With some TLC and genetics, Georgetown man grows the Great Pumpkin!


Georgetown resident Ed Givens with his monster 1,436-pound pumpkin.

GEORGETOWN – Fifty years ago, Ed Givens and his grandfather grew a pumpkin next to the family Gravel Hill Road farm-house and entered it in a local contest.

It took first place, weighing in at 40 pounds.

Times have changed.

Now retired and totally serious about competing in the land of the giants, Mr. Givens recently smashed his state record with a gargantuan gourd that placed second overall in the Monster Pumpkin Madness staged at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa.

His entry – a massive light gray beauty – tipped the scales at 1,436 pounds, strengthening his hold on his Delaware record. It outweighed his state-record 890-pound orange pumpkin in 2014 by a whopping 546 pounds.

A 1,600-pound-plus pumpkin grown in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took first place.

“This year was the first full season – from beginning to end,” said Mr. Givens.

Having retired last year after a 40-year career with Burris Logistics, Mr. Givens now devotes all of his time, energy and ingenuity into giant pumpkin production.

He keeps a daily journal, documenting temperature, rainfall, special growth milestones and significant dates: in-house greenhouse planting, transplanting in the outdoor pumpkin patch, selecting the main runner vine, pruning and even pollination.

Mr. Givens, 60, has two grown-up sons.

This pumpkin is his baby.

When it reached the size of a beach ball, he built an “A” frame to keep it covered with an 8-foot by 8-foot tarp.

2015 Pumpkin 011

A tarp in Ed Givens’ pumpkin patch shelters this soon-to-be-gigantic gourd, shown here in mid-September.

“Every morning at 9 o’clock I would roll the tarp and take off the three blankets,” said Mr. Givens. “And when the sun went down I’d put blankets back on it. I’d tell my wife, ‘I’m putting it to bed.’”

Mr. Givens attributes his growth spurt to extra-special care and nurturing and of course hereditary.

“A lot of it depends on the seed,” said Mr. Givens. “The mother is a Wallace 1104. The father is from the pumpkins that I grew last year, the 890-pound pumpkin – the Givens 890. A lot of it is genetics; the better the seed, the bigger the pumpkin.”

He started the seeds indoors in a greenhouse environment on April 22. That’s Earth Day. It’s also his wife’s birthday.

“In four days they are up; like clockwork,” he said. “It went from thumbnail to beach ball in less than two weeks, weighing from a pound to 100 pounds. On July 20, it weighed about 900 pounds. That’s putting on the weight!”

His June 20 journal entry was pollination day – in this case, artificial insemination.

Doing the work of the bees, he used a tiny paintbrush to transfer pollen off the male flower to the female.

“Cindy calls it ‘pumpkin sex,’” said Mr. Givens. “That flower by noontime is closed. Timing is important.”

Mr. Givens is a student of the organic school. Rye grass is his cover crop. Cow manure came from Hopkins Dairy, a few miles down Rt. 9. There was also a pick-up load of organic fertilizer and ashes from his home wood stove.

Every Wednesday, the pumpkin received a special treat: a good drenching of fish and sea weed.

“Usually four gallons,” said Mr. Givens. “A big secret: I buried a soaker hose underneath the plant.”

Plastic black fencing around the patch provided buffer protection from the wind. He also employed an elevated 55-gallon rain barrel that provided gravity-fed nourishment and moisture during summer dry spells.

He used some overhead irrigation but only sparingly as to reduce moisture on leaves that can create fungus and insect problems.

For several decades, Mr. Givens has been toying with giant pumpkins.

“I was not really serious until retired I last year,” he said.

Three years before he retired, he received an extreme garden kit from his employer, Burris Logistics.

“They knew I liked to play in the dirt. And I like to garden. In that kit were some pumpkin seeds. I grew the Givens 890 from seeds from the company I worked for,” said Mr. Givens.

Monster Pumpkin Madness, held Sept. 26, featured entries from the Mid-Atlantic States and Ohio and Indiana.

New Jersey growers, Mr. Givens said, are gunning for him next year.

“Delaware is the target. Their goal is to beat the Delaware pumpkin. It’s bragging rights between the two states,” said Mr. Givens, who exchanged some “secrets” in growing success with fellow growers.

So next spring, he will dig out his 2015 journal in hopes of growing the Great Pumpkin.

“I try all kinds of new things. I’ll look at last year’s diary to see what was successful,” he said. “If I keep this rate, next year I should have a one-ton pumpkin.”

And what might the future hold for the 1,436-pound gourd?

There is one confirmed appearance, at 1st State Chevrolet in Georgetown on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Other events are a work in progress,” said Mr. Givens. “Weather permitting the pumpkin will be on display in our front yard. Once done touring we will display out front until Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving I will harvest the seeds, with any luck one will produce a 2,000 pounder.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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