The ‘Great Pumpkin’ Arrives a Month Early in Kansas

File:Pumpkins Hancock Shaker village 2418.jpg

Image via Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas farmer smashed the state’s record for largest pumpkin at this year’s state fair, using a forklift to haul in a gourd that weighs more than half a ton.

Donovan Mader, of Garden City, Kanas, used a forklift equipped with a special “pumpkin swing” to remove the 1,034-pound blue-ribbon winner from his field and settle it into the back of his pickup so he could haul it to the fair in Wichita earlier this month.

Mader’s super pumpkin eclipsed the former champion, a 976-pound pumpkin grown by Brian  Stanly, by nearly 80 pounds. The winning pumpkin quickly became one of the fair’s most popular attractions, with visitors lining up around the show barn to catch a glimpse of it.

Secrets to Growing Giant-Sized Vegetables

Mader told The Wichita Eagle that he has been a competitive pumpkin grower for many years. He also brought a record-setting pumpkin to the state fair in 2007.

The secret of growing a prize-winning giant pumpkin is the seeds, according to Mader. Regular pumpkin seeds will grow regular-sized pumpkins. The largest pumpkin Mader ever grew using seeds he bought at Wal-Mart was only 70 lbs.

If you want gigantic yield, you need to use seeds that come from other huge pumpkins. Mader said he purchased four pumpkin seeds online for $25.

Tender Loving Care

Mader, who restores classic trucks for a living when he isn’t growing prize-winning pumpkins, said the giant pumpkin he brought to the fair came from two pumpkin plants he started indoors back in April.

When the Kansas weather warmed in May, he carefully transplanted the pumpkin vines in a former horse pen that contained a special type of sandy soil. Those conditions, combined with a particularly wet summer in western Kansas, was all Mader needed to yield the super-sized pumpkin.

As his pumpkin continued to grow to record proportions, Mader reached out to Doug Heathman, of Liberal, Kansas, a longtime state pumpkin growing champion. Heathman provided him with growing tips and even loaned Mader his special pumpkin swing to help move the gourd into his pickup bed. The forklift was borrowed from a local auction house.

Transporting a Champion Pumpkin to the Fair

So how do you transport a pumpkin that big all the way to Wichita in the back of a pickup truck? Very carefully!

Mader said his prize pumpkin drew a lot of attention from people throughout the trip. Gawkers at gas stations often asked if they could touch it or take their picture with it.

By the time Mader arrived at the fair, there already were seven other entries in the giant pumpkin category. But he had them all beat by a minimum of 500 pounds.

While the prize for growing the biggest pumpkin in Kansas history was only $300, Mader said it wasn’t about the money. It was about the honor.

As for the pumpkin itself, once the fair ends Mader plans to bring it back to Garden City to see if anybody wants to use it as a giant jack-o-lantern. Once a pumpkin gets that big, it’s no good for making pies.

About Dan M

Leave a Reply