Changing of the gourd

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“The pumpkins get bigger every year, so you just really don’t know what other people are growing,” John Sach said. Sach, 63, said he began growing the pumpkin, affectionately named “Speedo” by his wife, on May 8. Sach said he has always grown vegetables at his Whittier home, where he has lived for 32 years. Growing giant pumpkins in the yard began four years ago, after the Sachs read about the hobby in a newspaper. This year, Sach said he uprooted the rest of the vegetable garden to make way for pumpkins, planting two separate vines, each in a 20-by-40-foot patch. A few months into growing, however, the pumpkin in one patch split. Several smaller gourds, each weighing 50 to 100 pounds, now grow on the empty space. At the height of growing season, Speedo gained 25 to 50 pounds each day, soaking up gallons of water, nutrients and a lot of potassium to encourage growth. Sach said he also fed the plant molasses, one of the tricks circulated on the Web devoted to growing gourds. “Everybody kind of shares information with everybody,” Sach said. “It’s not real secretive.” Seeds from winning pumpkins are traded between growers, Sach said, in the same spirit of cooperation. The seeds from which Speedo sprouted came from Ohio. In addition to seeds, chemicals, water and sunlight, the pumpkin needed constant attention during the growing season. “I’m really proud of John,” Vicki Sach said of her husband. “Hours and hours go into this, and some of the neighbors are interested. They like to come over and see the pumpkins.” The pumpkin rested on a foam pad, was shaded by umbrellas, watered and fed on an automatic system, with fans focused on the stem and roots of the plant. John Sach estimates the couple’s water bill went up $50 per month during the six-month growing season. At one point, Speedo’s stem began to rot, and John had to perform emergency surgery, cutting out the infected portion and spraying fungicide on the cut area. “It started to go bad, and John said it probably wouldn’t make it,” Vicki Sach said. “He said it was hopeless, but the decayed part healed.” The Sachs think the setback likely cost them a few hundred pounds, but Speedo is still the largest pumpkin they have grown in their four years in the sport. The Sachs’ past pumpkins, sporting names like Tiny, Porky and Pigly, have grown as large as 908 pounds. Their first pumpkin was classified as a squash at competition because of its greenish-gray color, and set a record for weight in that category in California at 828 pounds. The couple has seven grandchildren, who are always interested to see the pumpkins’ progress. Beth Saltikov, Vicki Sach’s daughter-in- law, said she and her husband, Marty, bring their three young children over to see the pumpkins. “It’s a family phenomenon,” Saltikov said. “Every time we come over, we just kind of come back to look at it.” Saltikov said she hopes the Sachs manage a win in Paso Robles on Saturday. The first-prize winner in the contest receives $6 per pound for their pumpkin, or $6,600 in the Sachs’ case, while second place wins $2,000 and third place takes home $1,000. Regardless of the outcome at the contest, the Sachs plan to bring Speedo home to carve into giant jack-o’-lantern for their grandkids. “When we get back, if the pumpkin is in good shape, we’ll carve it up,” Vicki Sach said. “Watching the grandchildren enjoy the pumpkin is the highlight for me.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! • Photo Gallery: Giant pumpkin• Video: Giant pumpkin WHITTIER – Before Cinderella’s carriage turned back into a pumpkin at midnight, it might have been about the size of John and Vicki Sach’s gourd, recently plucked from the couple’s yard with a machine hoist. The Sachs estimate their pumpkin weighs about 1,100 pounds. Like Cinderella’s coach, the jack-o’-lantern-in-training is on its way to the ball, a one-day “Paso Robles Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off” in Paso Robles, where competitive pumpkin growers face off to find out who has grown the heaviest vegetable. Last year’s winner was about 700 pounds. last_img read more