University of Missouri Extension in Harrison County invites growers to participate in a large pumpkin growing contest

Pumpkins on display

The University of Missouri Extension in Harrison County is inviting growers to participate in a large pumpkin growing contest at the Harrison County Fall Festival in Bethany this September. Cash prizes will be available for the three heaviest pumpkins.

The Festival will take place on Saturday, September 25th, on the square in Bethany. All contestants will be required to load and unload their pumpkins, and the top three finishers will be displayed during the festival. The winning competitor will receive $100, with 2nd place receiving $75 and 3rd place $50.

To grow large pumpkins, the first step is to plant seeds from a known large variety, such as “Dill’s Atlantic Giant.” Plant seeds indoors in peat pots approximately one month before the last frost, and transplant them in the garden once the chance of frost has passed. Pumpkins will need lots of space and water, so plan for an area where both can be provided. Staking or burying leaf nodes along the pumpkin vine can encourage the plant to root in these areas, allowing it to take up more water and nutrients. Once the plant begins to flower, pollinate one female flower (will have round ball-shaped ovaries at their base), and remove all other flowers and fruit, forcing the pumpkin to put all of its energy into one sole fruit. Add water and fertilizer regularly. With proper care, you may be surprised at how large your pumpkin may grow.

Participants do not need to be Harrison County residents to enter the contest. If you have questions about the contest or would like additional information on growing pumpkins, contact Andy Luke at the Harrison County Extension Center (660) 425-6434.