Pampering Pumpkins Produces Giant Results
Land Trust member squashes record with 1,548-pound pumpkin
The outdoor thermometer at Lee Roof’s home on north Whidbey Island recorded only one day above 80 degrees Fahrenheit in 2019.
But much to Roof’s amazement, those mild temperatures didn’t stop the seeds he planted in April from producing two pumpkins of staggering proportions.
Roof, a valued Land Trust member and volunteer, entered his biggest pumpkin in a contest at the Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival at Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon in late September. Roof’s pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,548 pounds to squash the previous record.
Roof has been at this hobby for more than 20 years. He said that free time afforded from his recent retirement as a physician in Coupeville probably had something to do with producing the largest pumpkin he’s ever grown in his garden not far from Penn Cove.
His second pumpkin was another whopper, weighing nearly 1,200 pounds.
“You’re constantly tweaking stuff,” Roof said. “You try different fertilizer programs. You’re constantly fiddling, trying to find a sweet spot.”
Roof credited his wife Irene for letting him put the time required into his hobby. He generally made about two-to-three trips a day out to the garden to pamper his pumpkins.
He grew the pumpkins under a tarp and tried to keep the temperature controlled with a small heater and a small fan, both set with thermostats.
“There are a multitude of things that are done to help make them big,” Roof said. “It requires good soil, good seed, good fertilizing, good pruning, good temperatures, good watering, good vine care and, in my case, a very good and understanding spouse.”
Roof harvests seeds from his Atlantic Giant pumpkins and uses them for the next go round the following spring. The giant pumpkins aren’t all that tasty and are best fed to animals. “They love them,” he said.
Roof is fond of another variety during the holidays.
“I do like pumpkin pie,” he said.