Atlantic Giant Growing Instructions

Starting Seeds

Here in Pennsylvania seeds should be started indoors. In order to have plants with females ready to pollinate by at least early July, seeds should be started no later than mid May but May 1st is the ideal time. Temperature is everything. Seeds started at room temp may take as long as 2 weeks to germinate but they will take as little as 21 hours at 85 degrees. This is the ideal temperature to start them. Start by filing or grinding a little off of the edges of the seed from the pointed end to about 2/3 of the way up the side. This will help them sprout and shuck the seed coat more easily. It is a good idea to soak the seed for a couple hours in water with some hydrogen peroxide solution in it to kill off any fungus or bacteria. You can start the seed by placing it in between some damp (not wet) paper towel in a dish covered with Saran wrap but this is tricky if you have not done it before. Either way, once you have soaked the seed or put it in a dish until a root starts to sprout, put the seed into a 1-gallon pot filled with potting soil. Miracle Grow potting soil is about the best. Put the seed in with the pointed end down, 1 inch deep and tilt the seed about 30 degrees as you cover it. The tilt will help it to shuck the seed coat.

As soon as it sprouts, the plant should be placed in 100% sunlight or as much as possible or it will get leggy very quickly. It should be transplanted to the patch no more than 10 days after it sprouts.

Soil And Patch Preparation

The plants are very heavy feeders so the soil must be very rich and should have a pH between 6.0 and about 7.2. Each plant will need 400 to 1000 sq. ft. (20' x 20' to 30' x 30'). The plants should be put into the center of a mound approx. 1' high and at least 6' wide. This will keep the root area well drained. The first 2 leaves on the plant are the cotyledons. The next one you see is the first "true" leaf. The vine will tend to run in the opposite direction from the first true leaf so point it toward the rear of the patch when you put the plant in the ground. It will need wind protection immediately so have something ready before you plant. The proper time to transplant is mid May so the plant will also need some protection from the cold. A small shelter can be made out of old windows, plastic sheets over a frame or whatever it takes. On very cold nights cover the whole shelter with blankets or whatever. Try to keep the temp at least 50 deg. at night and not over 90 during the day. Use some small sticks or wire hoops to brace the plant until it "lies down". This is extremely important!!! Keep the root area damp, NOT WET, or damp off will occur. Remove the shelter about the first week of June but continue bracing especially the vine tip. As soon as the vine lies down, cover it with a little soil but leave the vine tip and about 18" back uncovered.

Pruning And Vine Care

As the main vine grows out, secondary vines will grow out at the leaf junctions with taproots growing down at each junction. Tertiary vines will grow from the secondaries. The tertiaries must all be removed as soon as they first appear. If pruning is not done every few days you will end up with a jungle of vines. As the main and secondaries grow, keep burying them with a little soil. This will cause a second taproot to grow at each leaf junction, will anchor the plant and will help to keep vine borers out of the vines. The main and secondaries should grow out in the shape of a Christmas tree. The first secondaries should be terminated when they are 15 to 20' long and then progressively shorter as you go up the main. The main should be terminated no more than 10 ft. past the fruit.

Pollination And Fruit Care

When female blossoms first appear on the main or secondary vines, the vine must be gradually curved so that the female is on the outside of the curve. Do this gradually over several days and only in the afternoon when it is hot or you will snap the vine. Keep going until the vine is bent 90 deg. or close to it. When bending the main vine, remove some of the secondary vines on the inside of the curve to eliminate congestion. Females that are less than 10 ft. from the stump should be removed.

The female blossom will open at sunrise about 10 days after it first appears at the tip of the vine. It must be pollinated before 2PM, it should not be raining and this should be done by hand as soon as the blossom is open. Get at least 3 fresh male blossoms and carefully tear of the flower petals then put the stamen down into the female and rub as much pollen as possible all over the female stigma segments. It is a good idea then to tie it shut with a piece of cloth so nothing else including rain can get in. If the temp is over 85 deg. in the afternoon, or if it rains, the pollination may fail.

If all goes well, the fruit will begin to grow in a few days. Before the fruit lies down, put a little sand under it so it has something sterile to lie on. When it gets to about 8" in diameter and heavy enough to stay put, start repositioning it until it is perpendicular to the vine. Again, do this a little each day and only in the afternoon. If you do not move it, the shoulder will get up against the vine when it lets large and it will tear itself off of the vine.

When a fruit gets to at least 44" in circumference, it probably will not abort so you can then remove as many or all other fruit and female blossoms from the plant. When the fruit is small, cover it with a white cloth to protect it from the sun and when it gets bigger, switch to a shade tarp or cover keeping it as small as possible and well ventilated.

Keep the plant well watered and use foliar fertilizer as necessary. From about the end of May use an insecticide such as Triazicide to eliminate beetles, vine borers and other insects.

That about covers the basics and will get you started. Many things can go wrong during the year and it only takes one major mistake to end everything. Before you make a mistake, call another grower and ask questions. Much more info is available if you are interested.

Good Luck.