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Free seeds from award-winning pumpkins

Richard with his award-winning pumpkin - SCOTT LARRICK

Richard Plush, the Springs leading expert on growing giant pumpkins -- we're talking pumpkins the size of a Volkswagen! -- made us an offer we couldn't refuse. Organizer of the local annual Pumpkin-thon, a fundraiser for Silver Key, Plush has donated free seeds saved from area winning pumpkins over the past two years, for anyone who wants to come by the Independent office to pick them up.

"You should put them out sometime close to the 10th of May," said Plush, but that's if you start them inside. Seeds shouldn't be set directly outside in the garden until the soil is warmer, the last week of May. The variety is Atlantic Giant, a species preferred by Colorado growers who have been known to grow pumpkins as large as 748 pounds. Last year's local champion, Mark Sawtell, grew the 419.6-pounder pictured above.

"If you can produce a fruit, you'll likely get a 25- to 30-pounder," said Plush. "Fifty pounds is reachable in most sites."

Pumpkins need direct sun throughout the day, and you could easily end up with 20-25 foot vines with "pretty, big leaves," said Plush. It'll take 130 days to nurse them to maturity.

Pick up your seeds at 121 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Suite 455, at the front desk, and call Plush at 471-4933 with any questions. `

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