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Yesterday I watched, with a mixture of fascination and horror, the PBS documentary “Lords of the Gourd” about the lengths people will go to in growing the most gigantic pumpkin. It isn’t that I couldn’t identify, but that is part of the horror.
Gardening is something with hooks.
I think it is the combination of science, beauty , and nurture…. it causes us to connect on many levels and that is what makes for a great passion in life, don’t you think?
The documentary followed a number of pumpkin growing aficionados in their quest for the biggest pumpkin on record and the annual contest that is held in Cooperstown. What you learn from the newspaper account is that growers also vie for the longest gourd and the biggest tomato (this year’s weighed in at 2.16 pounds). I’m sure the film was done to document the dedication of the giant pumpkin grower, however; perhaps due to the Herculean lengths they will go to to accomplish their dreams of the biggest pumpkin of the season.
Besides the care, the genetics of the pumpkins are important. One grower saving seed and meticulously marking and numbering each one, after careful manipulation of the fertilization process. What patience and attention to detail!
I think the two things that fascinated me most were the man who scientifically monitored his pumpkins with an electronic sensor and all kinds of equipment in a little shed to compile the data on what conditions were during the growth of his prize pumpkins, and the woman who felt a motherly attachment to hers and surrounded her special baby with hundreds of mousetraps in a “circle of death” to the tiny predators. There is plenty of drama, too, as after all that work, sometimes bathing the pumpkin fruit with milk baths and gently attending to its daily needs, the pumpkins could explode. That sounds like a nail biting scenario, if there ever was one.
I guess where we more laissez faire gardeners of lesser competitive spirit can identify with our giant pumpkin growing cousins is in the attachment and joy we feel in the endeavor of growing something well. The challenges of understanding the plant world, the mind expanding efforts of overcoming natures challenges and unlocking her secrets…. it is something all of us in this gardening society share. Might we be a thread away from such obsession?
That was something of the scary part of this. It was all there, the drama, the conflict, and the triumph… and the love of growing things.
The competition in Cooperstown was held in early October.