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Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins

Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins
Posted at 10:10 PM, Oct 05, 2023

WORLAND — During the early summer months, Jay Richard has two full-time jobs: one is owning and operating his car detailing business, Jays Detail, and the other is keeping his giant pumpkins alive.

Richard has always enjoyed gardening and first started growing pumpkins in 2002. A few years later, when a local Worland business was having a pumpkin competition, he entered his 50-pound pumpkin.

While he didn't win the competition, because someone else showed up with an over 500-pound pumpkin, he did gain a desire to get better.

"Not even going to lie, I had a little pumpkin envy. And I kind of said to myself, game on brother,” Richard said on Wednesday.

Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins

Six years ago, he started taking his passion to the next level and really invested in learning more about how to get a pumpkin to grow to 1,000 pounds.

“People refer to it as extreme gardening,” Richard said. “You have to have good seed, you have to have good soil, you have to have good weather.”

The "good weather" aspect is often a struggle for Richard, as he lives five miles outside of Worland, but he said his home and pumpkin patch seem to be in an even colder climate than the town. He said his location will experience a first freeze well before Worland.

Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins

To try to create a better climate for his pumpkins this year, Richard built a large greenhouse, what he calls Project P2K, with a goal of getting to 2,000 pounds. Before this year, the largest pumpkin he had ever grown was just over 1,200 pounds.

“This year, this one weighs 1,678 pounds. The one right over here weighs 1,784 pounds, the one out in the patch, we’ll find out Saturday at the Wyoming state championship weigh-off and pumpkin drop,” he said.

Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins

Richard has a personality that would make anyone smile, and one of his favorite parts of having such massive pumpkins is seeing other people's reactions. He even names the pumpkins. This year he has Marion, Joanie and Leather.

“I name them all female names, and this year’s theme was the happy days from the 1970s and 80s,” he said.

For the last two weekends, Richard has traveled hundreds of miles with Marion and Joanie, one to Littleton, Colorado, and the other to Logan, Utah. He won first place in both competitions.

Extreme gardening: Wyoming man growing giant, winning pumpkins

While he may not be confident that he meet his 2,000-pound goal this year with his last pumpkin that he grew outside, Leather, which will be weighed this weekend in his hometown competition, he is still thrilled with how his season went. He said he did it all with one person in mind.

“My brother passed away this year and he was my biggest cheerleader, and I’m growing in memory of him this year. So, my efforts have been focused and I think he’s been pushing down on the scale for me a little bit. So, that’s been a real thing for me. I’m doing it for him. For my brother Steve,” he said.

Richard is looking forward to the annual Wyoming State Champion Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Pumpkin Drop this Saturday. Leather will be weighed to see if Richard will win first will all three of his pumpkins. Then, the pumpkin will be dropped from a 200-foot crane into an old RV. Richard said Leather will be the largest pumpkin ever dropped at their annual festival.