Some of the monster pumpkins from the 2016 contest. Wylie Bystedt photo

Time to get growing

The race to grow Quesnel’s largest pumpkin is underway

Now that the danger of frost is over for most of us, our energies can be directed to our green thumbs.

And who, of all the green thumbs in Quesnel, has the biggest bragging rights? Why, it’s the winner of the Quesnel Farmers’ Market Giant Pumpkin Contest, judged on Thanksgiving Weekend.

Last fall, in sudden-death overtime, Koster Farm and Garden narrowly outweighed Cariboo Valley Farms and the Community Garden with a 177-pound (80.5-kilogram) effort.

While accepting the $100 in prize money, co-winner Dave Koster was queried about his successful growing techniques. Holding his cards close to his chest, Dave mumbled something about, “planting by the tides, and playing classical music regularly to my plants.”

Cheap advice is just that. However, there are some general techniques for growing large pumpkins; here are a few:

• Full sun is important, so avoid shaded areas.

• Apply compost or aged manure to the hole prior to setting out the transplant. Additional fertilization may be needed throughout the summer.

• Placing black plastic around the base of the pumpkin on top of the soil can help warm up the ground. Soil temperature (taken 10 cm or four inches deep) should be around 15 C or 60 F.

• A high tunnel or hoop house can be used to boost air temperatures during the early part of the season, but be careful to not overheat the plant.

• Give the plant lots of room to spread out; really big ones need at least a 10-metre-diameter circle.

• Give the plant lots of water. Check the soil often; it should be damp, but not wet.

• Remove most of the extra flowers and fruits (pumpkins are truly fruits) so that the plant puts most of its energy into one large fruit.

• Stake down or bury leaf nodes along the vines. These will root, and provide extra potential for the fruit.

• Allow at least 145 days to maturity.

It’s that easy. And, it’s made easier than ever, because you can buy ready-to-plant Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkin starts from vendors at the Farmers’ Market for the next few weeks.

The market is chock-a-block full of bedding plants, including more tomato varieties than you ever thought possible. You will also find lots of spring vegetables, including asparagus, lettuces, spinach, radishes and bunching onions.

The Market is a good choice for ready-eat food, for one-of-a-kind gifts, and for Saturday morning socializing. Music this week will be provided by Kim Kolenchuk.

Come for the freshness; stay for the fun. The Market runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Helen Dixon School site.

Rob Borsato is the director of the Quesnel Farmer’s Market.

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