In the "addictive" game of giant pumpkins, there are highs and lows.
Saturday brought a mix of emotions for Carl Graham of Donkin, N.S., as his massive pumpkin officially weighed in at 1,956 pounds (887 kilograms) — just three pounds below the Canadian record.
"It was disappointing when it hit the scale and I was rather shocked, actually, but it's just part of the game," Graham said after the weigh-off in Millville, Cape Breton.
The pumpkin had been raised in a greenhouse for 98 days, fed by a watering system and a main root of at least seven metres.
In order to weigh it, the greenhouse had to be taken apart. A crane was brought in to pick up the pumpkin and load it on a trailer, bound for Millville.
Graham had high hopes for the pumpkin, which he'd dubbed Howard in honour of pumpkin-growing legend Howard Dill. The pumpkin had been estimated to weigh over 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) and is the largest he's ever grown by far.
"It is what it is. You just don't know what's inside them at times and this one fell short," Graham said.
"It'll be back to the drawing board."
There's a lot of trial and error, science and luck that goes into growing these massive gourds, Graham said, with fertilizer, plant length, and seed genetics all playing a part in how pumpkins turn out.
He said there is lots of information online and he's already envisioning his next game plan.
His greenhouses have reached the end of their lifespan, so Graham plans to buy a large galvanized steel frame greenhouse where he'll finally have room to extend the plant mass for pumpkin growth.
Howard was grown on about 74 square metres of plant, while the biggest pumpkins today come from about 120 square metres, Graham said.
A love of plants keeps him going in a hobby that takes a lot of time and energy, Graham said, but it's exciting to watch the vines grow quickly and a pumpkin swell up.
"Once they start packing on 60 pounds a day, you're saying things of, 'Oh my, what's going to happen here," Graham said.
"It gets to be addictive."
Even though he missed the national record this year, Graham isn't walking away empty-handed.
Howard's result set a Maritime record, which is a title Graham last held in 2012 when he placed third in the world with a 1,811-pound (821 kilogram) pumpkin.
The latest world record was just set by an Italian grower this week at 2,702 pounds (1,225 kilograms), Graham said.
Howard fans will get the chance to have their picture taken with the gourd for a hospital fundraiser on Sunday, and soon Graham will collect the seeds.
"The genetics are there, so you never know what it can produce," he said.
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