Scott Armstrong, a loan officer from Commack who grew a half-ton pumpkin in his backyard, won the ninth annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury Sunday, but did not match his 1,249-pound personal best.
"When I grew my twelve-forty-nine, I couldn't control myself. Then I had nothing for four long years," he said. "I've always been fascinated by seeds. When I was a kid and I ate an apple, I saved the seeds. I grew mustard seeds in first grade."
Armstrong, 39, who wore a pumpkin-colored shirt and sneakers and a cap embossed in orange with pumpkin weights of various vintages, said he kept "thousands of seeds at home, cataloged, in Mason jars, with spreadsheets" to track them. He trades them "like baseball cards" with other growers, the best pedigrees producing a few hundred Honus Wagners.
Armstrong doesn't use chemical fertilizer -- "you might get that quick spurt, but you might split open" -- preferring the "nice, even, steady" growth afforded by manure and drip irrigation. He planted this year's pumpkin May 5. Its growth peaked in early August, when it added 25 pounds per day, and tapered in recent weeks, he said.
Armstrong was also the announcer at the weigh-off. The first several entrants were attractively spheroid and had good color but were not giant, tipping the scale at 37, 44 and 72 pounds, respectively.
Next were 461-, 547- and 598-pounders from Armstrong's rival and friend Bob Phillips, 42, a drywall contractor from Peconic. Then was Armstrong's own, borne slowly by forklift to cheers from the crowd. It was 162 inches in diameter, lopsided and deeply ridged. It looked like Jabba the Hutt of "Star Wars" fame and weighed 1,019 pounds.
At the microphone, Armstrong praised his competitors because "they made it to the end. They came through the weather, the bugs, all sorts of craziness."