PLAINVILLE - Gary Vincent is again growing a patch of colossal pumpkins, some of which have been displayed in past years in front of the Municipal Center during October’s Pumpkin Festival.
Vincent has four massive pumpkins growing in a patch filled with their leaves. They are kept under giant sheets in order to keep them cool.
All of them weigh in at well over 1,000 pounds, the largest at more than 1,600 pounds. Last year, his biggest pumpkin was just short of a ton - 1,834 pounds.
“I started growing giant pumpkins in 1981,” said Vincent. “The Atlanta Giant breed was created in 1971 by Howard Dill but it didn’t really become public knowledge until 1979. The seeds first started to go on sale in 1980 and the first one I grew was probably 225 pounds. They have continued to grow bigger and bigger. The current world record is a pumpkin weighing 2,624 pounds, which was grown in a greenhouse in Belgium. In 1994, the world record was 1,000 pounds.”
Vincent said growers of giant pumpkins sell seeds from successful plants to one another and enter the pumpkins in large regional competitions. Last year, he grew the 31st largest pumpkin in the world and the year before that the 10th largest.
There has been some discussion about whether pumpkins grown in open fields and those grown in greenhouses should be placed in different categories.
“Pumpkins grow best when it is 80 to 85 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 at night,” he said. “In a greenhouse you can control those conditions. You can’t outdoors. For just one of my 1,500 pound or larger pumpkins I would need access to a 30 by 30 foot greenhouse.”
Vincent’s largest pumpkin so far this year, which he has nicknamed “Big John” was 1,610 to 1,650 pounds when he weighed it Aug. 29. If all goes well, he said it may continue to grow through the end of this month.
“I’m in a scary place with this one because I recently found a small crack in it,” he said. “I’ve got 23 more days until the pumpkin is picked and if judges see a crack, they will consider it damaged and not eligible for a prize. However, I decided to put some of the juice from one of the vines that feeds the pumpkin onto the crack and then covered it with duct tape. The pumpkin has continued to grow, which hopefully means that it is healed. I’ve also knocked on it and it feels very hard and solid which is another good sign. Usually if you get too much air inside the pumpkin it will rot and that’s the end of it.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.