From the "it keeps them off the streets" department...
The Great Pumpkin: Backyard Botanists Shoot for 1-Ton Mark
Latest Garden Sport Bends Scales, Rules of Nature; Gaining 40 Pounds a Day
By Susan Warren For The Wall Street Journal
October 29, 2005
After six months of tender ministrations to the hulking orange blob in his backyard garden, Richard Wallace arrived at the moment of truth earlier this month.
It was time to harvest his giant pumpkin and take it to the official weigh-off, where growers each year compete for bragging rights to the hugest pumpkin in the land. As the harness straps strained to lift his pumpkin off the ground, the weight-gauge on the winch rose past 1,100 pounds. Then, there was a dull crack and the bottom gave way. Out glugged a sickening sludge of fermenting pumpkin guts, filling the air with the stench of rotten fruit.
The rest of the pumpkin harvesters gagged, but Mr. Wallace shrugged off the demise of his gargantuan garden specimen with a wry smile. "If you can't handle defeat, this isn't the hobby for you," the 64-year-old retired manager said.
In recent years growing giant pumpkins has evolved into a fiercely competitive garden sport. Fanatical growers carve out half the calendar year to devote to their pumpkin patches, working to bend the rules of Mother Nature by nurturing their monsters with thousands of gallons of water, stinky soups of manure and seaweed, and complex pruning techniques.
Vacations are postponed and marriages strained as growers spend up to 30 hours a week tending their pumpkins during the summer's peak growing time, when giants have been known to gain 40 pounds a day.
Twenty years ago, a 500-pound pumpkin was considered a monumental feat. Now, giants regularly tip the scales at 1,200 pounds to 1,400 pounds, bringing within sight the previously incomprehensible: a 1-ton pumpkin.
Like thoroughbred race horses, progeny of exceptionally heavy pumpkins are prized. Each winter online auctions are held where the hottest seeds can go for more than $500 apiece -- even though there's no guarantee they will sprout.
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