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Now THAT’s a Great Pumpkin!
Local man grows a 226-pound pumpkin
Prineville resident Cody Reynolds grew a 226-pound giant pumpkin this past year. In the above photo, his son Norman hams it up for the camera while showing off the mammoth feat.
October 29, 2012
During the past month, pumpkins have adorned many home and business doorsteps throughout Crook County as people celebrate the fall harvest and upcoming Halloween holiday.
Prineville resident Cody Reynolds has decorated the porch of his home in the same manner, but the display features a centerpiece that sets it apart — a homegrown 226-pound pumpkin.
His growing adventure started during the spring, when he decided to take his love of gardening to another level.
“I figured, OK, why don’t I try something that I enjoy as far as gardening, but something that is unique?” he recalls.
Reynolds picked giant pumpkins for a few reasons. He had noticed them in storefronts and other prominent locations in the past and watched a TV show called “Lord of the Gourds” that fueled his interest.
“They do documentaries on people who specialize in competitive growing,” he said.
Giant pumpkins also fit because of its accessibility. Reynolds found more resources for growing pumpkins than other vegetables in the competitive growing arena.
Pumpkins appealed to him on a personal level as well. He and his wife enjoy fall above all other seasons, and Reynolds wanted to pursue a hobby that fit with autumn.
“We got married in the fall,” he said. “On our honeymoon, instead of going somewhere tropical and sitting on a beach, we went to Maine for 10 days.”
Reynolds began his giant pumpkin journey purchasing a “grow your own giant pumpkin extreme gardening kit.” It included a how-to book on world-class giant pumpkin growing as well as some organic materials with names like mycorrhizae symbiotic fungi. He also sought some expert advice.
“I made contact with a competitive growing mad scientist type (John Swearigen of Salem) who mentored me throughout the entire process.” Swearigen grew a 1,304-pound pumpkin in his second year.
To successfully cultivate a giant pumpkin, Reynolds had to exercise his green thumb in ways he never had in the past. Having gardened for the past four years, he typically stuck with basic store-bought fertilizers and added manure to enrich the soil. With the pumpkins, he opted for an all-organic method, which demands a more involved approach.
Reynolds had to inoculate the soil with fungi and organic bacteria, and utilized fish emulsion and liquefied seaweed.
“I have never gotten as deeply intense on the soils as I have this year,” he said.
The project also prompted a lot of reading and study time.
“The book I read – it was so in-depth that I ended up with a book of notes that was pretty much the size of the book, just trying to break everything down so I understood it.”
Growing giant pumpkins didn’t start out easy for Reynolds. He figures he began about a month too late and missed the first set of pollinations. Adding to the degree of difficulty, Prineville provides a short growing season with many cold nights and frosts.
Nevertheless, the plants eventually took off — in a big way that Reynolds wasn’t anticipating.
“I was gaining 20-plus pounds a day,” he recalls. “I would measure them and I was gaining five to 10 inches a day on my tape.”
The rapidly-growing expanse of pumpkin vines kept him hopping as well. Reynolds only planted two plants, but each one required a 30x30-foot space.
“To stay ahead of the growth, you have to spend three or four hours a day, probably, in the patch just staying on top of pruning those vines and burying them,” he said. Burying the additional vines is critical because it helps ensure growth of a larger pumpkin. “The idea is you eradicate all of the ones (pumpkins), except the chosen one, and then you bury your vines and then that way all of the energy goes to the main pumpkin.”
In the end, all of the hard work paid off. Reynolds finally harvested his 226-pound giant earlier this month.
With a pumpkin that size, he had to call on some extra manpower — and the remnants of a broken trampoline — to get it to his porch.
“I recruited my brother and a couple of other guys and we rolled it onto the trampoline fabric and loaded it on the truck and then drove it down to my shop and weighed it on the UPS scale,” Reynolds recounted.
Of course, he had to take the scenic route through town and show it off.
“That’s the biggest part of the fun after you harvest the pumpkin is the drive to the scale,” he said.
Next year, Reynolds plans to start the giant pumpkin process all over again. While he was proud of growing a 226-pounder, his goal was 300 pounds, and he still hopes to get there. To reduce the workload involved, he plans to grow one plant instead of two.
“It’s an extreme amount of work to keep up with them because they explode,” he remarked.
Reynolds would also like some company next time out.
“I think it would be neat to find other people that are actually interested in doing it — actually make a competition out of it.”