donald Langevin (order at www.giantpumpkin.com). To grow your own giant, follow Thygesen's tips.
• In late spring, plant seeds of 'Atlantic Giant' in well-amended soil.
• Give the plant room to grow ― at least 12 feet by 20 feet.
• Feed weekly with liquid kelp fertilizer.
• Rest the developing squash on a piece of foam or a fiberglass drainage mat to keep it clean and disease-free.
• Protect the pumpkin from rain and sun by erecting a nylon tent over it.