Text by Frances Dowell. Images by Randi Byrd.
240 lbs of gypsum, 80 lbs of lime, 50 lbs of kelp meal, 50 lbs of very well-aged chicken manure, and 30 lbs of bone meal went into the patch today.
—Randi Byrd’s Facebook page, March 19, 2016
Every year Randi Byrd prepares the soil, chooses her seeds, and sets out to grow North Carolina’s biggest pumpkin.
Randi is Community Engagement Coordinator for UNC’s American Indian Center, who serves NC’s Tribal Nations and urban American Indian organizations through the Healthy Native North Carolinians Network. Randi Byrd is also an avid giant pumpkin grower. If you never thought of gardening as a competitive endeavor, you probably weren’t following Randi’s Facebook feed last year, where she documented her epic efforts to grow a champion pumpkin almost daily. Readers waited for the next installment as eagerly as people waiting for the new “Game of Thrones” episode. Fellow gardeners weighed in with advice while the rest of us cheered her one with comments like, “This is AMAZING” and “So exciting!” A new follower recently told her, “You could be a reality show!”
So, here at NC Food we’ve decided to share this year’s journey with you. We’ll chronicle not only Randi’s quest to grow a 900+ pound pumpkin (last year’s winner, grown by Gail Newsom of Pinnacle weighed in at 948 pounds), but also her efforts to show people that gardening doesn’t have to be intimidating or a full-time job.
Last year’s season was a dramatic one, including weather upsets, groundhog attacks and a disappointing loss. This years’s season has just begun. So far Randi has:
- Stocked up on growing supplies, including 240 pounds of gypsum, 80 pounds of lime, 50 pounds of kelp meal, 50 pounds of chicken manure, 30 pounds of bone meal, and 4.4 pounds of mycorrhizae.
- Dumped 12 cubic yards of compost into a 2000 square-foot plot.
- Hung shade cloth over the plot while being blown about by 40-mph gusts of wind.
- Picked out her line-up of seeds for the 2016 growing season.
Randi has just started her seed indoors. Stay tuned for updates as we follow her on the road to the State Fair!