Jody Mataruso hunched down over a large bright orange pumpkin and placed his hands on each side.
With the sun shining brightly in his Chapman backyard and reflecting off the shiny fruit, the owner of Blockbuster Sewer and Drain, did his best to just tilt or move the mass.
“It won’t budge,” he said looking up and giving in on his attempt. “It would take two people to lift this.”
He estimated the pumpkin he straddled to be about 200 pounds. He has three or four others about the same size growing in his yard.
However, he hopes the pumpkin he’s able to grow next year will be much bigger — and in the meantime set a Kansas record for the largest pumpkin ever grown.
For that, he will need a 900-pound pumpkin.
“I have always wanted to set a record pumpkin,” he said. “For a long time I have been interested in growing gardens and big fruits.”
And he has his sights set on that Kansas record, which is only half of the world record of 1,800 pounds.
This first time, in his opening attempt, he has 13 smaller pumpkins, if one wants to suggest that 65- to 250-pound pumpkins are small. In March, Mataruso planted Atlantic Giant seeds, which were about the size of quarters, in a mound in his backyard.
He said the seeds came from Canada and were yielded from 800-pounders. Along with the seeds came a book about how to grow world record sized pumpkins.
“It is a lot of reading and trial and error,” Mataruso said. “You really have to know what you are doing.”
There’s more to it than that.
He said pumpkins also need a lot of natural fertilizer and water.
Mataruso said the wet July helped, but Kansas isn’t a great place to grow pumpkins because of the dry weather.
“These require a lot of water,” he said. “You can’t rely on natural water. I have hoses and sprinklers. They just require a lot of water.”
The vines and leafs for the pumpkins weave around his property about 50 feet from the original fertilizer pile where the seeds were planted.
Water is needed on the pile as well as on the vines.
“The vines feed the pumpkin,” he said. The vines are unique. You water the mound, but the roots are under each leaf so you have to wet the ground all the way around because the vines suck the moisture also.”
Mataruso knows the trick to growing the huge pumpkin and plans to grow the biggest one he can next summer.
However, he didn’t intend to grow it this year. He said he needed a year of experience.
“You can get big ones like this, but you can’t get those records naturally,” he said as he pointed to a few of his 13 oversized pumpkins.
To grow the big one, Mataruso said the trick is to let five grow for awhile and pick the largest one.
The other ones are then removed from the vine so all the water and nutrients are focused on one pumpkin.
“That Kansas record will be hard to reach,” he said. “It would be quite a feat.”
That’s his goal for next year. Mataruso plans to start early — in the season that is — to accomplish his goal. “I am going to start in the middle of February indoors and transplant it later,” he said about his second pumpkin vine. “They need to get a good start for a record.”