By Katy Savage
BENSON—Some days, the pumpkin in Dan and Holly Boyce’s backyard grew 50 pounds a day. In 86 days, the pumpkin grew from the size of a cherry to the weight of a ton.
The Boyce’s 2,017-pound pumpkin broke the state record this year for the largest Atlantic pumpkin ever grown.
“‘It was so big it wouldn’t fit in the truck,” said Dan Boyce.
Their pumpkin is ranked the 10th heaviest grown in the world so far this year, according to the website Big Pumpkins.
The Boyces, who live in Benson, broke the 2014 state record set by Mark and Sharon Breznick of Pittsford for their 1,700 pound pumpkin.
“A one ton pumpkin—that’s pretty amazing, especially in Vermont,” said Mark Breznick of the Boyce’s pumpkin.
Dan and Holly Boyce started growing giant pumpkins 15 years ago, after seeing them at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland.
Their first pumpkin weighed 456 pounds. Each year, they try to grow one bigger.
The Boyces take classes and seminars, traveling to Niagara Falls in Canada and as far away as England to learn from giant pumpkin experts.
“It’s science and math, basically,” said Dan Boyce.
The pumpkins need well-drained, sandy soil, he said. The Boyces send three leaves and stalks from each pumpkin to a lab in Idaho, which checks the nutrition of the plant.
“You’re looking to make sure you have Nitrogen, but not too much Nitrogen,” said Dan Boyce.
The Boyces have five pumpkin patches on their 42 acres—each takes up 1,000 square feet. They start growing the seeds inside until transitioning the pumpkins to a greenhouse. They measure the circumference of the pumpkins each week of the growing season.
“It’s almost like it’s your child,” said Dan Boyce.
They’ve learned some tricks along the way. They put fans on the pumpkin patches to stop rot, they have put foam insulation in pumpkins to hold them together and they have a giant tent to shield pumpkins from too much sun or rain.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Holly Boyce.
They grew three giant pumpkins this year. They took a 1,218.5 pumpkin to Woodstock, Connecticut and a 1,635 pound pumpkin to a weigh-off in Colchester. Their biggest pumpkin was lifted by a crane and taken by tow truck to be displayed at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts. They also plan to display the pumpkin at the annual Halloween Parade Oct. 27 in Rutland this year.
Dan Boyce, who is president of Vermont Giant Pumpkin growers club, travels to different fairs every year to support fellow pumpkin growers. The Boyces also support new growers, like their neighbor Jenna Baird, who started growing giant pumpkins four years ago with the help of Dan and Holly.
“It’s pretty incredible,”said Baird of her neighbor’s one-ton pumpkin.
The Boyces have also experimented with giant gourds, but they like pumpkins the best.
“Pumpkin growers are a different group of people,” said Dan Boyce. The look on people’s faces when they see his giant pumpkin also never gets old to him.
“I think it makes their day,” he said.