This is my son, Andrew; he grows GIANT pumpkins in his backyard.
He's been doing this for 7 years. This mighty pumpkin above had its official, impressive weigh-in today at Nick's Garden Center and Farm Market.
Since I have no green thumb what-so-ever, I totally delight in the success my son has keeping these huge pumpkins alive for months. This pumpkin started out from an Atlantic Giant Seed, patented by Howard Dill. Seeds are an important part of growing big pumpkins. Seeds can be found from reliable growers in the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Club. Looking on their web site will help to get you started. Not to scare you off but one seed from a prize winning pumpkin in Wisconsin was sold in 2010 at auction for $1600. The seed was not even guaranteed to germinate. The giant pumpkin had so few seeds that value of the seed went for a premium. For beginners it's suggested, though, that you don't get fussy and get some seeds just for the asking.
Giant pumpkins come in all sizes, shapes and colors. The goal is to grow a bigger one next year. Many things can go wrong during a growing season so it's exciting when a pumpkin makes it all the way to the weigh in. Andrew has had an interesting history with his pumpkins. His rookie pumpkin was 24 pounds. The second year he raised a 176 pounder. I wrote a blog post about it on Roaming Rita that you can read here. His third year hit 230 pounds, fourth year was over double the weight the previous year at 551. Fifth year was a wipe-out. The pumpkin didn't make it. The squirrels ate it up making it ineligible for any competition. Other growers have too late found families of mice taking up residence in their pumpkins. Weather and hail are other culprits to a pumpkin's good health. Last year Andrew had a mighty 331.5 pound pumpkin so this year's was over double that. They do keep getting bigger.
Taking on this giant pumpkin project requires a constant watch to nurture this growing monstrosity. Usually the pumpkins end up with a name as they grow. This pumpkin was named Dorito. The seed was planted April 20, 2016, pollinated July 7th, 2016, and was cut from its vine September 30, 2016. For five months, water and attention are focused on the growing patch.
Growing a giant pumpkin is one thing but how do growers move their masterpiece? It's not an easy task and it takes plenty of help. Here is how this year's pumpkin was lifted from the backyard. Andrew built this hoist with the help of his brother, Paul. A neighbor was on scene to help as well. Other years with smaller pumpkins a group of six guys lifted the pumpkin on a tarp. This year another method was needed for the project.
Loaded and rolling down Interstate 70 on it's way to the weigh-in, Andrew said people slowed down to look at his cargo as they passed his truck. That's a sight you don't see very often.
Having safely arrived at the weigh-in, the pumpkin is lined up with the other entries. Since Andrew is a board member on the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Club, he assisted in tape measuring the size of the pumpkins. This gives a hint as to the weight of the pumpkin and is one of the recorded measurements.
Since all this excitement is dependent solely on the weight of the pumpkin, the color, size and shape are not considered. Therefore, the scale is the most important object on this day. In this picture you can see the heavy duty scale. The red and white ribbons will go to the top 10 heavy entries. Money is also an incentive for all the effort involved. First place garners a dollar a pound. This year that came to a whopping $1420. If your pumpkin doesn't get one of the top three honors, but are among the others in the top ten you are a happy winner of $50.00.
Once the weigh-offs start, they are done in order by their estimated weights (from the tape measures) smallest to largest. There is a junior division so they go first. When a pumpkin is up for their long awaited official weigh-in, it is lifted and checked on the bottom. This is to look for holes, animals or any tampering of the pumpkin.
While Andrew's pumpkin is being examined, he's on stage waiting for the results.
Results are in. The pumpkin weighed a whopping 702 pounds. This put Andrew in 7th place this year so he was happy to be $50.00 richer today. Sarah, Andrew's wife, was standing next to me as I took this picture and she was cheering loudly as she had put in lots of effort helping to keep the pumpkin viable. She's been known to run out and cover the pumpkin when a hail storm hits. She needs to he recognized as a co-owner of a successful pumpkin this year.
There are only 2000 pumpkin growers in the world. As Andrew said "I can't think of any other fruit or vegetable that makes people smile." This Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers isn't all about pumpkins, even though it is the main draw. There are also categories for giant tomatoes, sunflowers, long gourds, green squash and more. If you have a green thumb consider this as your next project. There is lots of room for more giant vegetables on this table.
These giant pumpkins are often sold for fall decorations. They don't make very good pies unless you use lots of spices. Even then it's not obvious if the inside of the pumpkin is going to be a good eat or not. There are pumpkin drops at nurseries where you can watch them go splat. That's another whole day of fun!
Great job growing this year, Andrew (and Sarah).