The tale of Leon the giant pumpkin

When I first started gardening I chose the usual path. Tomatoes , peppers, cucumbers, and squash. I was lucky enough to have success and it wasn’t long before I looked to branch out. Like most of you my garden grew every year. As my garden grew it offered me space to experiment. At first it was some cold weather crops, but soon I began to grow a childhood favorite. Pumpkins had always been something I enjoyed even as a child. So I set out to grow them. The very first year I placed them close you my tomatoes and they took over. I spent the summer fighting through the prickly vines, but I did grow a few beautiful Connecticut field pumpkins. It was so exciting to watch them grow and carve them. The next year I was able to give them some space and they did even better, I was hooked. I started planting them among my corn which allowed me to utilize all that wasted space under my corn plants. They seemed to thrive in the dappled light below the ears of sweet corn. Now that I had growing field pumpkins down I wanted to grow bigger varieties. I Could only find Dill’s Atlantic Giant seeds. I was impressed by the size of the seeds and when the plants started growing I waited to see the first baby pumpkin. I was like a child on Christmas morning. I was shocked when a round yellow squash appeared, I thought It was a mistake, but alas it was exactly what was supposed to grow, a soft skinned yellow globe. They were susceptible to bugs and any scratch made a huge scar. When they became ripe they were not very hearty. So the next year I regrouped. I had bought a couple of huge pumpkins at a roadside stand, they were big and orange. I saved the seeds and planted them. They did not disappoint.

I didn’t know what kind of pumpkins they were, but I enjoyed several years of growing these pumpkins they routinely grew to 50 lbs. Eventually they became crossed with other squash in my garden and would no longer produce the pumpkins I was after. I grew Howden type pumpkins with limited results. I even tried Dill’s again and was able to grow a 100lb pumpkin.

Back to the drawing board I went. I now had some knowledge of growing big pumpkins. I would wait to let the vine get large before letting fruit set, I would also start them early in the green house, being careful not to let them get rootbound. Finally I stumbled across Giant Show King Pumpkins. I prepared a new area exclusively for my giant pumpkin experiment. I mixed lots of manure into the soil and then transplanted my pumpkin plants. I was amazed by the thickness of the vines I kept them watered and waited. When they finally started setting fruit I saw a light green ball. I was worried. To my surprise the ball kept growing, and growing.

My favorite thing to do was come home from work and check on the pumpkin. I took pictures as he grew. At one point it was suggested by someone following along that we name the pumpkin Leon. The name stuck and Leon grew.

Finally Leon was nice and ripe. He wasn’t orange but he had a thick rind and was a wonderful shade of green. It took two of us and a four wheeler to move him. Leon weighed 278lbs.

We even carved him, he made a great jack o’ lantern.

The story of Leon does not end there however. I saved his seeds for the next year, and even traded some for other vegetable seeds. The next year the “Spawn of Leon” arrived. He grew up strong and turned out to be even bigger than his father.

Gardening is always a journey, and sometimes we get caught up in growing things to eat. Leon not only taught me to have fun, but to shoot for the moon and never stop trying. Life really is simple when you think about it. Simple lessons I learned as a child still apply to almost every aspect of life. So do yourself a favor this year and finally grow that giant pumpkin you always wanted to.


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