Dallas Horvath’s cabbage seedling was a tiny leaf in a paper cup when he brought it home from his third-grade class at Scottsdale’s Laguna Elementary School last year.
By the time Dallas had finished watering it and talking to it every day, the plant he dubbed “Mr. K” was a 28-pound giant.
Dallas’ botany skills netted him a $1,000 savings bond earlier this month when it was confirmed his was the biggest cabbage grown by a third-grader in Arizona through a contest sponsored by Bonnie Plants, a plant distribution company based in Alabama.
“I was very happy,” said Dallas, whose family moved to San Diego shortly before the school year started. “I tried really hard and I set my mind to it. ... It’s fun to see it from something so little and then have it be huge.”
Laguna Elementary School principal Katie Root was also thrilled.
“I whooped for joy. This is a little boy who really got excited about the project and saw it all the way through,” Root said. “He is a young scientist. I am so proud of him.”
The contest required students to care for the plants and track their growth over several months, Root said.
“They use all these scientific concepts: They measure the cabbage, they learn about soil, they learn about watering, sun, shade,” Root said.
Stacey Horvath, Dallas’ mother, said she initially wasn’t sure whether her son would stick with the project when he first brought the plant home, but he ended up caring for the plant all by himself.
“When the thing came out of the ground, it just didn’t seem real,” Horvath said. “It was enormous.”
Which prompted Horvath to ask whether Dallas, now 10, had done anything special to make it grow.
“He looked at me and batted his eyelashes and said, ‘Momma, just water and love,’ ” Horvath said.
Now Laguna is using Dallas’ win to encourage other cabbage growers: This year’s batch of third-graders just got their seedlings last week.
“We put Dallas’ picture and the letter up on the science lab door,” Root said. “As Dallas has set the benchmark, it’s every student’s opportunity to get one pound better.”
As for “Mr. K,” Horvath said after her son named it she didn’t have the heart to eat it. So it was in the family refrigerator, where it stayed for about a week until it had to be thrown away, she said.