Each year at county and state fairs all around the United States, people gather to look, sometimes dumbstruck, at the giant-sized vegetables lovingly grown for this year's harvest. Some of these vegetables, like the world record-setting giant pumpkin from 2009, weigh in excess of 1,700 pounds. While not everyone wants a gargantuan pumpkin, growing giant vegetables can be fun and a great learning experience.
Apply compost approximately 4 inches thick to the area where giant vegetable will grow. Till the compost into the soil, using a shovel or tiller, mixing the compost into the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Be sure to allow plenty of room for the plant to grow. Allow about 25 percent more space than usual.
Choose a vegetable variety bred to be a giant and plant the desired seeds according to the package. Most seed packages have the word giant in the name. For pumpkins, Atlantic Giant Pumpkins are a popular variety; for tomatoes, Beefsteak and Brandywines are widely used; and for peppers, Colossal Bell Peppers are some of the largest.
Apply mulch to the growing area, keeping it 2 to 3 inches away from the leaves, to help keep moisture in, weeds down and the stalk from rotting.
Water the plants consistently, keeping the soil evenly moist from day to day. Do not let it dry out completely for long periods of time, rather check the drainage so roots are not soaked in water. Water early in the morning before the sun is too high to minimize evaporation.
Check the plants daily for pests and remove any that you find by hand. If necessary, use your favorite pest control if an infestation gets out of control. Remember that not all insects are bad for your plants - ladybugs, praying mantis and bees are beneficial insects, keeping the damaging ones at bay and pollinating the plants as they grow.
After the plants flower, watch for small vegetables forming. Once the new vegetables have begun to establish themselves, choose the healthiest vegetable and remove the others from the plants carefully with a sharp instrument, making sure not to damage the plant. Allowing only one vegetable on the plant allows all of the plant's nutrients to flow to that one vegetable. It will grow stronger and larger.
Trim off a few of the excess branches or vines. Do not be excessive with removal, but many times a plant will grow unruly and spread out, far beyond its growing area. Keep the plant within limits so it concentrates on growing that one vegetable.
Keep the area as weed-free as possible as weeds will rob nutrients.
As the vegetable grows, it may become necessary to support it. For some plants, making a hammock out of old nylon pantyhose is enough to support the vegetable so it doesn't break its stem. For giant pumpkins and vines, train the vine to curve away from the pumpkin and cut the vine about 3 feet beyond the pumpkin so it won't curve back around and crowd out the pumpkin.
Harvest the vegetable when it reaches the desired size or when it ripens on the vine. Vegetables will not increase in size once they have ripened.