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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maxing out the Garden...

For years I've thought about growing one of those huge pumpkins, had visions of it ballooning up in the pumpkin patch like a harvest moon. So why haven't I? One reason: I don't own a tractor with a bucket loader, would have no way to harvest the thing. After all, record breaking pumpkins can easily top half a ton. (This year's record: 2,145.5 pounds grown by a gardener in Wisconsin.) Every year the season's winner tops the previous by two or three hundred pounds, it seems. This year to impress the grandson, I  thought I'd give it a try. I could always remove the behemoth from the garden in chunks if I had to, take an ax to it, slice it up like I was flensing slabs of blubber off a whale.

I planted two varieties: Atlantic Dill and Big Max. As a backup, just in case the big gourds failed to produce, I planted my old standby variety: Connecticut Field which year after year always yields a crop for Halloween.There is a science to raising record breaking "tonnage" pumpkins, techniques like spritzing the vines with milk, erecting shades over the fruit to protect it from the weather, and before the gourd is too big to handle, placing it on a solid base so it won't sink into the soil. All competitors, however, seem to agree on one point: all fruit should be removed from the vine except for one, that special gourd into which you channel all your gardening karma, your hopes, your dreams of pumpkin glory, that one truly fat boy that will not only tip the scales but hopefully break them. As I'm just your ordinary gardener, no scientist or horticultural genius--and no owner of a front end loader--I set my sights on a less lofty goal: a pumpkin the grandson would exclaim, "Oh! Wow!"when he saw it.

Not long into the growing season a Big Max showed promise, and I set about lopping off all subsequent fruit from the vine. It wasn't long until the pumpkin showed above the leaves, squatting in the patch like an orange boulder left behind by a receding glacier. At season's end I had the largest pumpkin I had ever grown on the place. I had no means to weigh it, could hardly budge the thing, but I compared mine to those on sale at Fred Meyer's, plump teasers scattered around and about the mountain of pumpkins guarding the east entrance. My Max must surely tip the scales in the 140-150 pound range which explains why I had a devil of a time rolling it into the wheelbarrow and transporting it to the deck where its fate has yet to be determined.

This time of year pumpkin flavors everything. And pumpkin pie season is fast approaching. I wonder how many potential pumpkin pies my grandson Atticus is sitting on?
Pumpkin lattes? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cookies? Pumpkin soup? Baked pumpkin seeds seasoned with garlic salt? Yes, its one big pumpkin, but considering the world's largest pumpkin pie weighed 3,699 pounds, was twenty feet in diameter (9/25/2010 at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest, New Bremen, Ohio), I doubt my Big Max would supply one thin slice, hardly a mouthful.

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  1. Some chickens enjoy pumpkin. I just sliced off some skin of a pumpkin I got at a pumpkin patch and tossed it in the run. So far they have no interest in it but it was rather late when I put it in. Will see if they dive in tomorrow.

  2. I've baked a couple of squash and threw the skins and innards to the girls.They seemed pretty apathetic to the offering. On the other hand when I harvested my cabbages, I left the roots which have sent up side sprouts topped by little cabbages. I snap one off once in a while and dangle it from the chicken wire. The chickens make quick work of it, leaving only the nub of the stalk. Thanks for reading....TMJ