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Season tough on area growers

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Too much cool, rainy weather--and not enough sunshine--has made this year a tough one for giant pumpkin growers across the district, Dr. Ewan Affleck said.

While last summer was an incredibly good one for pumpkin growing, Dr. Affleck said this year only a very serious and skilled grower would be able to come near last year’s champ--a mammoth 742-pound monster grown by Wayne Booth of Barwick.

Sheldon Mose of Emo was only four pounds back in second at 738.

“The problems farmers have experienced this year is shared by competitive pumpkin growers,” Dr. Affleck said. “Water you can give them [during drought] but you can’t replace heat and the sun.

“Last year it was easy to grow a big pumpkin,” he continued. “It’s a level playing field this year.”

Still, Dr. Affleck expected to see some 400 and 500-pounders in this year’s festival. One pumpkin in Rainy River (the grower asked to remain anonymous) already was 119 inches around and tipped the scales around 330 pounds.

Dr. Affleck also said he was talking to a potential competitor from Thunder Bay whose pumpkin weighed 400 pounds by the middle of August.

“And it was growing at 20 pounds a day,” he noted. “He said it took off when that heat arrived a few weeks ago.”

The first hurdle local pumpkin growers had to get over this year was getting the plant growing. Dr. Affleck said he built a small wood frame “hot-house” to jump-start his pumpkin back in the spring.

He also used a small automotive space heater with a thermostat to make sure things didn’t get too cold. But while this helps in the early stages of the plant, it won’t do much after pollination without sunlight.

And time is running out for the heat to return to make much of a difference between now and the festival, Dr. Affleck noted.

“The thing is the plant will harden and the fruit will ripen and it won’t grow as much,” he explained.

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