Boscawen man squashes the field; grows continent’s heaviest pumpkin

  • Steve Geddes’s record-setting pumpkin, weighing 2,528 pounds, is seen Thursday at the Deerfield Fair. Courtesy

  • Steve Geddes from Boscawen set a new record for growing the largest pumpkin in North America. His ginormous gourd weighed in Thursday night at the Deerfield Fair at 2,528 pounds. The old United States record was 2,360 pounds. Courtesy—

Monitor staff
Published: 10/1/2018 5:33:51 PM

Steve Geddes of Boscawen thought his friend’s suggestion to grow giant pumpkins was a waste of time.

“The dumbest thing I’d ever heard,” Geddes said Monday. “You use up a large portion of your garden that will produce a fruit that you can’t eat. I figured I’d stick with my tomatoes, squash and peppers.”

Then, 10 years ago, the friend served up the idea on a silver platter, giving Geddes a two-gallon pot with a pumpkin seed already buried in the soil. Plant the pot, the friend told him.

Geddes quickly discovered that pumpkins, like children, grow up so fast. He also discovered he was good at growing them, and now, after the annual competition last weekend at the Deerfield Fair, Geddes holds the record for growing the heaviest pumpkin in North American history.

The record-breaking, cream-colored monstrosity checked in at a plump 2,528 pounds Thursday night, with the pumpkin resting on a pallet and the numbers registering on a digital readout. Geddes’s creation is the second heaviest pumpkin ever grown in the world, a mere 96 pounds less than the giant produced in Belgium in 2012.

“I was pleased,” Geddes said. “I knew right away it was the second biggest ever. When you’re involved, you know what’s been grown and what hasn’t been grown.”

Before his friend planted the seed in Geddes’s head, he knew nothing about pumpkins, and he had no interest in learning about them, either.

He soon discovered some amazing facts about this Halloween favorite, calling the process “the closest thing to science fiction” he’d ever seen. His debut pumpkin reached 900-plus pounds and was displayed at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.

Geddes was hooked.

“There is an addictive side just watching it grow,” Geddes said. “Part of it is you are a curious person, and you wonder how big it can get, and if you have a competitive personality you might think you can do better next year. That happens every year.”

This year, Geddes squashed the competition. He started with what all competitive growers use – the Dill Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Seed, created after decades of intense selective breeding. But Geddes retired from the juvenile justice system 10 years ago, which has given him the time needed to successfully move from helping children grow to helping pumpkins grow.

After clearing the snow from his land and installing heating cables to warm the soil, the plant – or the vine – grew about one foot per day, branching outward in different directions until it had reached 200 square feet.

After hand pollinating the female plant and planting it directly into the soil, the baby pumpkin – the size of a fingernail – exploded into the behemoth it would become, gaining as much as 52 pounds per day during the summer.

“I knew going in (the fair) I would have something special,” Geddes said. “Pumpkin growers can measure them in inches and use a chart that gives you the weight within 5 percent. By late July I knew it would be a state record and possibly a U.S. record, and there would be a smaller chance it would be a world record.”

Geddes had to settle for the North American record, and he said he’s happy his friend, who was a co-worker, convinced him that adding this fast-growing fruit to his garden would be a good idea.

His pumpkin will be displayed at a fair in Milford this weekend. Then, if it holds its place as one of the three heaviest pumpkins in the world by next week, it will be moved to the New York Botanical Garden in NYC, where the three finalists will be shown before being carved into works of art.

Asked if he named his record breaker, Geddes said he thought that was a dumb idea.

“It’s a fruit,” he said. “I don’t name my apples either.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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