Pumpkins and cannabis: Growing them is more similar than you might think

A California resident set a new state record in 2019 with this 2,175-lbs pumpkin. It turns out, according a hemp and pumpkin expert at the University of Connecticut, that growing the two kinds of plants is remarkably similar. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

It’s fall, the harvest is coming in, and cannabis growers are doing the final frets over their plants,

They’re fending off last-minute problems, mould, pests, and getting it all ready for drying.

It can be a very complicated process, so complex, in fact, that it’s not unlike growing giant pumpkins.

That’s right. Pumpkins.

Matthew Dabacco has a Masters degree in Agronomy and a PhD in Education.

He was also part of the team that established University of Connecticut’s hemp course.

“There are amazing similarities” between growing high yield hemp and giant pumpkins, he told Mark Mirko of

The Hartford Courant.

“From a water standpoint, a nutrient standpoint … the timing very much follows a pumpkin’s schedule,” DeBacco said. “A pumpkin plant is a cannabis plant horizontal.”

In consulting with cannabis growers bringing him diseased plants he “ended up making the connection to pumpkin.”

“What a vet is for animals, I am for plants,” DeBacco said.

Some of the similarities has to do with constant vigilance over your plants, especially if you’re growing outdoors.

Take for example, Alex Noel. The 29-year-old set a Connecticut record with a 2,294-pound pumpkin and says growing a pumpkin at these weights can require 25 hours a week in the patch. Coaxing root growth, monitoring soil and water health, making sure the wall is thick enough to support the pumpkin’s weight, setting mouse traps and fending off hungry invaders.

“It’s amazing how fragile they are,” he said.

DeBacco is an expert at keeping mold at bay in plants organically, The Hartford Courant reported in an earlier article.

He has consulted with cannabis growers in Connecticut and Massachusetts to diagnose and solve problems with hemp and medical marijuana crops. His course on growing hemp is one of the first in the United States.

But he got his start with pumpkins, trying and failing over and over again to grow giant varieties, until he eventually found success. (The 37-year-old recently grew a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,885.5-pounds.)

The same, he says, can be had with cannabis.

“It’s not just putting a seed in the ground. There’s that more difficult aspect to it,” DeBacco said. “So I’m trying to convey that to students without scaring them.”