MILTON, Vt. – The start of October means a lot of people are heading to local farms and supermarkets to get Halloween pumpkins, but for those who want more of a challenge, growing your own giant pumpkin offers just that.
Chances are, you’ve seen pictures of prize-winning pumpkins weighing over 2,000 pounds, but many would-be contestants fall short of the standard.
Thursday’s Giant Pumpkin Growing Contest in at the Milton Farmers’ Market was one of many that happen around the region this month, and veteran growers said it takes proper research and a little bit of luck to get the desired results.
“I actually gave my soil sample to the person from Castleton who grew a 2,000 pound pumpkin last year and he told me what I needed to add to my soil,” said Rick Wasielewski. “I’m trying to grow a 1,000 pound pumpkin, I’m not there, but I’m close.”
Wasielewski said he’s been growing giant pumpkins for 6 years and started after watching his grandchildren fight over a regular-sized pumpkin.
“I said ‘I’m gonna grow a pumpkin that nobody is going to fight over because you won’t be able to pick it up!”
Good seeds, good soil and hard work were Wasielewski’s three keys to success. The methods used to achieve a good soil can be wide-ranging.
“I have llamas, so I feed them lots of llama poop,” said Christian Dymond, who won Thursday’s contest. He believes it’s his secret ingredient.
The Milton competition was less competitive than larger ones – the Milton Recreation Department hands out giant pumpkin seeds at several events throughout the spring and the expertise of the growers varies.
“They are determined,” said Kym Duchesneau. “They say ‘this year, we’re going to grow a pumpkin,’ and over the summer we get e-mails and pictures of dead plants. We can all celebrate or commiserate depending on how things went.”
Even in October when experienced growers like Wasielewski have their finished product, one cruel twist of fate can shatter hopes.
“It was my prettiest pumpkin ever, beautiful orange color,” Wasielewski said. “On the way to the contest, I hit a bump with the trailer and the pumpkin decided to split, and once you get a hole in the pumpkin it’s disqualified.”
After the contests are over, there isn’t much left the pumpkins have to offer.
“They’re not very edible,” Wasielewski said. “I also use an insecticide I wouldn’t want to eat.”
For seasoned pumpkin growers or those considering, the Vermont Giant Pumpkin Growers’ Association has instructions, materials and more.