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Wisconsin farmer explains how he grew pumpkin to nearly 2K pounds

Black River Falls farmer finishes sixth in Altoona’s pumpkin growing contest

Giant pumpkin on display
Jim Suchanek stands with family besides his locally grown pumpkin at the 2023 River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival. Photo courtesy Jim Suchanek

One key to growing enormous pumpkins rests in the soil, said a Wisconsin farmer who recently grew a nearly 2,000-pound pumpkin.

Jim Suchanek of Black River Falls said interested growers should run soil tests at least once a year. Phosphorus can promote root growth, and calcium will help the pumpkin’s shell grow hard and thick, so it can withstand rapid growth, he said. The shell can be 12-15 inches thick.

This year, one of Suchanek’s pumpkins grew an average of 55 pounds per day. Without a shell strong enough to handle that much growth, a pumpkin could blow up.

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Jim Suchanek poses with his hands on his hips next to a nearly 2,000-pound pumpkin
Jim Suchanek poses at D&S Manufacturing in Black River Falls with a pumpkin that unofficially weighed in at 1,908 pounds on Sept. 25, 2023. That weight ties Suchanek’s personal best. Photo courtesy Jim Suchanek

“They will split and crack right open,” Suchanek said recently on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.”

Suchanek recently took sixth place at the River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival in Altoona with his pumpkin weighing 1,785 pounds. A Kansas farmer took first place with a pumpkin weighing 2,184 pounds.

Suchanek said his expectations were slightly lower, in part, because about a month before the contest he backed off a bit on watering his pumpkins. Every year, he said he hits a wall and gets burned out. A lot can go wrong in growing giant pumpkins, so that means farmers “just really got to babysit them.”

Suchanek said he also had a pumpkin this year that unofficially weighed about 1,908 pounds, tying his personal best.

This type of growing takes a lot of work, he said. He was out in the pumpkin patch quite a bit, especially in spring and early summer.

“Well, my wife, she would say it’s a full-time job,” he said with a laugh. “There’s a lot to do to get them this big.”

Another key to growing enormous pumpkins is getting the right seeds. Suchanek has friends around the world who are professional growers, and they send him seeds with good genetics for free. He said they trust him to take good care of the plants.

Here are some more tips Suchanek gave for growing large pumpkins:

  • Remove as few leaves as possible. The leaves are what bring energy to the pumpkin, allowing it to grow. The exception is when leaves start touching the pumpkin. He said he then removes some leaves to avoid any scarring or damage to the pumpkin’s appearance.
  • Suchanek uses insecticide for cucumber beetles in the early spring. Vine borers, too, can harm the pumpkins.
  • Make sure the bottom of the pumpkin is solid — without holes or cracks — to avoid water flowing out.