A great pumpkin: Sequim resident grows a half-ton veggie

SEQUIM — Erin Huff doesn’t mind being called the pumpkin lady of Sequim.

The self-described eccentric knows it takes a certain kind of personality to grow a pumpkin that tips the scales at 1,027 pounds.

“But I don’t want to be known as the crazy pumpkin lady of Sequim,” Huff joked.

The longtime gardener and fifth-year giant pumpkin grower set individual records for pumpkin and squash weight in a regional competition in Shoreline on Sunday.

While her 782-pound squash took the top honors, Huff was a little disappointed in her big pumpkin’s sixth-place finish in the more prestigious division.

A 1,467-pound pumpkin, which set a state record, won the Shoreline competition.

“I thought I could get to 1,200 pounds this year, but we didn’t have consistent sun in July and August,” Huff said.

“It’s cooler in Sequim. It makes a huge difference.”

Even if she doesn’t win the $600 grand prize at the regional contest next fall, Huff would be thrilled to come away with a consolation prize — a novelty jacket from the contest.

“I’d like to hit 1,300 next year. If you hit 13, you get a jacket.”

The world record for giant pumpkins fell last fall. A Rhode Island grower brought a 1,689-pound specimen to a competition.

That pumpkin smashed the old record by 187 pounds.

Huge pumpkins may look cool on Halloween, but they certainly don’t make very good pumpkin pie.

“It doesn’t have the sugar content,” Huff explained.

After Halloween, Huff either will put the pumpkin in a compost pile or let a neighbor’s cattle chew on it.

She plans to carve out eyes and a mouth for a Halloween jack-o’-lantern.

Carving the thick shell of the pumpkin will take a utility saw, she said.

She doesn’t plan to tackle that job until just before Oct. 31.

Until then, the monster pumpkin remains whole, and on display at the beginning of her driveway at 446 Lyvongood Lane.

Addiction has played a role in Huff’s hobby, she said.

Once her friend introduced her to the art of giant vegetable growing, Huff became more and more involved.

“This is my first year that I’ve really been able to pull out all the stops,” she said.

How does she do it?

Growing a pumpkin that weighs more than a half-ton boils down to four main components: seeds, soil, sun and sweat, Huff said.

The best pumpkins come from good genes. Huff’s 2008 giant grew from the seed of 904-pounder.

Since they grow so fast — about three months after sprouting from the pumpkin patch — giants need lots of good nutrients in the soil.

Huff fed her pumpkin at least 72 yards of manure and added kelp meal, fish and worm tea.

“I tried to go all organic,” she said.

Sunlight can make-or-break a giant pumpkin.

The sweat comes from all the time and labor they need.

On its way from Shoreline to its present location atop a display near her driveway, Huff’s giant pumpkin made stops at a school and a youth club.

It always gets a reaction from the kids.

“They want to know, ‘Is it real?’ and ‘Can I touch it?'” Huff said.

“They want to know where I got it.”

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