Damariscotta Pumpkinfest 2017

Giant pumpkin-growing 101

Posted:  Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 10:00am
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Two giant pumpkins are growing in Edgecomb.

Have you ever wondered how a giant pumpkin is grown? If you think those pumpkins, weighing in excess of 100 pounds, featured in the annual Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, are just randomly grown pumpkins that mature into giants, think again.

There are enormous pumpkins, and then there are giant pumpkins. They grow from giant pumpkin seeds, specifically Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds. The biggest Atlantic Giant Pumpkin on record weighed over a ton.

Now Pastor Kate Pinkham and parishioner Jean Krause of Edgecomb Community Church on Cross Point Road have teamed up to take a stab at creating a monster, in the form of a giant pumpkin.

Krause volunteered at Pumpkinfest last year, and after she became a member of the church on Christmas Day, she suggested they grow a giant pumpkin there. “The genesis of this is that the Edgecomb Community Church is really trying to reach out to people and let them know who we are,” Krause said. “We’re more than an hour’s worship on a Sunday morning.”

She thought it would be cool to grow a great big pumpkin on “God’s Fertile Ground,” as the land beside the church has been dubbed. Pastor Pinkham agreed.

On May 21, the two women went to “Seedling Sunday” at Pinkham’s Plantation in Damariscotta, where over 600 Atlantic Giant Pumpkin 10-day old seedlings were given away to pumpkin-growing hopefuls. The seedlings started with last year’s giant Pumpkinfest pumpkins. “I know,”Krause said. “I washed them.”

Along with the seedlings, the potential giant pumpkin growers are given five pounds of fertile earth, and instructions on how to produce an orange monster.

Parishioners Mary Jane and Calla Wells are also in on the fun. They’re helping care for the growing pumpkins, and Mary Jane built the 25-by-50-foot pumpkin patch frame and, with her tractor, filled it with 40 yards of composted soil.

The patch was made 25 by 50 feet because, as the women learned when they picked up their seedlings, each of the pumpkins would require 25 square feet of raised bed. Krause said professional growers can produce pumpkins that gain 50 pounds a day. She doesn’t hold out much hope that the church’s giant pumpkins will do that. “We’re 101-ers.”

Planted on May 22, the two little seedlings have now each grown to practically cover their allotted 25 square feet. For the giant pumpkins to thrive, only one is allowed to grow on each plant.

Each day, someone cuts any new vines and pinches off new blossoms, and each plant gets an hour-long shower with a sprinkler. Tendrils from the plants work their way into the fertile soil and carry water to the growing pumpkins.

The women said they didn’t have a clue about any of the finer points of growing a giant pumpkin when they started. “We just thought it would be fun,” Krause said.

At Pumpkinfest, the giants will be featured as pumpkin boats in a regatta, ammunition in the “pumpkin drop,” and as artful displays along Main Street in Damariscotta and Newcastle.

Pumpkinfest will partner with Boothbay Railway Village, Maine Maritime Museum in Bath and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland for the second annual Maine’s Pumpkin Trail, a 50-mile-long tour of museums and festivals between Labor Day and Halloween.

The Pumpkinfest pumpkins will be weighed the first Saturday in October. Pinkham looked at one of their pumpkins on Aug. 6, now measuring about nine or 10 inches in circumference. “Hopefully it’ll get bigger,” she said. Krause laughed and said, “Have faith.”

Last year’s winning giant pumpkin weighed 1,700 pounds.