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As Halloween gourds go, this is the pump-king

A champion for its girth, the pumpkin is on display outside a Winslow realty office.

The enormous pumpkin easily dwarfs the little girl circumnavigating its girth.

“I’m going to eat you,” young Catherine Rolfes proclaims, examining the silvery orange orb that is the size of a small desk.

She and her mother Christine Rolfes paused to check out the Atlantic Giant pumpkin on their way to lunch Thursday at the nearby diner.

The mammoth squash, weighing in at 1,229 pounds, arrived outside the offices of Johansson Clark in Winslow this week. It took the longer route from Puyallup via Half Moon Bay, Calif., where it set a new festival record for size at the 31st Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

The prize was $5 per pumpkin-pound, or $6,145.

Joel Holland, a retired Puyallup firefighter, is the pumpkin’s proud pop. While he plants the seeds around the first of May, the orange orbs hit a growth spurt during August when it increases its girth by 4-5 inches every 24 hours, adding 25-30 pounds a day – over a pound an hour.

The rind can be 10-12 inches thick with seeds over an inch long and nearly an inch wide.

The great pumpkin now sits by the front door of the real estate office, a subject of curiosity to some passersby, but an autumn stand-by to others.

Eva Heaton, office manager at Johansson Clark, says she received several calls from people wondering when the office would be getting “the pumpkin” this year. One regular from Seattle gets his photo taken with the super squash annually.

“We call (Holland) every year to get a pumpkin,” Heaton said. “We really enjoy it, and the community seems to like it.”

Holland is no amateur to growing world-class pumpkins, winning the Half Moon Bay competition for the fourth time this year and beating second place by 69 pounds. In 1992, he held the Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest pumpkin.

The secret? Holland says for a world-class champion he picks large pumpkin plants and trims them to one vine, diverting each plant’s energy to grow one vegetable. Mounding the soil around each leaf axle lets the vine root into the soil for a stronger root system to pick up more nutrients and water.

Foliar feeding with seaweed and fish helps, as does testing the soil and supplementing it each year.

“That’s for growing championship level,” he said. “A 200-, 300-, 400-pound pumpkin is pretty easy by using the right variety and planting it in a sunny spot.”

* * * * *

Grow ’em big

Those interested in purchasing seeds from the champion pumpkin or the book Joel Holland contributed to, “How-to-Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins” (which comes with seeds), can contact Holland at Land O’ Giants, P.O. Box 969, Sumner, WA 98390.

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