August 19, 2012

In the pumpkin patch: Aiming for greatness

Now more than midway through his quest to grow a giant pumpkin, 16-year-old Lucas Dion of Waterboro hand-germinates the plant and drenches his most promising specimens with gallons of water.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Lucas Dion hopes his giant pumpkin plant, seen here in his Waterboro backyard, will produce a prizewinner.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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A freshly pollinated flower on Lucas’ pumpkin plant. This is Lucas’ first attempt at growing a giant pumpkin.

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LUCAS DION gets ready to harvest his giant pumpkin and hopefully enter a giant pumpkin contest. The logistics of lifting it up and getting it into a pickup truck still need to be worked out.

TO LEARN MORE

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED in growing giant pumpkins, there is lots of detailed information on the website of the Maine Pumpkin Growers Organization, mainepumpkins.com. There is specific information about how to grow the pumpkins and when to perform specific tasks, plus areas for asking other members questions. There is also information on how to join MePGO for an annual fee of $15. Membership includes two newsletters a year and free seeds through the annual seed giveaway.

IF YOU WANT to join but don’t have a computer, write to: Maine Pumpkin Growers Organization, c/o Joe Gaboury, 324 Plains Road, Readfield, ME 04355.

THE MAINE Pumpkin Growers Organization is still accepting sponsors, advertising and interested growers for the Maine Giant Pumpkin Contest in Sanford on Sept. 22. You need to be a member of MePGO to enter. A list of other pumpkin contests can be found on mainepumpkins.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the contest, contact Al Berard at berardal@hotmail.com or 324-9348.

His father suggested he hand-germinate the plant, something a lot of pumpkin growers do to make sure the pollen doesn't get contaminated.

Basically, you wait until a flower is about to open, then cover it with something, like a cup or bag, to keep insects from getting in. When the flower is ready, you take the pollen stem out and rub it into the "female" part of the plant, where the pumpkin grows.

Lucas did this by covering a flower or two with a Styrofoam cup. But he also had a couple of pumpkins start growing on their own, without hand germinating.

"These just took off by themselves, and I've got one on the main vine that's pretty big," said Lucas. "It's not as much work as I thought."

Lucas' plan for August and September is to keep watering the plant, look out for pests and protect the pumpkins at all costs. When his first pumpkins started growing, he put pieces of plywood underneath them so they wouldn't get too much ground moisture and start rotting.

He's also been burying vines so they'll take root. And he's been plucking off small beginnings of pumpkins, because now that he's got four big ones, he doesn't want the plants' nutrients to be diluted. He wants all the growing power to go into his one or two biggest specimens.

(A couple of days after we visited with Lucas, one of his big pumpkins "went sour" and fell off the vine -- demonstrating how precarious the life of a giant pumpkin is, and how difficult it is to get a giant to survive all the way to harvest time.)

Lucas is hoping that by harvest time in September, he'll at least beat the weight of the giant that his dad grew last year. But he knows there are no guarantees in the world of giants. Wind, weather, pests and a variety of other things can combine to rot or kill a pumpkin before it gets to that coveted giant status.

"I know some people who grew 'em last year, and they only got to 125 pounds. I'd be pretty disappointed if that happened to me," he said.

Lucas would like to enter the fruit of his labors at a giant pumpkin event known as the "Maine Giant Pumpkin Contest" in Sanford on Sept. 22.

But if he gets a giant to grow to 800, 900, 1,000 pounds, how will he get it there?

"I guess just manpower, to get it onto the truck," he said. "Or maybe we can rig something up."

Lucas plays American Legion baseball, and is on his high school wrestling team. So he isn't afraid of a little heavy lifting.

And in this case, he's actually looking forward to it.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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One of the gourds Lucas is hoping will grow to champion proportions.

  


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