Sometimes Pumpkin Passion Pays off Big

An Unlikely and Literal Way to Squash Your Money Problems.

Last month, Steve Geddes of Boscawen, New Hampshire, took home a $6,000 prize for his 2,528-pound pumpkin (the largest pumpkin ever grown in North America!). In 2016, Cindy Tobeck of Olympia, Washington, earned $11,460 for her 1,910-pound pumpkin. Oh, my gourdness, that’s a lot of cash!

I stumbled across these startling figures after taking in a presentation by a fellow coworker, Ben, aptly titled, “Growing a Giant Pumpkin: A Totally Awesome Guide to Something I Haven’t yet Done.”

Thanks to Ben, one of YNAB’s amazing customer support managers, I found myself pages-deep in a Google search about pumpkins. Most of us think of these cheerful, orange squash simply as decorations or pie-filling. But, in select circles, growing pumpkins is considered a sport! A sport in which players can take home five-figure prizes, no less.

And, beyond first-place prizes at festivals, the pumpkin-lovers among us have branched out. They’ve got online communities and blogs (with potential for product sales or ad revenue). There are pumpkin seed sellers and pedestal pushers. If growing isn’t your jam, maybe pumpkin jam is—or pies, baked seeds or bread?

You name it, and someone is making it out of pumpkins (and likely selling it, too!). And it all kinda looks like fun …

Fun Ways to Find More Dollars

While Ben, like so many pumpkin enthusiasts, is in it for the glory, I couldn’t help but think about how earning money from a hobby would make overcoming financial challenges much less scary. As Mary Poppins said, “Find the fun and—snap—the job’s a game.”

So often, when we’re strapped and stressed, we look for clever ways to cut corners and rehab our spending habits for the better. We become anxious and preoccupied about our credit card or student loan balances (which doesn’t change a thing!). We lament our busy schedules and inability or unwillingness to find a second job.

… but how many of us get fixated, instead, on having fun in a profitable way? I mean, how cool would it be to turn your pumpkin prize money into debt freedom? Or take your love of sewing and start an Etsy shop that helps you save up a down payment for your first home? Or even just find a part-time gig that you truly love for extra pocket money?

Think about it. If you lead with fun, with a bit of strategic maneuvering, you can create a situation where you’re getting paid to do things you enjoy! (Of course, you’ll have to keep that “strategy” part front-of-mind as you select and fund your hobby.)

… and if pumpkin-growing sparked your fancy, here’s a summary of Ben’s presentation, with a special thanks to Modern Farmer for the information:

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

What You Need

To grow your giant pumpkin, you’ll need giant pumpkin seeds, land, composted cow manure, straw, fertilizer, sand, time and luck. (I’m sending you a pinch of luck, right now. No guarantees, though!)

Keep in mind that your choice of seeds is important. They should have names like “609 Smith 12,” which indicates that the seed came from a 609-pound pumpkin grown by Farmer Smith in 2012. Seeds start at around $3, but they can cost as much as $100.

Pumpkin Patch Preparation

In the fall, before planting, choose a sunny and well-drained spot (it should get at least eight to 10 hours of sun a day). Till a 10-foot diameter area, and then till in six inches of composted cow manure. Sculpt the bed into a low mound, like a pitcher’s mound. Finally, cover it with straw for the winter.

Plant Your Seeds

Start your seeds in peat pots about a month before the average last frost. Transplant your most vigorous seedling into the bed of soil (apparently, there’s a test for that). Check moisture daily, and water below the leaves. Avoid getting water on the leaves because it can promote fungus growth. Very importantly, maintain a weed-free zone.

Care for Your Giant

Fertilize your pumpkin patch correctly every week: Nitrogen in the early stage of growth; higher phosphorus in the flowering stage; higher potassium after the fruit has set (but be careful because your pumpkin can grow too quickly, resulting in split skin!).

Pick off all of the flower buds until the vine is about 10 feet long. After several weeks of growth, remove all but the biggest and best baby pumpkins. Spread some sand under the pumpkin to prevent rot (or put a pallet underneath). Continue caring for your pumpkin throughout the summer and autumn.

What to Do with Your Pumpkin

If, beyond all odds, you’ve grown a giant pumpkin, what’s next? Warm up your hammies, because now it’s time to move it. If the pumpkin is under 500 pounds, you’ll need helping hands and a tarp. If it’s more than 500 pounds, you’ll need a pumpkin-lifting tripod (that you construct yourself, naturally). Or a forklift would work. Then you’re off to the festival or state fair!

… or, you could use it as a boat.

Why Giant Pumpkins?

When I asked Ben how he came up with the idea to become a pumpkin grower, he said, “Giant pumpkins are intensely interesting to me because they’re just so funny. And honestly, what a miracle of nature—for something that weighs a thousand pounds to grow in a couple of months from a seed?!”

His ultimate goal is to win the giant pumpkin contest at the Minnesota State Fair, something that Ben admits will take a lot of patience, dedication and luck. I have a feeling that, prize-winning pumpkin or not, he’ll enjoy crossing this one off of his bucket list.