Juniata College professors grow two ginormous pumpkins

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HUNTINGDON Pa. (WTAJ) – Fall is officially here, which not only means sweater weather, but all things pumpkin! Think pies, latte’s or giant ones you grow in your backyard….

Resting in the garden behind Juniata College biology professor Vince Buonaccorsi’s house, just might be the biggest one you’ve ever seen in your life.

“I estimated it at 530 pounds,” said Vince.

You might call him a pumpkin whisperer…

“I actually started growing when I was a little kid. My dad had a big garden and I had a little pumpkin garden,” smiled Vince reminiscing.

Still, he says he never thought or even tried to grow one this big, until some innocent sibling rivalry came into play during a ritual Sunday family Zoom call.

“And I just thought in April for us to get started and see who could grow the biggest pumpkin,” said Vince.

Everyone was in! But there ended up not being much of a competition.

“Uh well alas, the seeds I gave my siblings didn’t germinate,” sighed Vince.

While his took off! Vince says just in August, it grew 400 pounds.

“So about 15 pounds a day,” said Vince.

Not wanting to have all the fun for himself, Vince asked Neil Pelkey Professor of Environment Science and Studies and Information Technology to join in.

The two planted a pumpkin in the Juniata College student garden which also grew to be massive, weighing in at 320 lbs.

“I never thought it would get that big” admitted Neil, “and I didn’t think his would get to 500 either.”

According to Neil, every student he’s witnessed see the pumpkin for the first time, can’t believe their eyes.

“You get the ‘Oh my!’ face right? And then for some students that’s followed by a few expletives,” laughed Neil.

One thing Neil says he’d like to make clear, is that the pumpkins weren’t genetically engineered or fed any hormones.

Instead Vince says some of his secrets to growing the ginormous pumpkin included expanding his garden, growing only one plant in it as well as burying the vines.

“So that under each leaf you can get a root, and so that way the plant will absorb nutrients from the entire 400 square feet,” explained Vince.

Last, Vince says he used a lot of organic compost to help self-fertilize the plant and resist dehydration.

“I dug a pit and then threw in a tree that had fallen down, into logs, and then sticks and then leaves, grass clippings, soil and then cow manure on top of that,” listed Vince.

Neil also lets another growth secret out the bag, that Vince failed to mention.

“The rumor is, is that there’s some pumpkin jealousy,” shared Neil.

According to Vince, his daughter wasn’t the biggest fan of her father’s dedication and passion when it came to the pumpkin.

“My youngest daughter feels like the pumpkin is my fourth child and not only that but my favorite child,” said Vince.

But with Vince already having plans to grow an even bigger pumpkin next year, that jealousy just might grow with it.

“I’d like to see a 1000 pound pumpkin next year,” said Vince hopeful.

As for this year’s pumpkin, Vince says it’s been requested by the mayor to be the centerpiece for Huntingdon’s Oktoberfest.

“There’s just the small matter of how to get it there,” said Vince.

Vince also says he plans on making a google form, where folks who might be interested in growing a pumpkin as big as his, can request seeds at Oktoberfest.

“If after Oktoberfest people want to eat it, they’re more than welcome, but if not I plan on feeding it to the deer because they love pumpkin or putting it back into the garden to fertilize it for next year,” said Vince.

Also in the works for next year is to create a pumpkin garden at the college so that Vince and Neil can continue growing pumpkins together.

“And if we can get a little healthy competition with some students going, maybe get the student garden club to see if they can beat the professors…I mean just saying,” said Neil.

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