Giant pumpkins

Pictured are the winners and sponsors of the contest: Tanner Henderson (third place), Bracken Henderson (UI Extension Educator), Ned Webster (second place), Ken Palmer (IFA Branch Manager), and Winnie Webster (first place).

The winning pumpkins of the the first annual Franklin County 4-H Giant Pumpkin Growing Contest are on their way to Salt Lake City to become boats in the ninth annual Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta on Oct. 19 at Oquirrh Lake, said Courtney Webster, mother of Winnie and Ned Webster who won the contest.

Thirteen youth participated in the inaugural event that was sponsored by the Preston IFA Country Store.

The kids were paid $250 each for their giant vegetables. Winnie’s pumpkin weighed in at 529 pounds. Ned’s pumpkin came in second at 404 pounds, and Tanner Henderson took third place with a pumpkin weighing 264 pounds.

“This year was a challenge with the late, cool, wet spring and pumpkins were slow getting started,” said Bracken Henderson, 4-H Extension agent.

“A number of the plants were frozen and died early on. Those that made it through had difficulty setting female blossoms,” he said. “Pumpkins have male and female blossoms and the plants were only producing male blossoms. Consequently, we were late getting pumpkins growing. I believe part of the problem may be due to manganese and/or magnesium deficiency that giant pumpkin plants may be prone to in our soils,” said Henderson.

“Given the challenges we experienced with the weather and this being our first year, we were excited with our results. Next year our hope is to have more participants and to beat this year’s top weight,” he said. Growing a giant pumpkin takes at least a 20- by 20-foot plot of fertile soil, a commitment to caring for the pumpkin and, as apparent from this year’s event, a little luck.

Courtney said her children enjoyed the project, and proudly showed the pumpkins off when people came to visit. What surprised them, however, was how quickly they grew when they grew.

Winnie’s pumpkin grew right away, then stalled out. Ned’s pumpkin plant took a long time to set its fruit, but then it grew quickly, she said.