It’s not just Cinderella with a giant pumpkin to take her to the ball — Terrace now has its own to sing about.
This year, Terrace resident Dallas Ehman grew a 506-pound pumpkin, a feat that took a lot more than rain and sun to make it happen.
“I feel kind of bashful because I feel like I’m soaking up all the happy with it, showing it off but I just like sharing it,” he says, adding he was towing it around in a trailer hitched to the back of his truck. “It’s awesome…there’s yelling out the windows and stuff like that, it’s pretty cool. A lot of people are pretty excited about it.”
Ehman says he was crazy when it came to growing this pumpkin and became obsessed with seeing how big it would get. When it surpassed his initial expectation and began to grow 30 pounds a day, he knew it would be one for the books.
But growing big pumpkins is not new, unexplored territory for Ehman. He says it first began at his job at Parkside Secondary School a few years ago when be brought in an 80-pound pumpkin he purchased at the store and saw how excited everyone was. It sparked a challenge at the school for staff to bring in the biggest squash they could find each year. Ehman knew the pumpkin he had in mind wouldn’t be standing in front of a grocery store for sale and came across countless online forums that taught him how to grow one.
Having spent some time with his wife growing food at their local community garden space, Ehman felt confident enough with his green thumb skills to take on the task. That year, he found someone selling seeds from a giant pumpkin and he was stoked to try it on his own.
The first year, he grew a 200-pound pumpkin and couldn’t believe it. He had spent hours a day making sure everything was growing perfectly and had learned what to do to make it bigger.
So this past summer, Ehman prepared himself again and this time, bought seeds from a pumpkin that had reached 400 pounds on Prince Edward Island. Not having the space in his own yard to allocate the ideal amount of soil, he was granted permission from his friend’s family to use their garden for his experiment.
Spending hours a day and investing a few hundred dollars into the best fertilizers and nitrogen for the soil, Ehman approached the task scientifically as he arranged the vines into the ground to feed the pumpkin nutrients. He also set up an electric fence to keep it from getting consumed by wildlife.
“I put the hoses underneath, I don’t want to water it from the top because it gets powdery mildew on the leaves and so I’m spending all this money on these fungus sides spraying every leaf and we’re talking hundreds of leaves that I’m spraying them every day,” Ehman explains. “I don’t even want to think of how many hours I spent on this… I would even dream of it get eaten by bears.”
Just 90 days after planting the seed, the pumpkin had reached its maximum size when he saw a crack beginning to form at its stem. And then the frost came through.
“They take about 125 days to mature so this one’s only 93 days old,” says Ehman. “And when I did see it starting to see it snap like that… I just ripped out some of those roots that I put in all around to slow it down because I knew it would blow up.”
Cutting its “umbilical cord”, Ehman tried to move it but the pumpkin wouldn’t budge. Calling a friend for help and with the use of a tractor, they were finally able to load it onto a small trailer. When they weighed it, he was astonished.
Despite having the biggest pumpkin reported in Terrace, Ehman says he had spent so much time and energy on it that it’s a bit of an empty feeling not having to tend to it anymore.
Ehman showcased it at the Skeena Valley Farmers’ Market and had dozens of people come by to take photos, but says he is a bit distraught over the entire emotional process. He wishes he had fundraised for a charity or done something more meaningful with it.
“Everybody’s shocked first, like how big it is but after that, it’s like nobody really cares… it didn’t feel right. It was anticlimactic [last time, too] and that’s how I’m feeling again but I’m glad the kids are loving it,” says Ehman. “When I decide to grow another one, I would like to hold a raffle and like to raise some money.”
But many people are still in awe of its size and this massive gourd has a destined artistic end to its life. A few students from his school will come together and carve out the pumpkin in time for Halloween. He hopes to then put it on display on Ferry Island.
Unfortunately, Ehman says they won’t be able to savour it and make any pumpkin dishes as he’s worried the split might have caused the inside to become inedible. He adds the pumpkin is still technically premature, as it hadn’t turned its orange colour.
“I don’t think it’d be very good to eat… I don’t know what’s going in there so I’m not gonna even put anybody in jeopardy over that sort of thing… so we’re going to be selfish and our science teachers are thinking of a way to blow it up.”
He laughs that he couldn’t take a vacation this summer because of the pumpkin so it will be a few years before he puts on his gardening gloves again. But he expects his next one will be bigger and better. He’s seen online how other growers do it, with the world record at 2,600 pounds. He knows it may difficult in Terrace with its short growing season but hopes for the right temperatures to make it happen.
“We just don’t have the growing season here so it’s actually quite a miracle that it got this big,” he says. “To grow this thing, it took two things: TLC and OCD. That’s all there is… [next time] I’m going to get a seed from a 1,200 pounder and I’m going to try for that record.”
Ehman adds he doesn’t want to keep all the pumpkin-growing fun to himself and wants to extend his school challenge to the rest of the city. He says at the next seed exchange, he will be giving away his pumpkin’s seeds to encourage others to grow one of the same size.
“I’ve had so many people begging me for seeds,” he says. “I just want more people to grow these things because I’d love to see like a giant pumpkin contest or something like that here. There’s got to be somebody with OCD other than myself.”