A Pumpkin Grower is Ready to Change the World

Virginia is not the best place to grow giant pumpkins, which is why the state record means so much. Pumpkins like cooler weather, and the world's largest are grown in places like New England, Canada, and Europe. But William Layton holds the Virginia state record with a 1,138-pound pumpkin he grew in 2007. Like all competitive pumpkin growers, Layton spend hours tending pumpkin vines every day during the growing season, and in the past few years the weather worked against him. A pumpkin that was headed for 1,500 pounds in 2011 rotted in the wet weather. In 2012, a storm ripped his vines from the ground.

Layton wondered why he was working so hard. In 2013, he experimented with growing pumpkins above ground, in fabric tubes of his favorite recipe of compost. This year's wet weather was really bad for pumpkins (all my vines died before producing any fruit), but Layton managed to grow Lucky, a 639.7-pound pumpkin that placed second in the state this year.

Growing pumpkins in the ground is old-fashioned and insane, says Layton. Growing pumpkins above the ground, on compost-filled fabric tubes, is both possible and remarkably easy.

Layton hardly did any weeding, and none of the grueling digging, fertilizing and soil amending that used to keep him out in the pumpkin patch from sunup until it was time to go to work, and from quitting time through dark, six or seven hours a day. While the rest of the giant pumpkin world was out toiling in the fields, he was fishing.

“This is the only way to go,” he said. “I’m gonna sell my tiller. I’ve worked too daggone hard in my life to be out sweating in my garden.”

The success of Lucky led Layton to market his Super Compost and his tubes, called Garden Soxx, now available in eleven states. The tubes, when filled with compost, allow gardeners to grow all kinds of vegetables in tiny spaces, on decks or roofs, and even on concrete. Layton himself grew a conventional garden crop on his back porch! Read the story of how a difficult hobby led to a new business at Modern Farmer. -via Digg

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