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Man's giant pumpkin passion grows over bet

UPI News Service, 10/23/2011 

A Missouri man who grew a 500-pound pumpkin said his obsession with big pumpkins was sparked by a bet.

Luke Puricelli of Kirkwood, Mo., and Brian Glarner were in the seed aisle of a local hardware store last year when they bet a case of beer on who could grow the biggest pumpkin, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

The two grew competitively grew pumpkins in the summer of 2010, but Glarner's plants became infested with squash bugs, a problem Puricelli avoided by doing some Internet research.

"I basically was more informed than he was on how to grow these things," said Puricelli, 33, "He lost pretty badly because his didn't make it to the end of the summer, but I managed to grow two that were 100 pounds each."

When Puricelli moved with his wife in December to a home with an acre-size back yard, the man made plans to try his hand at giant pumpkin growing again.

Puricelli did extensive work on his yard to get soil conditions just right before his April 15 planting.

He planted three vines and built mini-greenhouses for each one. Throughout the summer, Puricelli tended to them endlessly, spraying them with nutrients, applying insecticides and watering the soil.

"When he gets into something, he really gets into it," Glarner said.

In early October, Puricelli planned to take his three pumpkins to a weigh-off in Republic, Mo., but that changed when his wife Emily went in to labor with their first child.

"We had to put up with a lot of teasing this summer from people who said the pumpkins were Lucas' babies," Emily Puricelli said. "But at least I always knew where he was."

After missing the weigh-in, Luke Puricelli relied on measurements to get an estimate of his pumpkins' weights.

They turned out to be 500, 400 and 350 pounds.

"Compared to the people who do it for years it's nothing, but for me 1,250 pounds is pretty neat considering it was the first year I really tried," he said.

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