The Sport of Super-Sizing: Growing a Giant Pumpkin With Robert Demers
Robert Demers, president of the N.H. Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and part owner of Demers Garden Center in Manchester.
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Robert Demers likes his pumpkins big - really big. This pumpkin, when the photo was taken, still had two months to grow. And it could grow at an unbelievable 30 to 40 - even 50 - pounds a day! Each year in October Demers and his fellow giant pumpkin growers take their biggest pumpkin to a weigh-off in Goffstown where pumpkins routinely tip the scales at more than 1,000 pounds.
Demers, who is president of the N.H. Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and part owner of Demers Garden Center in Manchester, grew one that weighed 1,225 pounds, but even that giant doesn't hold the record. His interest in pumpkins sprouted when he took up horticulture at UNH Thompson School of Applied Science and over the years grew into a love of competition for the biggest and the best pumpkin in the patch.
Why do you want to grow giant pumpkins? I like growing giant pumpkins because it amazes me that a seed the size of your thumbnail can produce a fruit over 1,000 pounds in one growing season. It is also fun to take the fruit around after the season and show them off.
What's the biggest pumpkin you've ever grown? 1,225 pounds.
What's the current world record? The current world record is 1,810.5 pounds set last year in Minnesota. The N.H. state record is 1,566 pounds set by Bill Rodonis in Litchfield.
Is it true they can grow 20-30 pounds a day? Yes, it is true. When conditions are good in my patch I had them doing as much as 50 pounds a day.
What's the secret to growing the biggest? Good soil, all day sun and a seed with a good genetic background. Also, join your local giant pumpkin growers club, we have one [NHGPGA] in N.H. Go to the meetings and educational seminars. Talk to members and local growers.
You're not going for beauty with the giant pumpkins, right? Right. We do our own breeding and we are mainly going for thick walls for weight in the weigh-off competitions
How competitive is pumpkin growing? That's a hard one to answer - some growers are secretive and stay very quiet till weigh-off season but most of our NHGPGA members are a pretty friendly bunch of growers and help each other out.
Do people share seeds? We do. Club members will package them up and give them out at fairs that we participate in and also at our booth at the NH Farm and Forest Expo.
Do you carve your giant pumpkins? Some, depending on the shape. It's not easy to keep a 1,000-pound pumpkin from caving in once you've cut it.
Ever grown a giant squash? I haven't yet. Jim Kuhn from Goffstown grew the first 1,000-pound squash in N.H. and currently holds the record of 1,014.5 pounds.