Sunday, October 7, 2012

Giant Pumpkins

Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers has snared my son. He is an active, participating member of growing giant pumpkins. I would never have guessed it of him and I continue to be amazed at his new hobby. I have always maintained that I've learned more from my children than I would have in another four years of college and this is no exception.


Every year a large section of my son's backyard is filled with huge pumpkins leaves and stems as one or two giant pumpkins are carefully groomed until it's time to cut and weigh them at the Jared's Nursery Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off & Festival. This year the festival was held September 29, 2012. 


Giant pumpkin growing starts out with plenty of preparation. I was amazed to hear what a precise science is used. First, there is a need  to use the right seeds.  Seasoned giant pumpkin growers are wonderful in sharing their seeds with the new growers to encourage them to get started. Next the soil where the precious seeds will be planted is tested. If the pH isn't between 6.7 to 7.0 additives are mixed into the soil. If soil doesn't measure up I happen to know a brother is likely to send his youngest brother out for a truck load of manure. Hint: this does become a family or neighbor  project sooner or later. After getting the seeds and soil ready, the only things left for growing a special pumpkin are good luck and good weather. My son says "good weather helps but that might go along with luck." The seeds are planted after April 15th (tax day) depending on the weather and the growing season begins.


Support from your family is very important. Once the pumpkins start growing, they have to be protected from the cold nights, wind and hail in Colorado My dear daughter-in-law, Sarah, has been known to run out in the rain, while my son was at work, to protect the growing pumpkins from the heavy rains and possible hail. 

There is a time to train the main vine, a time to water, a time to spray pesticides and finally the time comes to cut the pumpkin from the vine.    This big event of cutting the pumpkin free announces the end of the growing season after all these months. The pumpkins are carefully monitored to determine when they have quit growing and the cutting off the vine is a major decision. Below is Sarah, making the momentous cut on their second pumpkin of the 2011 season.

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The weigh-in of a giant pumpkin becomes a long anticipated reward for all the love and efforts poured into the squash that has become a backyard family member. By taking measurements, a grower can estimate the weight but until it's hoisted upon a scale, the weight remains unofficial. 

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I have found  that moving these giant pumpkins is not an easy project. It takes borrowing a brother's truck and enlisting brothers and neighbors to help load these heavy pumpkins. Mom likes to be there with her camera as well. Like I said earlier, it becomes a family project. 


Excitement builds at the weigh-ins  as the pumpkins are gathered from far and wide. A variety of colors, sizes and shapes are on display. This year there were 32 pumpkins  at Jared's weigh-in as well as many other vegetable varies. Below is Andrew with this year's pumpkin. Both ready for the weigh-in.


Pumpkins ready and waiting.


Pumpkins are seen here on pallets with a lift nearby.


Sometimes the pumpkins are lifted with heavy canvas and strong men on each side. 


How ever the pumpkins get there, it's quite a sight to see.


Do these beauties make you want to grow one in your own backyard? Warning, it becomes addictive.


The ultimate goal is to get bragging rights of having the heaviest pumpkin. There are a few different places to lug a giant pumpkin for competitions. Jared's is the first one in the area but another popular one is at the Arvada Giant Pumpkin contest at the Festival of Scarecrows. Last year, Andrew's first serious giant pumpkin growing attempt, he came in second place with his biggest pumpkin being 176 pounds and he got an honorable mention on his second pumpkin. 


The goal of the growers is to out weigh their heaviest pumpkin from the year before and to aim for the biggest one over all. This year, at Jared's, the first place pumpkin was grown by Joe Scherber weighing in at a mighty 1,225 pounds.  Isn't it a beauty?


This was a good year for growing a record breaking huge pumpkin. A pumpkin grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island, broke the one ton record last Friday at Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts with a 2009 pound pumpkin. Click on the link to see his win.


More pumpkins at Jared's.


Andrew's pumpkin this year outweighed last years so that is exciting. This year it came in at 230.5 pounds. When I asked him if he planned to take it to the Arvada Festival he said "no, it's too much work moving it." Can you even imagine what it takes to lug one of those things around? I couldn't even budge one of Andrew's pumpkins, I've tried. 


I asked my son what all this pumpkin activity means to him. I loved his answer. He said, quoting Howard Dill, "pumpkins make people smile."  Howard Dill is a four-time World Champion pumpkin grower. He patented the seeds that are grown today.  Andrew said driving the pumpkins to the weigh-in got lots of attention and, of course, plenty of smiles! I know they make me smile and the bigger the pumpkin, the bigger I smile! Keep on growing Andrew, your family cheers you on!

  

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