Growing giant gourds is an award-winning pastime for Wheaton man


WHEATON, Ill. — Weighing 1,760 pounds, a giant pumpkin displayed outside a home in Wheaton is the largest in Illinois this year. 

“A little smaller than we had hoped for,” joked Joe Adkins, who has grown giant pumpkins in his yard for the last decade.

The hobby grew out of love for carving pumpkins. After years of growing gargantuan gourds in his yard, Adkins has some high expectations for his crop, adding that he knows exactly how to get the most out of his pumpkin patch. 

“A lot of it just depends on how the growing season goes for you,” he said. “There’s a lot of experience and each year, you put that over into the next year and the next year.”

The five largest gourds in Adkins’ harvest are displayed in front of his house. The biggest pumpkin won first place at the Illinois Giant Pumpkin Grower Association’s annual weigh-in in September. Equally impressive is a giant green squash, which Adkins added to his crop for the first time this season, that a new state record at 929 pounds. 

“It’s a great feeling and it’s not an easy thing to grow a giant pumpkin and get it to a scale, to a weight off, and then get it back to your house and put on display,” Adkins said.

Adkins says showing off the big winners is all part of the fun. Community members stop by to see the massive pumpkins every October; the hobby has even inspired some young growers in the neighborhood. Adkins shared his tips and tricks with 10-year-old Andrew Engel, who lives around the block. 

“He’s taught me a lot, like how to move them and how to pollinate them,” Andrew said.

Engel has started his own giant pumpkin patch – his largest this year was 158 pounds -but he’s just getting started. The 10-year-old says he plans to improve his pumpkin poundage next year.

Adkins says he plans to follow suit. His goal is to grow a pumpkin that’s 2,000.

“A little more help from mother nature would’ve been really nice,” he said. “We probably would’ve gotten to 2,000 pounds with that, but like the Cubs say, there’s always next year!” 

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