June 10, 2012

Giant pumpkin's great expectations

Lucas Dion of Waterboro nurtures what he hopes will become a giant – and profitable – pumpkin.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Lucas Dion plants a giant pumpkin seedling in his backyard in Waterboro.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Lucas gets a hand from his father – and fellow pumpkin aficionado – Jim Dion.

Additional Photos Below

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NEXT IN THIS SERIES: Lucas Dion tackles the complicated process of hand-pollinating the giant pumpkin plant, taking care that insects and the elements don't contaminate the process.

JOIN THE CLUB

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 family's home is in a wooded area on a dirt road leading toward Lake Arrowhead, in the northern part of Waterboro. Lucas picked a small hill not far from the house, so it will be easy to water but won't be in full sun.

Eventually, pumpkin vines will cover the hill. Hopefully.

On planting day, Lucas dug a hole and put down both compost and fertilizer designed to give the pumpkin what it needs, including lots of nitrogen.

He spread out cloth material designed to keep weeds out. He made a hole with a teaspoon in the soil to make sure a special liquid fertilizer got to where it was supposed to. Then he watered it.

His dad said the pumpkin plant might need 50 to 70 gallons of water a day, and that he'll probably help Lucas fix up some sort of overhead watering system.

Other than daily watering, Lucas is planning on checking on the plant daily to see if leaves are bent or broken, to watch where the vines are growing and direct them to ideal spots for growing, and to look for buds and flowers.

Eventually, probably sometime in July, he'll have to hand-pollinate the plant.

Growing giant pumpkins is too exact a science to leave the pollination to chance, what with bugs and the elements likely to play havoc.

So, following basic recommendations from the Maine Pumpkin Growers Organization, Lucas is planning to watch the flower so he can cover it with something -- some growers use plastic bags -- the day before it opens.

He'll need to take the male part of the plant -- also covered -- peel the petals away, and brush the pollen into the female flower.

Then the fun part begins. The pumpkins begin growing.

Eventually, after watching carefully every day, Lucas will have to determine which pumpkins to cut off the plant, so that all the nutrients and energy go toward creating one giant pumpkin in the fall.

Lucas says he's interested in the process of learning how and why giants become giants.

But, being a wrestler and a hunter and a teenage boy who could use some spending money, he's also interested in results.

Like maybe doubling the 400-pounder his father grew last year.

"I think an 800-pounder would be good for a first time," said Lucas with a smile.

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

rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Lucas looks on while his father, Jim, waters Lucas’ giant pumpkin seedling. At some point, Jim Dion says, the plant may need 50 to 70 gallons of water a day.

  


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