News Local

The Bigger The Better

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Russ Landry has thought about using an ultrasound to check the health of his baby.

Although he hasn't done that yet, his (almost) 1,100-pound baby seems to be doing just fine, thank you.

Landry's pride and joy isn't human -- it's one huge pumpkin -- but it does get a lot of tender loving care.

Landry, of Thornton, sits on the board of directors of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. The international organization has 68 official weigh-in sites across the world, including Cornerstone Landscaping Supplies.

The company's general manager, Roy Lee, has been letting Landry grow his gargantuan gourds on Cornerstone's property, located at Highway 400 and the Innisfil Line 10 overpass. The pumpkins are on a site that showcases the different types of soils at Cornerstone.

Lee's holding the third annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off on Oct. 25, where mammoth pumpkins such as Landry's will be (gently) placed on scales and their weights recorded for the files of the Giant Vegetable Growers of Ontario and the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.

The commonwealth has 10,000 competitive growers in Europe, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Ontario and the north-east United States.

Lee is expecting growers from across Ontario and as far away as New York and Quebec.

"We're always surprised with the number of people who dedicate and commit themselves to growing these monstrous vegetables," he said.

To be accurate, they are gourds, but, technically, they are referred to as fruit.

"Any plant which has seeds in it is classified as a fruit," Landry said.

Vegetable or not, they are beastly huge. A child could crawl inside one if it was carved into a jack-o'-lantern.

Landry competed at Pumpkin Fest in Port Elgin from Oct. 4 to Oct. 5, where his 973-pound squash placed second. And last weekend he was looking to defend his title at the Woodbridge Fair.

His current prize is dubbed Xray -- they all need names in order to keep track of them -- and Landry hopes it will tip the scales at 1,100 pounds. Its walls are about 10 to 14 inches thick.

Genetics form the pumpkin's shape, the wall thickness, the colour, how fast they grow and how heavy they grow to be. Moving the pumpkins requires lifting them up using straps and a fork lift truck.

"They rarely fall apart. I've seen people put them on a skid and truck them thousands of miles to a show," Lee said.

"When we crossed the border one time, the border guards started laughing when they saw this massive pumpkin on the trailer."

Landry was growing eight competitive pumpkins initially, and now has five, or about 5,000 pounds of pumpkin or squash.

"The fascination about these pumpkins is how fast they can grow. They can grow 40 pounds a day in August. Then you can extrapolate and see how large it will get," he said.

Seeds from a prize-winning pumpkin aren't cheap. A single seed from an Atlantic giant pumpkin fetched $850 at an auction two years ago, although most bring in that much money.

The all-time world record pumpkin weighed in at 1,446 pounds during a 2004 competition.

Other heavyweights from the GVGO include a 235-pound watermelon and a gourd almost 10-feet long.

The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off will also include a Halloween costume contest, barbecue, a jumping castle, games and pumpkin decorating.

For more information, call 431-2504.

Contact the writer at

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Tips For Growing Giant Pumpkins

Seeds:

Store your giant pumpkin seeds in a dry location until spring.

Garden Preparation:

Select a garden location that is sunny and well-drained. Add plenty of compost or manure in fall and or spring. Have your soil tested and apply the recommended dosage of fertilizer.

Planting Your Giant Pumpkin Seeds:

Start giant pumpkin seeds indoors in the second or third week of May. Plant each seed one-inch deep in four-to-eight-inch pots with a good, moist potting soil.

Place pots in a sunny, warm location. Plants will emerge in five to 10 days. Transplant giant pumpkin plants outdoors after the last frost in hills of mixed compost, manure, and soil (usually after May 24).

Space required for each plant should be a minimum of 20 X 20 feet.

Caring For Your Plants:

Fertilize plants weekly with a good liquid fertilizer until harvest. Keep soil moist, but well-drained. Remove all weeds with a hoe.

After pumpkins set, water heavily. They should receive the equivalent of one to two inches of rainfall per week.

When pumpkins reach basketball size, select one or two pumpkins per plant and remove all others.



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