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Living large, Dudka delights in growing giants

Tom Dudka of Linacy has his giant pumpkin on display at the Aberdeen Sobeys. It weighs about 820 pounds. From left are: Dudka, produce manager Patrick Hickey, produce specialist Martin Mydean and Aberdeen Sobeys manager Gerald MacCallum.
Tom Dudka of Linacy has his giant pumpkin on display at the Aberdeen Sobeys. It weighs about 820 pounds. From left are: Dudka, produce manager Patrick Hickey, produce specialist Martin Mydean and Aberdeen Sobeys manager Gerald MacCallum.

NEW GLASGOW – The idea of growing a giant pumpkin intrigues a lot of people.

“I’m going to do it next year,” grower Tom Dudka often hears from others.

But then they learn just how much work is involved.

Dudka has been growing giant pumpkins for many years now. This year’s product hasn’t lived up to past heavyweights he’s grown in Linacy, coming in at “only” 820 pounds. But it’s got a good shape and a consistent orange colour that make it a beautiful centrepiece on display at the Aberdeen Sobeys in New Glasgow.

It took Dudka six months to grow this particular pumpkin and he used a greenhouse to help maintain a hospitable environment. It ended up causing some problems though because the vines grew more than he wanted and took over the space.

“It got to the point where my plant was keeping the plant alive and not growing the pumpkin,” he said

He estimates he spent about four hours a day caring for the pumpkin and watered it about 300 gallons a day.

In addition to keeping it hydrated and fed, he said it’s important to protect pumpkins from too much sun.

“If the sun gets on it, she will bake and it’ll split,” he said.

He said this year’s pumpkin has a nice colour, which he attributes to genetics. It was grown from a seed from a 1,900-pound pumpkin from the U.S.

Dudka trades seeds with other giant pumpkin growers, but he said some people will pay heavy prices for the seeds of champions.

He’s heard of people paying $1,800 for one seed that didn’t successfully germinate.

“There was one guy who had a world champion. He put seeds on for $500 a seed and they were gone within two hours and there was 460 seeds in it.”

Despite the work, for Dudka it’s a fun hobby.

“The seed is the size of your thumb nail and when you’re done you can’t fit it on the back of a half-ton truck.”

In addition to giant pumpkins, Dudka has grown giant cabbage as well as carrots. Next year he plans to attempt growing a giant watermelon. His goal is to have it reach 100 pounds.

Gerald MacCallum, store manager at the Aberdeen Sobeys, said they love being able to display Dudka’s pumpkins every year. Last year they had someone carve it into a jack-o-lantern. He said they’re still brainstorming ideas of something fun to do with this year’s pumpkin.

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