Don’t count your giant pumpkins until they’re harvested

It takes some heavy-duty time and effort to grow a prizewinning pumpkin.

I’LL NEVER FORGET the year I challenged my co-workers at Seattle University to a pumpkin-growing contest. The prize for the biggest pumpkin was a stash of extra-large peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies, one from each losing contestant.

The pumpkin I grew turned into a real honker, probably weighing in at around 150 pounds. There was little doubt that I was going to win, and I annoyed my fellow contestants by constantly bragging about the size of my pumpkin, and how good those cookies were going to taste.

Imagine my surprise on pumpkin-judgment day, when I sauntered out to harvest big “Gloria” only to find her gone, replaced by a can of pumpkin-pie filling!

Eventually, my cohorts gave my pumpkin back, and I claimed my bragging rights (and the cookies) as the champion pumpkin-grower of the Seattle University grounds.

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As proud as I was, I can’t even imagine the esteem you would feel if your pumpkin were crowned the winner at the Seventh Annual Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival, scheduled for Sept. 30 at Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon. Besides the giant pumpkin weigh-offs, this event includes a talk from “The Bat Lady” of Bats Northwest, a pumpkin pie bake-off and much more. There’s even a prize for the prettiest pumpkin, which, you’ll realize, is somewhat of an oxymoron once you’ve seen what these behemoths look like.

As fun as all of these activities are, the pumpkin weigh-ins steal the show. If you haven’t seen one of these humongous pumpkins, you’re in for a treat. The sagging monsters are nothing like the round pumpkins we carve into jack-o’-lanterns. The weight gives them bizarre shapes, and the really big ones have midridge bulges that make sumo wrestlers look like ballerina dancers. There’s a $1,000 prize for the biggest pumpkin, but giant-pumpkin growers don’t do it for the money. It’s all about the prestige of growing the biggest pumpkin in the state.

Champion pumpkin growers earn their bragging rights. It takes an amazing amount of time and effort to grow a prizewinner. Competitors go to great lengths to find the perfect giant-pumpkin seed with the genetics to create a truly huge pumpkin.

To develop great soil with the exact right balance of nutrients, most growers work with private agronomists. Once the pumpkin is growing, it is…

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