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Happy Halloween!29 October 2012
It's the witching hour, and that means just one thing: giant pumpkins! They're super-easy to grow yourself to hollow out and carve into a Halloween lantern to scare all those ghosties and ghoulies away from your doorstep.
There are plenty of record-breaking varieties you can try in a garden centre. 'Atlantic Giant' is the big daddy, and regularly produces pumpkins over 200 kg in weight, but if that sounds a bit large for your doorstep, you'll also get great results from more manageable varieties like 'Jack O'Lantern' or 'Gold Fever'.
To grow a giant pumpkin for next year's Halloween, sow seed in April, one to a 10cm pot, and move the seedlings into larger containers as they grow (and they do grow, very quickly indeed). The richer the ground, the larger your pumpkin: one trade secret for show-stopping fruits is to dig a large pit, up to 1.2m wide and deep, and fill it with well-rotted manure (you'll find plenty of rich soil improver for sale in a garden centre, so just ask a member of staff). Then plant your young pumpkin plant in the top after the last frosts.
Keep it well-watered, pinch out all but two of the fruits and lift them off the ground onto pallets or straw as they swell. Around the end of October, just in time for Halloween, they'll be ripe and ready for turning into scary lanterns. Happy carving!