Giant Pumpkin Dreams Fade With Drought

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2012

My giant pumpkin should weigh about 800 pounds by now considering its pedigree, adding 25 to 50 pounds a week. I had already imagined my photo at the Dixie Classic Fair with a blue ribbon and camping out with Charlie Brown on Halloween to greet the Giant Pumpkin.
Too much fretting, an ill-timed beach trip and the birds and bees got in the way of success in the pumpkin patch.
My eldest son risked life and limb last winter driving through the snow in northern Virginia to secure a seed from a 1,400-pound Virginia champion pumpkin. It was my birthday present.
I feared failure — perhaps growing only a 500-pound pumpkin.
I researched giant pumpkin-growing techniques, scouted out the perfect spot and used an entire 50-pound bag of Miracle-Gro on the seedbed.
The plant erupted through the soil within days, and I imagined a stalk climbing to heaven … or spreading across the lower 40. I watered and watered. Large yellow flowers bloomed, and I got ready to move the scales into place.
My N.C. State-educated son-in-law had warned me that I needed to plant more than one seed to get the male-female thing going on in the pollination process. Curiously, the Virginia pumpkin champion refused to give customers more than one seed from his trophy. If I planted a seed from a common pumpkin, I would be polluting the bloodlines — forgive the inappropriate metaphor — with inferior stock.
According to the Internet, which is never wrong, I could study the plant and pick out the male flowers from the females and — this may be inappropriate for young readers — pollinate them myself with a Q-Tip.
Have we sunk to this as a society?
Kinky pollination.
Meanwhile, I spotted bumblebees on the flowers and thought maybe nature had taken care of business without the need of interference from me.
Turns out, my son-in-law knows more than the Internet.
The flowers wilted without producing fruit. Then I went to the beach during the driest and hottest week of summer. When I …