EDMONDS — What is needed to pick a pumpkin — a pair of gloves and some garden clippers?
In Ross Haddow’s case, it takes a small village, too.
For a decade, Haddow, 72, has grown giant pumpkins in the garden of his Edmonds home, and through those years he has called upon neighbors and loved ones to help move the behemoths as he prepares them for weigh-off competitions around Puget Sound.
“It’s a fun hobby,” Haddow said. “It’s fun to grow a fruit that’s bigger than you are.”
Moving a cow-sized fruit is no easy task, though, and it takes more than just brute force to ensure safe passage for the pumpkins. Any significant damage to the flesh can lead to disqualification at local competitions, squandering months of attentive gardening.
So when harvest time comes each fall, Haddow rounds up as many willing volunteers as he can to help safely shepherd his gargantuan gourds from the family garden atop a three-story hill to his pickup truck down below. Haddow and his wife Carla joke that they worry a pumpkin will someday break loose during the move and hurtle down the hill into their neighbor’s pool.
But not this year.
On Saturday, the retired dentist clipped the vine of his beloved pumpkin with friends and family looking on proudly. He confidently called it his biggest to date.
“If the Egyptians could do it, so can we!” Haddow asserted as he and 10-or-so volunteers banded together to heave-ho the beast through the yard. A drag mark in the grass traced the pumpkin’s downhill journey.
After 15 minutes of pushing and pulling — and some crafty positioning involving primitive levers and wedges — the pumpkin arrived safely in the bed of Haddow’s truck, a few inches to spare on each side.
“With a lot of people so that it’s safe, we make quick work of it,” Haddow said.
At the Pacific Northwest Giant Pumpkin Growers weigh-off in Kent the following day, Haddow’s entry landed square in the middle of the pack. Some entries were likely twice the size of his own, he said.
“As soon as I pulled up to the competition, I could tell it was a very good year for growing pumpkins,” he said.
Despite finishing outside the top 10 in the Kent weigh-off, Haddow’s suspicion was confirmed — this year’s is the largest pumpkin he’s ever grown.
As for the exact weight of the humungous squash? Haddow keeps that close to the vest.
Anyone wishing to hazard a guess can visit Shawn O’Donnell’s Irish Pub south of Everett, where the pumpkin will be on display until Halloween. He will also have a second pumpkin on display at A Bit of Taste, an olive oil curator in downtown Snohomish, beginning next week.
For those interested in growing their own giant pumpkin, Haddow says it’s all about finding the right genetics. And while some growers pay heavily for the seeds of prizewinners, Haddow prefers working with leftover seeds from friends at the local growing club.
“Join the Pacific Northwest Giant Pumpkin Growers club. It’s a really exclusive group; (thirty) bucks and you’re a member,” he said with a laugh.
In the end, Haddow said he will harvest the seeds from his pumpkins and hack them to bits with a machete in one last act of Halloween spirit. The orange flesh and guts will be spread in his garden to decompose where, come springtime, they will feed next year’s attempt at growing a true monster.
Ryan Berry; email@example.com.