Get your gourd on! The great Rossland pumpkin growing competition returns

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 20th, 2011

Forget the silver bells, and cockle shells, the real story for old contrary Mary, if she were to stop by Rossland this summer, would be ‘how do your giant pumpkins and sunflowers grow?’.  Two-time defending giant pumpkin growing champion Darcee O’Hearn has jumped on board this year to head up the contest to seek out new gourd growing competitors in town. Moving beyond our favorite orange vegetables, this year’s competition will also feature a sunflower growing contest designed to put green thumbs to the test.

Day one of the competition is this Friday when competitors can pick up their seeds at the Miners’ Hall Earth Day celebrations. Although she considered distributing seeds from her own winning gargantuan gourd for this year’s competition, the worry of cross pollination has led O’Hearn to start fresh with new seeds for everyone to level the playing field. Every competitor will now start with the same Atlantic Dill variety pumpkin made famous by Windsor Nova Scotia world pumpkin champion Howard Dill and a sunflower variety aptly known simply as ‘giants’.

“If we all use the same seeds we’ll really know who are the best pumpkin and sunflower growers in Rossland,” explained O’Hearn. “That way we have the same weather conditions and the same seeds so it’s really up to the people to figure out how to make these seeds grow the best.”

This year the contest has merged the adult and children’s categories into one free for all open division on the pumpkin side. If you’re a seed collector or hobby pumpkin breeder that has developed your own secret seeds over the years there will also be an additional competition open to all varieties. That division will be looking for the most unique pumpkin. Of course, ‘unique’ means different things to different people, but O’Hearn suggested that could be anything from interesting variety, weird shapes, strange colours or what have you. If it’s not round, orange and a typical size, you might have a chance.

Getting into sunflowers for the first time this year, the judges will be looking at two factors: overall height and size of flower head.

Drawing on her own gold medal gardening skills O’Hearn, while careful not to give away too many of her secrets, offered up a few tips to help aspiring pumpkin and sunflower growers along.

“How I won the first two years was that you have to sacrifice any other pumpkins that are growing. If you see one that looks to be growing quite strong you have to remove all of the other pumpkins off of the vine so you’re only growing one. You have to fertilize it weekly. I have also been told that you have to bury the head of the plant. You bury it so it won’t grow any more leaves and will root itself into the ground so all of the energy goes into the pumpkin. The other thing is to pad it. If you can. You don’t want to pad it with anything that will retain moisture because it will rot. You also don’t want any water pooling around the pumpkin. It needs to be a flat surface and ever so gently, slightly rotate your pumpkins bi-weekly or so. Then you get the round perfect shape.”

Of course beyond simple technical gardening techniques, showing a little love, affection and encouragement to your plants never hurts either.

“I definitely talk to my pumpkins; you know, like ‘C’mon, little pumpkin, grow!’ I think talking to your plants helps a lot. If their happy, they’ll get bigger.”

If you’re up for the challenge you can catch up with O’Hearn at the Miners’ Hall this Friday at the Earth Day celebration. Alternatively you can get in touch with her by calling 362-5559 or e-mailing darceeo@telus.net


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