About 2 or 3 this afternoon, Joel Holland finally will cut the stem from what he estimates is a 940-pound pumpkin growing on his nine-acre...

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About 2 or 3 this afternoon, Joel Holland finally will cut the stem from what he estimates is a 940-pound pumpkin growing on his nine-acre property in Puyallup.

When you’re entering a giant-pumpkin contest, you want to feed it until the last possible minute, he said. And the pumpkin contest at the opening of the Puyallup Fair doesn’t start until 5:30 p.m. today.

“It’s gaining 10 pounds a day,” said Holland, a retired firefighter.

Sometime this morning, Geneva Emmons, will cut her pumpkin off its vine on the 10-acre Sammamish property she owns with her husband, John.

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In 2001, she set a Guinness world record with a 1,262-pound pumpkin.

“If you like to watch things grow, this is the ultimate way to do it. It’s just a thrill,” Emmons said.

At their peak growth, giant pumpkins can add 30 pounds a day. Her 15 pumpkin plants with their 2-foot-wide leaves take up 12,000 square feet.

The Pacific Northwest is a haven for this hobby, with clubs ranging from Australia to South Africa. Even its participants admit it is a bit unusual.

Holland made it in 1992 to the Guinness World Records with an 827-pounder. Now, with the development of hybrid seeds, winners are routinely over 1,000 pounds.

“It’s hard to pin it down, other than the weather is a big factor,” Holland said about giant pumpkins and the Northwest. “Most big pumpkins are grown in northern latitudes.”

Holland says spending a couple of hours a day with his pumpkins is a great stress release from firefighting.

For the serious growers, serious money can be spent buying seeds that produce giants. On the Internet, top seeds have sold in the $300 range.

No wonder such plants literally are babied through their growth.

On his property, Holland has a 1,550-gallon plastic solar tank that heats water, so the pumpkins get it at 75 degrees to 80 degrees instead of city water temperature. He sprays them with a Norwegian seaweed mixture that, he said, includes “a natural growth-promoting hormone.”

Both Holland and Emmons have special rigs to lift the pumpkins onto a pickup truck. When transporting a pumpkin long distances, they are covered with wet towels. Holland puts the stem vine into water buckets.

Some two dozen entries are expected in today’s Giant Pumpkin contest.

The $1 a pound top prize is nice, but it wouldn’t even cover her costs, said Emmons.

“I say we grow smiles,” said Emmons. “It is a rare thing when people look at these pumpkins and don’t smile.”

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com