Dill Family Farm blames dry weather for smaller giant pumpkins

The giant pumpkins Dill Family Farms supplies for the annual Windsor Pumpkin Regatta are only half the size they should be. Danny Dill blames the weather.

Giant pumpkins need to double in size to be big enough for people to row in Windsor's regatta

Danny Dill says his giant pumpkins are only half the size they should be for this time of year. They need to double in size to be ready for the Windsor Pumpkin Regatta. (Diana Dill-MacDonald)

Danny Dill jokes people taking part in Windsor's annual pumpkin regatta this year may have to shed a few pounds before fitting into one of his giant pumpkins.

Dill usually supplies several dozen pumpkins for the annual regatta's races and is already taking bookings for the fall, but he says his giant pumpkins are only half the size they should be.

'Depressing, discouraging'

A pumpkin needs to be about 180 to 225 kilograms for a person to be able to sit inside it and row, Dill says. The ones he's seeing on his farm are more in the range of 90 kilograms, with just a month left in the growing season. He blames the weather.

"It's been the driest I've seen in my lifetime," he said. "It's getting very depressing, discouraging."

'No point of return'

Danny Dill says with a lot of watering on his part, he expects to have about 100 giant pumpkins reach up to 227 kilograms in time for the annual Windsor Pumpkin Regatta. (Diana Dill-MacDonald)

Dill's family is famous for growing giant pumpkins on their farm. His father, Howard Dill, is a pioneer of giant pumpkin growing with four Guinness World Records. He also developed the internationally recognized Atlantic giant pumpkin seed. 

Dill, who runs his father's farm now, says he has about 100 Atlantic giant pumpkins growing that he's trying to keep irrigated. He has sprinklers going, but says that's not the same as a good rain. His biggest concern is that his giant pumpkins could hit a permanent wilting point if wet weather doesn't come soon.

"If they reach that, there's no point of return whether they get rain or not. They're done."

Better luck for hobby growers

Atlantic Canada's reigning long gourd champion Ron Muis says the dry, hot weather has actually been beneficial for hobby giant vegetable growers like him. (Kim MacQuarrie, Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers)

Despite the slow growth so far, Dill says he expects to see some heavy pumpkins weigh in when his family farm hosts its annual weigh off this fall. 

That's because the weather hasn't been bad news for all giant vegetable growers. Hobbyists are having more luck.

"A dry year actually is a bit more beneficial to us, so I expect this year we'll grow some heavier than average pumpkins," said Ron Muis, chair of the Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers.

​Last year Muis, who lives in Steam Mill, grew the longest long gourd ever in Atlantic Canada — measuring 149.25 inches (3.79 metres), just less than an inch shy of being world-record size.  

Unlike Dill, who has a large number of pumpkin crops to keep watered, Muis grows just a few giant vegetables in garden space that can be easily watered with a lawn sprinkler.

'A bit ironic'

Dill usually supplies several dozen pumpkins for Windsor's Pumpkin Regatta races. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

On top of his long gourd growing, this year he's growing a pumpkin that's already reached 272 kilograms. He's hoping it will get up to 454 kilograms by the end of season. 

Muis says he expects other hobbyists to show up with up to 680-kg pumpkins at the Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers Association annual weigh off this fall — three times the size Dill is hoping for at his farm.

Dill says he's still very optimistic that with a lot of watering, the majority of his giant pumpkins will reach 180 to 225 kilograms.

"Isn't it a bit ironic ... we need water to grow these big enough for people to put them in water."

About the Author

Katy Parsons

Producer

Katy Parsons has been a journalist with CBC in Nova Scotia for more than 10 years. She's worked on news, current affairs and lifestyle programming. Contact her with story ideas at katy.parsons@cbc.ca.