| A giant pumpkin named Frank, carefully nurtured since spring by Huff Elementary School students, tipped the scales during a weighing party last week, demonstrating in the process how fun gardening can be.
Officially tended by students in the Huff Garden Club, the pumpkin was on display for all to see last Friday during an official weigh-in. But Frank bottomed out the 300-pound capacity scales, which forced students to wait another week for the official measurement. The big gourd later weighed in at 319 pounds.
The Garden Club at Huff is supervised by Rachel Ross, a parent volunteer who teaches kids how to care for the plants in the school's organic garden. Students grow a variety of vegetables there, including corn, strawberries, lettuce and string beans.
The idea of growing a giant pumpkin came up when Ross met Jim McLaughlin last year. McLaughlin is a Huff alumnus who started growing giant pumpkins on a dare and found he really enjoyed it.
"I got such a kick out of it," McLaughlin said.
And the secret to growing such big pumpkins? "Lots and lots of water," he said.
He donated several pumpkin seeds of the Atlantic giant variety, which are bred to grow larger than ordinary pumpkins, to Huff last spring. The gardening club took it from there, planting the seeds and adding McLaughlin's recommended ingredient. Students have been watching the pumpkins, and particularly Frank, grow throughout the summer and fall.
Of course, every big pumpkin needs a name, and second grader Eugenia Lee won the naming contest by picking the original Huff's first name.
"Frank is a good name," said fifth grader Alison Rose, 10. "He was the founder of the school so it's nice to have something named after him."
Fifth grader and Garden Club member Yesenia Herrera, 10, agreed, but added, "To me its middle name will be 'Orangey the Great' because that's what I wanted to call it."
It took several adults to lift Frank onto the scale last Friday, only to find out the scale only measured to 300 pounds.
Fortunately, the suspense didn't last long. McLaughlin drove Frank up to Half Moon Bay last weekend for the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. There, Frank was found to weigh a respectable 319 pounds. Fourth grader Cynthia Wang had made the closest guess at 313 1/2 pounds.
Of course, Frank is a lightweight compared to this year's Pumpkin Weigh-Off winner, who shattered previous records at 1,524 pounds. But he's still a big pumpkin.
"I think we'll do it again next year," said Ross, "The kids seemed to get a kick out of it."
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