Atlantic Giant pumpkin

Atlantic Giant Pumpkins are known as the world’s largest pumpkins! Often grown for competitions, these huge pumpkins can prove tricky for inexperienced gardeners.

The Atlantic Giant pumpkin is the most popular giant pumpkin variety. These record-setting squash can grow to be around 500 pounds, but some have grown to be over 2,000 pounds. Also known as Dill’s Atlantic Giant, these pale-orange lumpy fruits require lots of sunlight and plenty of attentive care to grow to such a giant size.

Read on to learn all about Atlantic Giant pumpkins!

Atlantic giant pumpkin

Atlantic giant pumpkins: The basics

The Atlantic Giant pumpkin is an enormous pumpkin cultivar developed by Howard Dill of Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1970s. Also named Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkin, these giants routinely reach 500 pounds but have been known to surpass 2000 pounds when grown by giant pumpkin enthusiasts for heavyweight competitions.

Atlantic Giant pumpkins generally have a pale orange-colored rind and stringy, pale-orange flesh. Fruits are irregularly shaped, with ribs and a flattened appearance. These pumpkins generally grow on their side, as a bit of a blob.

Atlantic giant pumpkin

Growing Atlantic Giant pumpkins

Pumpkins are sun-loving plants and therefore are best grown in the summer months. However, to encourage giant pumpkin growth, the Atlantic Giant pumpkins need as much time in the sun as possible. The sunlight is required for photosynthesis, creating the energy to grow a giant curcubit.

An Atlantic Giant pumpkin needs 130+ days in the sun to reach its record size. Unfortunately, with only about a hundred days in some summer growing seasons, planting at the beginning of the season is not long enough. Hobby growers start their seeds early, and sometimes even build growing tents over the plants to get these beauties as big as possible.

Dill's atlantic giant pumpkin

Do not plant Atlantic Giant pumpkins if there is still a risk of frost striking the plants. If frost hits the plants, it will stunt their growth. If frost strikes your area late into the season, you can always start the pumpkins inside (although they don’t love being transplanted). However, after about two weeks, move the pumpkins outside.

“The giant pumpkins of today are direct descendants of Jaune Gros de Paris, or Large Yellow Paris, still popular in France. Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was, as far as I can determine, among the first to grow the variety in the United States.”

The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squash, and Gourds, By Amy Goldman
Pumpkin growing in the field

Planting Atlantic Giant pumpkin plants

Atlantic Giant Pumpkins need soil that is nutrient-rich, moist, and has plenty of room to spread out. You will also need to add fertilizer to the plants to help them reach behemoth sizes. Mix compost and manure with your soil and create small stacks of the soil mixture. Place these stacks in an area that is sheltered from the wind and receives plenty of sunlight.

Each mound should have about 15 to 20 feet between them. Spreading the stacks out ensures that the giant pumpkins will have plenty of room for their nearly 12-foot-long vines to spread.

As mentioned earlier, you should not plant pumpkins in cold weather; however, these plants need a bit longer than the standard summer growing season to reach their full potential. Because of this, you should start preparing your garden beds a few weeks before you are ready to plant the seeds.

After you have your mounds of compost and manure prepared, cover them with plastic. Covering the stacks with plastic will create a mini-greenhouse effect that will speed up the soil’s defrosting.

While the soil is defrosting outside, you can start planting your Atlantic Giant Pumpkins inside in biodegradable pots. Use biodegradable pots to avoid damaging the roots when transplanting the starts. Plant your Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds about 1 inch into the biodegradable pot. These starts should maintain a temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They should also stay moist.

Create another mini greenhouse effect by covering each of the pots with plastic wrap. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds have sprouted. As soon as the pumpkin seeds have sprouted, put them somewhere with lots of sunlight.

After the soil defrosts and all risk of frost setting in has passed, plant one pumpkin sprout in each of the mounds. Remove any visible parts of the pots. From here, it is not just a waiting game. Atlantic Giant Pumpkin will require lots of attention and care, so you’ll need to check up on them regularly and attend to their needs.

Before watering your giant pumpkins, check to see if the soil around them is dry. Only water the plants if the soil is dry. Before watering the plants, add some fertilizer to each mound. You may also consider adding a fertilizer meant for fast-growing plants (ex. tomatoes or fruits) every two weeks or so. Add water to your pumpkins only after administering the fertilizer. This order will help the plant absorb the fertilizer better.

If you are looking for a large crop of pumpkins, continue to water the plants until they are ready for harvesting.  However, growing a pumpkin worthy of winning a competition will require a few extra steps.

For monster pumpkins, you need to ensure that the plant is not spreading its nutrients too thin. Remove all but three pumpkins growing on the vine as soon as they set to ensure the three candidates receive plenty of nutrients. Once the pumpkins have grown a bit bigger, remove all but the largest healthy pumpkin from the vine. This last pumpkin will then receive all the nutrients gathered by the vines.

A common problem with pumpkin patches is that the fruit will have a beautiful top but a soft, moldy bottom. you can prevent the bottom of your Atlantic Giant Pumpkin from molding by placing it on top of a piece of wood.

Keep watering and fertilizing the soil around the plant until competition day to grow a record-breaking pumpkin!

Atlantic giant pumpkin on display

Why grow Atlantic Giant pumpkins?

So why should you grow an Atlantic Giant Pumpkin in your garden? They’re certainly not easy to grow, and if you are looking for pumpkins to turn into a pie, you may want to look elsewhere.

Atlantic Giant pumpkins do not possess the same flavor as gourmet cooking pumpkins. They’re watery and stringy. These pumpkins have increased fiber levels and are therefore harder to cook. However, they are edible if you have the dedication to grow, cut, and prepare them!

So if you can’t eat it, why should you grow it? Good question!

Atlantic Giant Pumpkins are primarily grown for competitions and shows. While not well known for their taste, these pumpkins are famous for their large size and beautiful exterior colors. In other words, these pumpkins are better suited for showing off rather than for eating.

If your garden is well known for competition-crushing creations, then the Atlantic Giant pumpkin will be the perfect addition.

Where did Atlantic Giant pumpkins come from?

Howard Dill of Windsor, Nova Scotia (Canada) bred the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin, likely using seed stock from Goderich Giant Pumpkins:

“From 1973 to 1979 he cultivated the Mammoth Chile ( “Genuine Mammoth”) then Renie’s Giant seeds ( “Goderich Giants”) breaking the world record in 1980 with 459 pounds and then again in 1981 at 493.5 pounds and it was a perfect example to set the standard for the copyrighted Dill’s Atlantic Giant.”

Howard Dill, Illinois Giant Pumpkin Grower’s Association

Goderich Giant pumpkins were bred by William Warnock of Goderich, Ontario (Canada) over a hundred years ago. Around 1903, he was able to grow a 400-pound pumpkin. During this time in history, a 400-pound pumpkin was unheard of. His pumpkins repeatedly set records at world fairs. William Warnock changed history. Contests now have pumpkins (often Atlantic Giants, or descended from Atlantic Giants) that reach up to 2,000 pounds, which can be partially attributed to Warnock’s early influence.

Many giant pumpkins (sometimes called “mammoth” pumpkins) grown for the competition are most commonly descended from the heirloom pumpkin Jaune Gros de Paris (Big Yellow from Paris). Seeds were selectively saved from the largest pumpkins and propagated to create larger and larger specimens!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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