Serving Roseau County for over 100 Years - The Official Roseau County Newspaper

Roosevelt Residents Believe In the Great Pumpkin

by Laurel Latham

There's a friendly pumpkin growing contest that takes place every spring through fall in the pumpkin patches of Roosevelt. Although the prize consists of just bragging rights, several growers are taking their pumpkin growing seriously.

This year, Don Hammer's 1,050 pound pumpkin was easily the largest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.

"There's an app where you can put in three measurements and find out the weight of your pumpkin," explains Don. "Mark Bailey grew two 500 pound pumpkins in the black dirt in his garden."

Neil Siats' two large pumpkins weighed 350 pounds and 300 pounds. Raymond Friesner's pumpkin weighed 330 pounds. Coming in at just over 300 pounds each were Rod Friesner and Jayson Henderson's pumpkins. Alyce Siats grew a 300 pound pumpkin and a 260 pound pumpkin.

As Alyce poses for a photo in her sun-drenched pumpkin patch, it's quite easy to imagine she is the grown-up version of Sally Brown of the Peanuts Halloween television special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".

"It's all in the seed you purchase and the care you give it," reports Alyce. "Last year Neil grew a 470 pound pumpkin. This year I grew Giant Atlantics and didn't do anything with them, so it was pretty good they grew to the size they did."

Most of the Roosevelt growers chose Giant Atlantic Pumpkin Seed. Giant Atlantic pumpkins take between 100 and 120 days to grow, the same length of time as smaller ones. Because of northern Minnesota's short growing season, some growers get a head start by seeding seeds indoors in peat pots, about a month before your average last frost. This year's king of the pumpkin growers, Don Hammer, is a man of few words and doesn't give up his pumpkin growing secrets easily.

"All you need is lots of luck," Don Hammer chuckled. Don eventually expanded on his comment. "You need the right seed, the right soil, the right weather and lots of luck. Mark Bailey has really good soil at his place, but I have to work a little harder to get my soil ready to produce a giant pumpkin."

Not wanting to reveal too many secrets, Don quickly changed the subject to another grower's experience.

"Because of bad weather, Jayson Henderson's pumpkin went through hell," adds Don.

A short drive into the countryside north of Roosevelt, behind a white farmhouse and near a quaint red barn, Jayson uncovered his orange beauty.

"This place was once my Grandpa and Grandma Nastroms," said Jayson. "For a while there I didn't think my pumpkin would make it. When it was still small it was hit by a hail storm and there wasn't much left of it. Then deer ate off both the ends of the pumpkin. But I babied the pumpkin and it managed to grow," explained Jayson.

Rod Friesner revealed how he prepares his garden soil for pumpkin growing.

"I make compost out of everything left in my garden at the end of the year and mix it into the dirt," explained Rod. "Often I will get manure from my son-in-law who is a cattle grower and add that to the soil.

"The real secret is in pollinating," continued Rod. "Raymond and I would call it vegetable sex. Pumpkin plants need either bees or growers to pollinate them. Pumpkins have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Pollen must be removed from the male flower to the female flower to grow a pumpkin. Hand-pollinating pumpkins is how many grow giant pumpkins. I hope I didn't give away too many secrets."


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