Woodward, Okla. —
SHATTUCK--In just his second year growing giant pumpkins, Dee W. Culbert has won a 1st place prize from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth for growing a large orange gourd.
Culbert's 344.5 pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin took home the plaque for the heaviest pumpkin during Saturday's "Pumpkins on Parade" festival at the Red Barn in Shattuck.
Culbert drove over 200 miles from his home in Texline, Texas, to participate in the pumpkin weigh-off.
But he said he doesn't mind the long drive because participating in the weigh-off is "a good learning experience."
"If I can learn just one thing a year about growing these pumpkins, then it's worth it. And I have," he said.
The tip he learned this year was how to "save water through the vines."
Once a pumpkin's vine, which gives it nutrients to keep growing, is cut, then the pumpkin begins to dry out, Culbert said.
However, he said officials at Pumpkins on Parade told him that "if you can keep the vine's ends in water then it will keep the pumpkin from drying and losing the weight."
Culbert said the tip might come in really handy in helping him to get an even bigger pumpkin next year, especially if he faces some of the same weather problems he faced this year.
"This one should've been a 350-pound plus pumpkin," he said. "But we had a freeze 3 weeks ago (that damaged the vine). So it's probably lost at least 10 pounds from drying out plus lost 3 weeks of growing time. If it had still been growing, it might have been another 20 to 30 pounds heavier."
In addition to the early freeze, Culbert said he had issues with wind throughout the summer, which is the prime growing season for pumpkins.
"I got a lot of wind, heavy, hard wind," he said, noting wind is harmful to pumpkins because "it tears up the vines and leaves."
Hail is another weather phenomenon that is harmful to pumpkins, as Culbert's son Mark knows all too well.
"I got hailed out this year," Mark said.
So while his Atlantic Giant wasn't as big as it could've been, Culbert was grateful to have a pumpkin to show at Saturday's festival. He was also pleased that the pumpkin came in a little heavier than the one he submitted for last year's Pumpkins on Parade.
"Last year it was 303 pounds, so it got a little bigger," he said.
Culbert said it was his son who actually got him started in growing giant pumpkins as Mark has now been growing the gourds for around a decade.
"I've been trying to grow them, anyway," Mark said with a chuckle.
However, both father and son said that the reason they like growing big pumpkins is "for the challenge of it."