By Tom Collins
WOODBRIDGE — An Eastern Ontario giant pumpkin grower just smashed the Canadian record for heaviest pumpkin, but believes the record will only stand for a year.
Phil and Jane Hunt at Cameron, north of Lindsay, had a pumpkin that weighed 1,959 lb. at the Woodbridge Fair on Oct. 6, breaking the old record of 1,877 lb. That same day, a grower in Alberta had one that tipped the scales at 1,884 lb.
Hunt says it is only a matter of time before a Canadian grows a 2,000-lb. monster. In fact, it almost happened this year. The same day that Hunt set the record, an Alberta grower had a pumpkin that weighed 2,255 lbs., but was disqualified because the pumpkin had a hole in it the size of a knitting needle. Any type of hole or splitting of a giant pumpkin automatically disqualifies the vegetable from competition to discourage cheating.
“I think next year you’ll see 2,000 lb. broken in Canada,” said Hunt. “There’s no doubt in my mind. We’re on the verge. ”
The world record is a 2,625.6 lb. pumpkin grown by a man in Belgium in 2016.
The Hunts have no farming background. Phil is a retired dock worker for a transportation company while Jane is an accountant. They got into growing giant pumpkins in 1991 when they saw a story on the news about a new world record around 800 lb.
“I said to my wife, ‘We’ll never get a record in any kind of sport, but we like the garden. Maybe we should give something like this a run,’ ” he said.
Hunt almost didn’t grow a pumpkin this year. The couple was taking an Alaskan vacation and knew they wouldn’t be around for 15 days of critical time for growing giant pumpkins in May and June. However, another giant pumpkin grower, Chris Lyons, offered to take care of the pumpkin while the Hunts were gone. So the Hunts grew just one pumpkin this year.
Giant pumpkin growers have no secrets among each other. They openly share tips and give advice, and those with success share their pumpkin seeds for free with other growers.
While good seeds and soils are important, the trick, said Hunt, is in the water. He feeds the pumpkin 75 gallons a day with a drip irrigation line so the water goes directly to the root. During the drought, he gave the pumpkin extra water. Each plant needs a growing area of about 400 to 1,000 sq. ft.
So how does one get rid of a giant pumpkin? After removing all the seeds — the average giant pumpkin will yield about 600 seeds, which are about twice the size of a normal pumpkin seed — Hunt will turn the pumpkin into a giant jack-o’-lantern, complete with treble lights as a candle wouldn’t cast enough light.
Afterwards, he gives the pumpkin to a nearby farmer to feed his sheep and goats. In return, the farmer gives Hunt manure in the spring to help grow the pumpkin.