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The great pumpkin contest

Published July 03. 2010 09:00AM

As many of my regular readers know, it's been about a month since we painted the deck. And while I didn't mention it at the time, we made one other purchase the day we bought our stain. In the entrance to the store were children's discovery type gardens. They were Sesame Street licensed window gardens. They chose the one that had Elmo and the other which had Ernie and Bert decorations. I believe the first garden was tomatoes and the second was peppers.

Since they were only a few dollars, we bought both of them for Kathryn to explore. Our worst case scenario would be that the plants died shortly after planting the seeds or didn't sprout at all. I was on an interview when Katie and Kathryn sowed the seeds in the little pots which were the size of bathroom paper cups.

My wife said the process was meant to be simple but a little bump caused her to improvise with one of the kits. Apparently instead of including dirt like one would have expected, the kits had these discs in that expanded when wet into some kind of mulchy, mossy soil substance. It seemed almost like dehydrated dirt which I found to be weird. Only one of the gardens worked as intended. The disks were placed in the containers and water was added to them creating the dirt. Next, they placed a seed or two in each pot. Katie said that in the kit which worked the disks expanded quickly.

The tomatoes were not as lucky. She ended up using regular potting soil for those. This was done around the first week in May.

It was amazing to see the contrast between the two gardens over the next several weeks. The top soil garden of tomatoes sprouted within four or five days and in two weeks there were some hearty sprouts while the peppers were just starting to surface at that point. Contrary to our initial expectations, the plants took root and grew.

What happened next reminds me of the saying, "In for a penny, in for a pound." We were shopping a few days later. We passed a seed display with the packets lined up in rows on the rack. Kathryn saw them and asked if she could pick another vegetable. We allowed her to select a flower seed packet and a vegetable seed packet. Kathryn chose some type of wild flower and pumpkins. We made the purchases and took them home.

Katie reviewed the packets a day or two later and I looked up from the newspaper to find her standing next to me. She said, "Do you know what kind of seeds our daughter picked?" I said, "Yeah, some flowers and pumpkins."

"Not just any pumpkins," she answered. "Look at the packet again."

She handed me the packet and sure enough, we weren't talking about the normal sized pumpkin. Kathryn grabbed seeds to grow competition 100 pound plus pumpkins. My jaw sagged as I thought about this more deeply. Katie read the back and it said these pumpkins were bred to grow at least 100 pounds. She opened the envelope and found more than two dozen seeds.

At that point we hatched the "Great Pumpkin Contest". Our evil plan was to shame Kathryn's grandfathers into a macho contest with us to see who could grow the largest pumpkin. We gave our dads eight seeds each and kept eight for ourselves. Chuckling mischievously, our initial plan was to not tell them how big these pumpkins would become if they grew, but then we relented mostly out of residual childhood fear of dad.

We wanted to make sure everyone was even in growing time so we planted the seeds the Thursday before Memorial Day after warning each semi-reluctant contestant what they were getting themselves into with us. Neither was initially enthused until their adorable little granddaughter batted her eyes and cooed at them. Then they were putty in our hands. At that point we made sure they had the seeds a day or two before the official start date. We knew our dads pretty well. If it had been sooner, Katie's dad would have forgotten to plant them on time, and my dad probably would have cheated and planted them early (all in good fun of course).

The day came and we dug our garden and transferred the tomato plants and pepper plants to the outdoor patch. We also planted corn which I can tell you really is growing well in that it is already over knee high Fourth of July. Finally we planted the pumpkins. By one week after Memorial Day those vines sprouted and they haven't stopped growing.

By yesterday, Katie and I realized this pumpkin contest is going to be something else. Our plants all grew and each one has at least a half dozen sprouts. The leaves are bigger than my two hands combined and the tendrils tried to attack our corn until we put a barrier between them. I'm beginning to realize we may have left a genie out of the bottle and I'm already wondering what we will do with these beastly gourds when they are full grown. On the average there are probably a total of 48 potential 100 pound pumpkins preparing to grow in my garden. That is over two tons of pumpkin.

Maybe we will try to set the Guinness record for largest pumpkin pie this fall or maybe we can hollow them out and sell them for summer cottages. Who knows, maybe this town hack will win a ribbon at a local fair. I will just be happy if we best our folks in pumpkin planting. Either way Kathryn is enjoying watching her garden grow, and I'm enjoying watching our daughter appreciate the beauty of nature.

Til next time…

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