Growing giant pumpkins takes a lot of aggravation


October 26, 1991|By Mike Klingaman

MEN! WOMEN! Want to earn EASY CASH in your spare time? Then growing giant pumpkins for PROFIT is for YOU!

Why, Ray Waterman, of Collins, N.Y., raised a $1,000 pumpkin in his back yard this year! It weighed 780 POUNDS! The dang thing was so big, it had to dragged off by a tractor! Even then, the weight of the pumpkin lifted the front end of the tractor right off the ground, wheel and all! The driver had to steer with his brakes!

Growing monster pumpkins will make YOU the ENVY of the NEIGHBORHOOD! And it's so SIMPLE! Just listen to Ray Waterman explain how he did it:

"I just used my brain," he says.

His brain! Imagine! WHAT could be EASIER?

Stay tuned . . .

Mr. Waterman's pumpkin won the $1,000 grand prize recently at the ninth annual International Pumpkin Weigh-Off sponsored by the World Pumpkin Confederation. Well, he would have earned $1,000 if not for the fact that, as founder of the WPC, Mr. Waterman donates the prize money himself. This year, he simply moved the check from one pocket to the other.

Mr. Waterman's victory avenged a disheartening defeat several years ago when his apparent winning entry, a 644-pounder, was disqualified because of a 6-inch crack at the base of the fruit. Mr. Waterman shrugged off the loss; champion pumpkins, he says, are bred to be perfect.

Sometimes a large entry looks too good to be true. Once, judges discovered what appeared to be a "loaded pumpkin" and ordered the owner to cut it open on the spot. Water poured out all over the man's feet. He left in disgrace. The man was lucky to escape prosecution, says Mr. Waterman.

"The police said he could have been handcuffed and arrested forfraud," he says.

Mr. Waterman took no shortcuts in growing his orange monstewhich, at 780.5 pounds, fell 36 pounds short of the world record set last year.

To a five-acre alfalfa field in upstate New York, he added 40 tons of pheasant manure and tilled the entire tract before covering the soil with huge sheets of black plastic, to retain moisture. Mr. Waterman's 150 home-grown plants grew mightily. The vine that produced the prizewinner also bore four other large pumpkins, all weighing 250 pounds or more.

Cultivating huge pumpkins is difficult enough without having to protect them against thieves, vandals and unscrupulous motorists, who have been known to stop and fill their trunks with pumpkins ripening in fields nearby.

"We've had 70-year-old people, who should know better, just pull off the road and start putting our pumpkins in their cars," says Mr. Waterman, 41.

Each year at the WPC weigh-off, contestants bemoan the loss of prize entries. Last month, a Michigan grower reported several stolen pumpkins and the destruction of his best gourd, a 7 1/2 -foot specimen.

Mr. Waterman himself found footprints on his winning pumpkin this year. Though he didn't actively patrol the patch, he says, "we have gone into the fields with weaponry in the past.

"You have to guard these things. A lot of effort goes into all this."

Several years ago, Mr. Waterman surprised a man removing pumpkins from his field.

"Are these free?" Mr. Waterman asked innocently. The man nodded.

"Who said so?"


dTC Mr. Waterman frowned. "Well, I own these pumpkins and my name isn't Phil."

"Prove it," the thief countered.

When the man broke a pumpkin, Mr. Waterman pressed charges.

When they next met before their day in court, the thief begged for mercy.

"If you've learned your lesson, pay me $40 for the pumpkin and leave," said Mr. Waterman. The man agreed.

Mr. Waterman recalls the event with disgust.

"People think every field is a pick-your-own," he says. "I don't get personally attached to my pumpkins, but a lot of hard work goes into this."

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