Call it a passion for pumpkins.
Or maybe it’s due to an orange thumb.
But there’s no doubt that Dustin Trychta is a true pumpkin whisperer.
More and more people recently learned about his special talent after he grew a 1,337 pound pumpkin this summer.
Her name came from a friend who gave him the seed.
“He kind of reminded me of BamBam from the Flintstones, because he was just a heavy-duty guy. He loved to over do things, so it kind of fit,” he said.
Naming a prized gourd isn’t new.
There’s a new theme each year, and the names relate to it.
Last year it was a patriotic theme, and the name was Belle.
“I always wait till the pumpkin tells me a name. They take on a personality of their own.”
The first one to tell me was Petunia. That was fitting for her, and the next one was Patience. It just kind of started names beginning with the letter P so Pebbles also went along with that,” he said.
All told he’s been growing giant pumpkins for nine years.
His fascination dates back to childhood summers watching a neighbor grow them.
After serving in the military, he is now a horticulture student at West Virginia University.
As a result he’s spent considerable time studying pumpkins and optimum growing conditions.
Experience has shown that giant pumpkins aren’t an accident, and don’t just happen.
The growing season is full of potential problems, especially the stress on a plant that’s growing so quickly.
A long season is necessary so the pumpkin will have enough “time on the vine.”
During peak times, certain kinds of pumpkins can easily gain 40 to 50 pounds a day.
“The key is to keep it doing that for as long as possible, say maybe a 24-day stretch at that pace. I have only managed about 35 pounds a day at my top growth, so I am still learning a little bit,” he said.
It’s necessary to be within the 400-500 pound range within the first 30 days in order to be competitive.
“And by the 60-day mark you should be around a thousand pounds. So to go from the size of a grape to that big in two months is pretty impressive.”
Success isn’t guaranteed, however.
“If you can almost see the fruit growing this fast, you can imagine how hard that is on the plant. You really have to work to keep it healthy while it is putting that much of a draw on the plant.
Splits can also happen with that much water moving through the vines,” he said.
Roots have to be cut throughout the season, and it’s necessary to slide the pumpkin forward as it gets larger.
“It’s a good problem when you didn’t leave it enough space, and it’s doing better than you thought it would.”
Don’t discount the love that also goes into this process.
Even with all this effort, Pebbles fell short of setting a new state record.
That honor now belongs to a pumpkin weighing 1,412.5 pounds.
It was grown by Fort Gay resident Robert Cyrus, and weighed at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Cabell County earlier this month.
Trychta sees it as a challenge, and isn’t giving up.
“This was actually great year. Pebbles is my biggest pumpkin ever, but fell a little short of setting a new state record. Now I am regrouping for next year.”