The Great Pumpkin rises

Chad Revier of New London may not be Linus from the Peanuts cartoon, who believed that the Great Pumpkin would "arise out of the most sincere Pumpkin Patch on Halloween night and deliver toys to all the true believing children," but Revier does h...

Chad Revier of New London may not be Linus from the Peanuts cartoon, who believed that the Great Pumpkin would "arise out of the most sincere Pumpkin Patch on Halloween night and deliver toys to all the true believing children," but Revier does have a really big pumpkin that did arise from a well-fertilized pumpkin patch. And it has delivered oohs and aahs from unbelieving spectators.

"It's a little bit of an obsession," confessed Revier, of his 5½-foot wide, 1,340-pound pumpkin.

No kidding.

What started out as a passing interest in raising big pumpkins a year ago has resulted in Revier growing one of the biggest pumpkins in Minnesota this year.

It's also launched him into a unique network of people around the country who grow big pumpkins.


Revier participates in an interactive Web site, , which assists the "giant pumpkin growing community" in pursuing the hobby of growing ginormous pumpkins.

Growers on the site post regular photos and growth updates -- like weight and width -- of their big pumpkins.

As it got closer to the Minnesota State Fair, however, that information dried up.

"Mysteriously, no one knows how much their pumpkin weighs now," said Revier with a wry smile.

To his knowledge, prior to 2007 there had never been a 1,000-pound pumpkin entered as an exhibit at the State Fair. Based on his speculation about the finished size of pumpkins growing in the state, he said he believes there may be two 1,000-pound pumpkins at the fair this year.

He had toyed with the idea of taking his giant pumpkin to St. Paul but said the challenge of transporting it, and a conflict in timing with a baseball tournament, made the State Fair trip too difficult.

Revier's first attempt at growing an oversized pumpkin began last year when he "threw a seed out there" in the garden and "ignored it."

The result was a 180-pound pumpkin.


That's when he got interested in exploring exactly what it would take to grow a seriously large pumpkin. He set his goal of raising a 500-pound pumpkin.

The growth to greatness started with seven small seeds with an above-average genetic history.

The most one could expect from inexpensive seeds purchased in packets from seed catalogues is about 200 pounds, said Revier.

Premier "proven" giant pumpkin seeds can fetch as much as $850 for a single seed at auction, he said. A price range of $20 to $200 per seed is more common.

Revier got his seven seeds for free.

One of the growers in the big pumpkin network generously shared the seeds from his own stock with Revier. It's a common thing for big pumpkin growers to do, he said, especially when a new grower agrees to take the project seriously and document the growth and success of the seeds.

As a science teacher at Prairie Lakes Youth Program in Willmar, Revier, 28, had the technical background to take on the challenge. With his rural roots growing up in northern Kandiyohi County, he also had an appreciation for agriculture and available soil at a relative's home to plant the magic seeds.

After securing good seeds, the next most important step in the process is proper soil preparation.


Revier built cold frames over the garden to warm up the ground. "I let that soil cook," he said. Then he "beefed up" the soil with kelp meal and humate, which is concentrated compost. He also added horse manure and loads of leaves to increase organic material.

He planted the seeds indoors, but only let them grow about 10 days in pots before transplanting two of them in his garden under the cold frame. Pumpkin roots grow quickly and don't like to be disturbed, he said, explaining the short timeline for transplantation.

As the weather warmed, Revier gradually removed the cold frame and increased the plant's diet of liquid kelp and fish fertilizer. He also sprayed calcium on the foliage every five days to help prevent cracking.

Once a pumpkin had set on the main vine, Revier trimmed and trained the secondary vines, which send "energy" to the pumpkin on the main vine.

There were some tough decisions to make along the way.

The main vine had two promising pumpkins growing and Revier had to eliminate one of them. He eventually cut off the 75-pound pumpkin and left the 200-pound pumpkin to continue growing.

After that, the chosen pumpkin was pampered.

By gently lifting and shoveling, Revier put a bed of sand under the pumpkin. It was covered with a small tent, which kept rain and sun off of it and preserved the soft, moist skin. Sun can make a pumpkin skin hard and result in cracking.


Despite the attentive care, his pumpkin did develop a crack that Revier filled with silicone.

In order to prevent the vine from snapping as the pumpkin grew, Revier moved the pumpkin an eighth of an inch every day to create a gentle curve in the stem.

He had to fight striped gophers, spider mites and aphids in the pumpkin patch and a hot, dry summer that made it a challenge to keep the pumpkin fed.

A steady ration of organic fertilizer helped the pumpkin to put on 30 to 40 pounds a day.

After growing for 59 days, Revier estimated the weight at 1,200.

The approximate weight is established by using a formula of measurements of the pumpkin.

Because Revier's pumpkin is caved in on one side, the estimated weight of 1,200 pounds may not be 100 percent accurate, he said, it may be closer to 1,100 pounds.

On days 58 and 59, the pumpkin hadn't increased in size, which led Revier to believe that its growing days were done and that it would start to rot and "stink pretty bad" within a couple weeks.


Before that happens, Revier intends to cut the pumpkin from the vine, hoist it up with a skid loader and take it to a scale to get an official weight.

After he weighs it, Revier said he'll cut the pumpkin open to harvest the seeds. He's hoping for the average 250 seeds that a pumpkin can produce, but says he could end up with a big goose egg.

He intends to dry the seeds and then do what was done for him and pass some of the seeds along to others.

As for the pumpkin itself, it won't be turned into pumpkin pie.

Giant pumpkins are bred and raised for size, not flavor and texture, he said. "It has a terrible taste."

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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