Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Young Gardeners Grow Paramount Pumpkins

Matthew Adams made Georgia 4-H history last year when he won the organization’s statewide annual pumpkin contest with a record-setting 580.8-pound pumpkin. He didn’t break his record this year, but he still got first place.

Adams, a 4-H’er from Carroll County, grew a 468-pound pumpkin to win the Georgia 4-H Pumpkin Growing Contest. Second place went to Hannah Brown of Henry County. She grew a 340-pound pumpkin. Terrell County 4-H’er Caroline Daniel won third place with her 323-pound pumpkin.

Knowledge, pride and prizes

For the past two decades, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has sponsored the contest. First place gets $100. Second and third receive $50 and $25 respectively. Each of the 38 4-H’ers who entered the contest received a contest t-shirt.

To enter, a 4-H’er must grow the pumpkin and have it weighed by the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent. Any variety of pumpkin may be used. But to bring in the big numbers, varieties like Atlantic Giant, Big Max, Big Moon, Prizewinner and Connecticut Field are recommended. All of this year’s winners grew the Atlantic Giant.

“The 4-H’er needs at least 120 days to grow the pumpkin to full size,” said Lindsey Fodor, a Georgia 4-H program assistant and the contest’s coordinator. “We also recommend they refer to growing tips provided by UGA Extension horticulturist Terry Kelley.”

The number of entries was down this year due to the state’s drought, she said.

Watermelons, too

The goal of the contest is to get Georgia students interested in agriculture and in growing their own crops, Fodor said.

Due to the heat, it can be tough to grow pumpkins in south Georgia. To give 4-H’ers there a chance to grow competition-size fruit, the Georgia 4-H Watermelon Growing Contest was established three years ago.

Information about the pumpkin and watermelon contests, including photos of the past winners, can be found on the Web at www.georgia4h.org/public/edops/nationalfair/pumpkincontest/.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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