For Tyson Naylor, an FS certified crop specialist from Taylorville, it all started with a bet in early spring. He and a farmer made a friendly bet to see who could grow the biggest pumpkin.
After procuring two Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds, he started the plants, named Faith and Florence, in incubators kept at 85 degrees F. In the meantime, he prepared a 25 x 50 foot patch, which received a dose of fertilizer and lime before tillage.
In May, Tyson transplanted the plants, began pruning and burying the vines, and started watering the plants an inch and a half per week.
Tyson Naylor, his girlfriend Stephanie King and Dixie are proud of Faith, the 1,027-lb. beast that netted third place at the annual Great Pumpkin Weigh Off at Didier Farms in Chicago. Tyson, from Taylorville, hopes to hit 1,200 lbs. next year.
Until pollination (first two weeks in July), Tyson was spending an average of 2 hours a day in the patch. Most of his time was spent pruning and burying vines. In addition, he applied fungicides and insecticides every ten days.
"Initially my goal was to grow a pumpkin that weighed more than me; however after doing their 30 day measurements I moved my goal to 1,000 lbs.," Tyson notes.
After 30 days, Faith was 479 lbs and Florance was 376 lbs. On day 47, Tyson lost Florance to stem rot. At her final weigh in, she weighed 640 lbs.
Throughout August, Faith was looking good. During the peak growth period, the pumpkin was gaining 35 lbs. each day. After using a forklift and harness to lift the beast, Tyson headed to the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth weigh off at Didier Farms in Chicago.
Faith weighed in at 1,027 lbs. and won Tyson third place. The winning pumpkin weighed in at 1,163 lbs. He says hitting 1,000 lbs. is a huge accomplishment, let alone on the first try.
"After hundreds of hours of hours and research and labor, what started out as a little bet has turned into an obsessive hobby," Tyson says. Next year, he hopes to top 1,200 lbs.