For seven years I have been blessed to have space for a garden. I was so excited about my very first one. I’m excited for all of them. I’m excited this year especially, my “dirt square” has become a full on corner of the backyard.
My very first garden was lovingly tilled out of the grass by my Rooster, with a giant rototiller. Then sifted through by hand by yours truly. Oh that was the year! We had beans, lettuce, corn and pumpkins. Just look at those pumpkins!
It was the year before I was bitten by the fair bug.
Here in Washington, we have the Puyallup Fair, newly renamed the Washington State Fair. It’s pretty typical of all things “fair”. There are rides, and carnival games, there is fair food galore. There is the Hobby Hall, where people can show off their collections. There are farm animals and there are vendors of all types hawking their wares. But the thing that caught my eye that year, were the giant pumpkins. The winner weighed in at just under 1000 pounds. My first thought…… I can grow one of those. In fact, can grow a bigger one. Why not I said to myself, you are great at growing regular pumpkins…….
So in the spring of 20 13, I invested time and effort into learning about growing giant pumpkins. I tore out a rose bush and invested money in Dill’s Giant Pumpkin Seeds and Steer Manure. I planted the seeds with care and guarded the tiny dirt patch from all of our cats, birds and squirrels. Lo and behold the plant was glorious. It was taking a while though to get any flowers. The deadline for entry into the fair is August 30th.
Finally, when we returned from 4th of July weekend, there were flowers of both sexes. My Fair Pumpkin was coming to life. All of my care and research was finally coming to fruition. Until that one fateful afternoon. My Rooster was ever so carefully weed-eating the flower beds and around the garden. He must have been distracted, because he weed eater’ed my baby pumpkin right off the vine. Then he disappeared. Probably smart of him. I eventually got a big pumpkin that year. But it wasn’t fair bound 🙁
2014. The garden got bigger. I decided to move my pumpkin to a dedicated space in the garden. That year I got some seeds from a winner at the Puyallup Fair. Things were going great. I had a measuring tape that I left next to her. Her name…. of course she had a name. She was Fiona and she was growing at a crazy rate of speed. One inch around and one inch from top to butt daily. I even made her a growth chart. Word spread of Fiona’s prowess. I was a happy mama. Questions were posed about moving her out when time came. How would we move her. She would have to go from the garden, to the back of the truck, to the fair. Brilliant internet minds would have me place a pallet under her before she got too big. My mind was screaming to leave her alone.
The internet minds won. Fiona’s astounding growth continued. The day finally came where Fiona had to get on that pallet. As it turned out, my helper was not of the highest ilk, and as we (but mostly he) moved Fiona onto her new home, my helper slipped and broke one of the vines, it was broken 18 inches from the stem and presented immediately as a gaping hole. Sure I tried to stick it in dirt to avoid water loss, I googled the heck out of my problem. And also sure enough, Fiona grew no more. She didn’t die, she just lingered sadly on the vine until Halloween, when she was painted into a beautiful lady. Sigh…….
I don’t give up easily.
Last year, in the Spring of 2015, I purchased the seeds of winning giant pumpkins everywhere. They were harvested the previous year from a 1,400 pound monster. They were the size of a quarter and I paid $10.00 each for them. I started them inside, with fancy soil, in jiffy pots. There would be no transferring them, just burial into the garden.
The garden was expanded once again, and even more space was dedicated to the pumpkins. Two plants this time. I wanted to double my chances to ensure that I had a viable fruit this time. I had my Puyallup Fair paperwork all ready to go.
It was so hot last summer. The sun was merciless, but was standing by with fertilizers and sprinklers daily. My plants were doing well and I had five pumpkins on the vines. I was so happy! The only hard part was going to be choosing one pumpkin on each plant to remain, while getting rid of the rest.
Last summer, the sun ended up betraying me. By early August my beautiful pumpkins started splitting. First one, then they all followed. The insides were growing faster than the outsides. Some burst right out the bottom. Some cracked wide open. One cracked and continued to grow, despite the mighty efforts of the bugs and slugs in the garden. Disappointed yet again.
But did I give up? No Way, I never give up.
This year, look at my garden space….. It’s as big as it can get, and I’m back down to one giant pumpkin plant, although I did plant jack o’lanterns this year too. I’ve scaled back my internet crazy just a bit and bought my seeds at the farm store. I’m ready to go to the Fair. But I’m also focusing more on the other veggies. Those valiant pieces of produce that almost grow themselves. I have beans, peas, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, onions, potatoes and corn.
I’m trying a new approach this year. Leave the giant pumpkin alone and let it just grow. Who knows…… I bet it works.
See you at the Puyallup Fair!