A southwest Missouri man who has been growing pumpkins for about 25 years has shattered the state record for heaviest pumpkin. Richard Bottorf of Republic, near Springfield, grew a 1,798-pound pumpkin and the second heaviest weighing in at 1,677 pounds.
“This is my fifth time to break the state record,” he says. “I’m kind of competitive. So what I usually do, if I’ve got a good pumpkin, I treat it like it should be treated – probably spend more time there than I do with my family. But if I’ve got one that is only going to be 500 pounds, I go play golf.”
Bottorf tells Missourinet he takes his hobby pretty seriously when he knows he has a good thing going on.
“When I’m on vacation, I usually have what I call pumpkin sitters,” Bottorf says. “So, I call my friends who have done it before and I always tell them this is the most stressing week – you really have to watch it this week. They don’t like it when I do that but I’m kind of kidding them because each week is about the same.”
He says growing his giant pumpkins has been a lot of trial and error.
“My son was playing basketball down in Dallas, Texas years ago. When I came back, it was huge,” Bottorf says. “I thought, well I’m just going to add fertilizer to that. So I added a bunch of fertilizer and I came out the next day – it had grown so fast that it had split down the middle of it. So, you can overfertilize.”
He has quite the method to his madness. Bottorf says the secret to creating his giant record pumpkins is good genetics and, of course, aged cattle manure. He buys his seeds from auctions.
“Those good genetics can cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars for good genetic seeds that have the ability to produce a large pumpkin,” Bottorf says.
He measures his pumpkins in three different directions to get an idea on weight.
“During the growing season, you want the pumpkin not to exceed 40 pounds a day,” he says. “My goal is to keep it in the low 30s. If I know it’s growing in that type of range, I haven’t over-fertilizered it over-watered it.”
Since fruit matures in the sun, Bottorf keeps the pumpkins out of the light by putting tents over them. He plays music on a boombox to keep the animals away from his prized orange fruit.
Bottorf says the inside is not tasty and he will not be making a bunch of pumpkin pie.
“You wouldn’t want to eat it. It’s kind of like having a large cucumber,” he says. “Cucumbers are good when they’re small. When they get large, they’re not going to be edible. That’s kind of the way these pumpkins are. They’re really grown for ornamental and for display.”
His family carved the smaller pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern and placed it in his front yard for passerbys to enjoy. It took them about two hours to make their design.
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