Growing Giant Pumpkins is a Growing Hobby

As more and more gardeners seek to grow the largest vegetables ever, growing giant pumpkins takes the cake for biggest results of all.

  • Gary Miller shows off one of his giant pumpkins that will end up as part of a display in Las Vegas.
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  • Gary Miller of Napa, California, claims that he grows more giant pumpkins than anyone else in the world!
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  • Ruben Frias, like most growers of giant pumpkins, uses tarps to protect his growing pumpkins from harsh weather conditions.
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  • Ruben Frias, the youngest giant-pumpkin competitor at the 2015 National Heirloom Exposition, placed 2nd with his 1,667-pound pumpkin.
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  • Gary Miller’s pumpkin patch shows evidence of his 20 years experience growing the giant cucurbits.
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More and more gardeners are being bitten by the bug that drives them to grow the largest vegetables possible. While growers may seek to grow the largest tomatoes, melons, peppers, or nearly any other vegetable, the quest to grow the largest vegetable type of all has become a passion for many. Squash growers are finding the fun and excitement of striving to grow the most gigantic pumpkin. That fact is evident at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California, where the giant pumpkin competition is sanctioned by the international Great Pumpkin Commonwealth and creates excitement among both competitors and spectators alike.

The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s mission cultivates the hobby of growing giant pumpkins throughout the world by establishing standards and regulations that ensure quality of fruit, fairness of competition, recognition of achievement, fellowship and education of all participating growers and weigh-off sites. The GPC oversees and sanctions the results of more than 90 weigh-offs across the globe.

The largest pumpkin at the National Heirloom Exposition weighed 1,725 pounds and was grown by Richard Westervelt of Granite Bay, California. At age 79 years, Westervelt had been growing giant pumpkins competitively for only 5 years; he got into the hobby quite by accident when his grandson planted some pumpkins and then didn’t want to take care of them. Westervelt nurtured the orphaned pumpkin plants. When one plant produced a pumpkin that grew to 300 pounds, he knew he had found an exciting new hobby that would lead him to cultivate the giant cucurbits.

In contrast to the years and gardening experience of the first place winner, Ruben Frias was the youngest competitor at the National Heirloom Expo. The young man from Napa, California, took 2nd place honors when his pumpkin topped out at 1,667 pounds, sending a huge smile across his face. Into his fifth year of growing giant pumpkins, Frias had planted 4 seeds into his garden plot on the Hudson Ranch where he is employed. After losing one of the plants, he used his free time when not working for Hudson to painstakingly care for his pumpkin patch. He said that he got into the sport for fun, and still grows pumpkins for the fun of it. He pointed out that often times his monetary investments are not recovered with winning prizes, and that doesn’t consider his countless hours of work.

Gary Miller, also of Napa, California, says that his claim to fame is that he grows more large pumpkins than anyone else in the world. While most growers focus on just 3-5 pumpkin plants, he has more than 20 large ones growing in his patch. A visit to his one-acre pumpkin patch shows evidence that he is a seasoned and dedicated pumpkin grower who has been at it for more than 20 years. His introduction into pumpkin growing came when he was working as a landscape designer in Napa Valley. Robert Mendavi Winery commissioned him to grow big pumpkins for display. With his first crop of giant pumpkins, Miller was hooked. He says, “It takes over your life!”

Miller likes to enter his giant pumpkins into contests and likes it even better when he wins, but competition is not the only reason that he grows pumpkins. He grows big pumpkins commercially to provide them for display around the country, often selling them to Las Vegas establishments that include the luxurious Bellagio Hotel and Casino.



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