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Oh my gourd!

Dustin Trychta and his giant pumpkin, "Pebbles"

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For West Virginia University horticulture student Dustin Trychta, growing giant pumpkins isn’t a hobby; it’s a passion.

As a child, Trychta was fascinated by the giant pumpkins grown by his neighbor. He longed to buy one for Halloween each year, but they were always too expensive.

As an adult, he’s been growing giant pumpkins for nine years.

When he and his wife, Kirsha Trychta, a teaching associate professor at the WVU College of Law, moved to Morgantown in 2015, one of the things they sought in a house was plenty of green space to grow pumpkins, various vegetables and flowers.

After extensive research, they found a place to plant their roots (literally and figuratively) and their front and back yards are currently home to five giant pumpkins – one of which Trychta hopes will set the record for West Virginia’s heaviest pumpkin.

“Pebbles,” as Trychta affectionately calls the largest pumpkin, has been growing for roughly 100 days and is estimated to weigh 1,404 pounds.

The current state record is set at 1,421.5 pounds.

“On average, this breed of pumpkin will gain around 40-50 pounds per day during peak growth, which happens between days 30 and 60,” he said. “We’ll harvest this one on October 13 which will be day 113. At this point, she’s gaining about seven pounds per day which should put her over the top.”

After harvesting, Trychta will drive to Canfield, Ohio, for the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh off on Oct. 14.Dustin Trychta and his giant pumpkin, "Pebbles"

According to Trychta, harvest is the trickiest part.

The Army veteran constructed a tripod out of four-by-four boards that are 16 feet long, a one-ton engine hoist in the middle and a special harness to cradle the pumpkin.

“The height of the four-by-fours allow enough width for us to back in a pickup truck underneath and set the pumpkin on top of a pallet in the bed,” he explained.

Although it’s not an easy feat, Trychta has been able to successfully move all of the pumpkins he’s grown over the years.

“People have been asking me for years how I move the pumpkins, but I can’t wait until the day where I have the problem that I can’t move one because that means I’ve outdone myself,” he said with a smile.

Trychta’s giant pumpkin, along with others entered into the weigh-off, will be thoroughly inspected by three judges. The judges will examine the stem area for rotten spots, the blossom end for cracks or fissures, and the entire bottom for rotten spots and to ensure mice haven’t chewed through to the pumpkin’s cavity.

“They’ll even get as specific as to take a blade of grass – and if they can slide a blade of grass into the cavity of the pumpkin, it’ll be disqualified,” he said. “It’ll be weighed as a damaged pumpkin and it’s not eligible for a prize. It’s intense.”

Dustin Trychta and his giant pumpkin, "Pebbles"

Considering Trychta has invested more than 150 hours in each of his pumpkins and truly prides himself on growing beautiful gourds, he’s okay with that.

“With the amount of time spent on these – and the length of the season – anything can happen at any moment. There is a lot of prize money on the line, so you want to be sure all competing fruits are on a level playing field,” he said.

With any luck, he’ll set a new record and submit official paperwork to the State Department of Agriculture – something he’s no stranger to doing.

He’s already submitted paperwork for five records – heaviest cantaloupe at 38.6 pounds, heaviest cucumber at 10.77 pounds, heaviest and longest carrot at 2.6 pounds and 41 inches long, and heaviest field pumpkin at 60 pounds.

“I won’t know how many records will actually make it until the season is over which is whenever the frost hits Mountaineer Country,” he said.

“Pebbles” – the state record hopeful – will be on display at the Mountainlair Oct. 15-26 as part of Mountaineer Week. A live seed harvest will be performed Oct. 26, National Pumpkin Day.

-WVU-


law/10/10/17

CONTACT: Lindsay Willey; WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design 304.293.2381; Lindsay.Willey@mail.wvu.edu