Matthew DeBacco has been interested in growing giant pumpkins his whole life and about 12 years ago he started working on growing 'the big one.'
As a student at , DeBacco's father gave him a small piece of land at their home on Dividend Road to try and grow a prized pumpkin.
"If they grow this easy on their own, why don't I try to grow them," he thought. While DeBacco was successful in growing a larger-than-normal gourd, it was not a giant.
The pumpkin weighed just 50 pounds.
But since his first effort, DeBacco has grown pumpkins as heavy as 1,465 pounds — the second heaviest ever grown in the state, even though he says it had a hole from a mice in it. DeBacco, who has entered a pumpkin in the Durham Fair giant pumpkin contest for the past six years, has been able to grow four giants over 1,100 pounds including a then state record of 1,353 in 2008.
Though he receives some engineering help from his father, DeBacco does most of the heavy lifting himself. He will grow, on average, six pumpkins in a season in his 6,000 square foot patch while other growers produce only two to three at a time.
"Pumpkin growing is great," he said. "You can put whatever time you want into it."
On Monday, DeBacco spent the morning tilling winter rye and removing stones and other debris from the soil.
"I always think I found the last one," he said about the pesky tree roots.
During growing season he spends about three hours each day in the patch focusing on specific task. "There is always something different to do," he said.
The growing process will begin in May, and by July the pumpkins are ready to be pollinated. Come October, the gourds have reached their limit, hopefully.
This Saturday, Debacco will lead a giant pumpkin seminar at the Durham Fairgrounds. The event starts at 1 p.m. and will provide prospective growers the chance to talk to giant pumpkin experts. DeBacco along with several members of Team Pumpkin, which is an organization devoted to helping people grow giant pumpkins, will be on hand to answer questions.
"Everyone has to start somewhere," DeBacco said.
The goal of the seminar is to get more people growing giant pumpkins. When DeBacco started, he had no one to talk about growing process and would often talk to himself in the patch at night.
A second seminar will be held at the Durham Fairgrounds on May 6 at 1 p.m. when more advanced information will be provided.
For more information about the events or growing big pumpkins, visit the Team Pumpkin website .