At the Giant Pumpkin Weigh off at Thanksgiving point on Saturday September 25, Mountain Green resident Matt McConkie broke the state record with a massive pumpkin weighing in at 1,169 pounds. The previous state record stood at 1104 pounds. Another Mountain Green resident, Tyler Quigley came in third with his pumpkin weighing 886 pounds.
Every year, giant pumpkin growers from across the state congregate to weigh their massive gourds for prize money and bragging rights. These pumpkins are not your average grocery store variety. The pumpkins grown by the two measure over 5 feet across. They are carefully bred for size and the genealogy is tracked back generations, similar to the way a horseracing enthusiast tracks breeding. The top seeds can fetch over $500 each at auction, but many good seeds are available simply by asking the grower.
Due to improved weather and nighttime temperatures, the team grows their crop in South Ogden. Preparation for this growing season started last fall when the team prepared the soil with manure, compost and performed soil tests to determine any nutrient deficiencies. During the season, the pumpkins are feed a steady diet of emulsified fish and seaweed extract. Quigley and McConkie state, “Pumpkins respond well to slow, steady, organic feedings. They also drink about 85 gallons of water per plant per day. ” Quigley continues, “Last fall we added over 100 tons of manure and compost.”
Quigley and McConkie describe the growing process, “As the plant grows, all of the young pumpkins are removed so that the nutrients and water are directed toward just one fruit. During peak growth, the pumpkins can add up to 40 lbs a day. Sometimes they grow so fast they can split open. Once a pumpkin is split, it stops growing and is disqualified from competition. We started with 8 competition plants, and have only 3 left. The others we have lost to disease and splits, including our fastest grower.”
Once growing is complete, cranes or backhoes lift the pumpkins out of the garden and place them on trailers for transport. They are very difficult to move, even with 8-10 people. After the competition, there are many things that can be done with giant pumpkins. Some competitors carve them into boats and race them on lakes. Others drop them from large cranes onto cars. At Thanksgiving, giant pumpkins are fed to the elephants at Hogle Zoo as part of the “feast for the beasts”. Quigley and McConkie are displaying three of their pumpkins at Mountain Green Elementary, where both of their children attend school, and are having the children guess the weight of one of them to win prizes.
“Some people call this extreme gardening, we call it a sport, ”says Quigley. The team has certainly played this sport well. There’s no question that the great pumpkin has already visited the house of these two incredible gardeners well in advance of Halloween.