A long-distance friend of mine asked what happened to my giant pumpkin this year. Tragic one-word answer: groundhog.
I had a fast-growing pumpkin on the vine, somewhat lopsided but coming along nicely, when we took a week’s vacation down to Hogwarts. Upon returning, I discovered that a groundhog had scraped or gnawed away nearly half of the pumpkin’s surface. He didn’t breach the shell, and the white, fanlike scars were almost beautiful in their way, but it didn’t take long for the wounds to rot. I tried to keep it dry with a portable fan, but it was clear the pumpkin wouldn’t survive and I was forced to compost it.
The tough thing about growing giant pumpkins in a small backyard is that you need at least a few hundred square feet of garden per plant, and then the plant can only have one final fruit, to ensure that all of the vine’s energy is going into the chosen pumpkin. If anything happens to the one main vine, you’re in trouble. If anything happens to that one pumpkin, you’re done. The serious pumpkin growers, those who are breaking records and getting closer to the first-ever one-ton fruit, generally have enough land to grow numerous plants. They have backups in case of disaster. With me, it’s all or nothing.
Which naturally adds to the excitement. But next year, I may forgo the one big fruit and grow for numbers. With a high-pedigree seed, the vine takes off and you can grow a lot of terrific 50-pounders no problem. I’ll need a better plan for the groundhogs, but I’ll probably emerge with a decent number of carvable pumpkins, and I’ve always liked the sight of a proper patch with lots of orange highlights.