The arrival of fall means it's pumpkin time

Whether people grow them on a farm or in a garden, pumpkins are a big part of autumn. Pumpkins in the garden are a sure sign of fall for Dickinson's Jane Tormaschy.

Whether people grow them on a farm or in a garden, pumpkins are a big part of autumn. Pumpkins in the garden are a sure sign of fall for Dickinson's Jane Tormaschy.

"It's fun to see them in the fall, the orange is pretty for the season," Tormaschy said. "This year, mine ripened early and I didn't have a whole lot of big ones."

Tormaschy sells her produce like pumpkins at the local farmer's market. She also keeps some for decoration and cooking.

"It doesn't take a whole lot of work, just more room and water, a lot of water," she said of growing pumpkins. "This year, we had hail here about three to four weeks ago, which banged up a lot of them too."

Size matters


Growing the largest pumpkin has become an autumn tradition for Beach's Neil Paul.

Paul has participated in Beach's five previous annual Pumpkin Festivals. The giant pumpkin weigh-in always is popular with residents.

"I grow large pumpkins for the fun of it because I enjoy watching them grow and seeing how big they can get," Paul said.

Paul won the first weigh-in and last year's, but is not sure of how he'll do at this year's contest, which happens Sunday.

"I leave a lot of mine to luck, but some guys really get into it," Paul said pursuing the biggest golden globe. "There's a lot of labor and time that goes into it. This year, it was especially more work because pumpkins need a lot of water."

With many days this summer nearing temperatures of 100 degrees, Paul is still hoping for the best.

"I poured probably around 50 to 70 gallons for them a day," said Paul. "I have my own well. You have to water them every day if it doesn't rain."

The little amount of rain was a recipe for disaster this summer for farmers, ranchers and pumpkin growers like Paul.


"In normal summers, it rains in June and sometimes in July, but it didn't do that this year," Paul said. "You know your pumpkin is stressed by the weather when the leaves start wilting. Many guys who are really into it have misting systems, but I don't and everything is done by hand if you want to do it right."

Paul has only a few pumpkins growing in his garden and always fewer than the many seeds he plants.

"I've used seeds found in a store and online at a Web site for big pumpkin growers everywhere," Paul said. "If you want seeds, guys from all over the country will send them to you if you want. Some places that sell them though aren't legitimate, but most are."

About six years ago when Paul started entering his pumpkins in the local contest, he got seeds from a person in Connecticut. Last year, he got seeds from someone in Canada, the latter being the best so far, he added.

"Last year's pumpkin was 331 pounds," Paul said. "Sixty pounders are common though. This year, one of mine measures about 78 inches around, compared to last year's which was 102 inches."

Paul said he probably doesn't give his pumpkins enough room as some, with an area of 400 to 500 square feet blocked off for the pumpkin to grow over time.

"I haven't weighed any of them this year yet," Paul said. "You measure a pumpkin by the circumference from stem end to blossom end and use a special measuring string to see what the average weight is. Although even using that system, last year my pumpkin ended up really weighing heavier when on the scale."

The biggest challenge Paul encounters with growing a big pumpkin is getting it pollinated. If it gets too hot like this summer, the flower will dry up and drop off before it can be pollinated, he said.


"I let them all bloom then decide on the one to keep and be pollinated, which I do by hand," Paul added. "The male blossom is used to pollinate the female one, but bees make it harder picking up some of the pollen, so you lose some of it."

After pollination is finished, the tendrils on the pumpkin plant come up and Paul ties the flower shut so less bees can't get in it, he said.

"I've learned about it as I went," Paul said. "By doing everything by hand you leave less to chance."

Paul grew up on a farm north of town and now lives on the west edge of Beach working with the railroad. He just enters his pumpkins in the Beach contest, but is always curious about how others grow them.

"I know someone who saw a huge pumpkin that could be seen right off the road in Fairview, Mont.," Paul said. "When I'm done with the pumpkins I leave them to sit in the yard and carve it up for Halloween. After that it goes out to pasture for the cows, some like pumpkins and some don't."

Youthful pumpkins

In Bowman, the Yesterday's Farmer group has a pumpkin patch on its 30-plus acres west of town.

The group plays host to about three schools for its pumpkin patch , where grade school students pay $1 apiece to pick their own pumpkins . Students from schools in Bowman, Scranton and Rhame and as far away as Buffalo participate in the pumpkin patch .


"I look forward to it," member Herbert Schade said in a previous Press article. "You tell them they can pick any pumpkin and they're always looking for the biggest one."

The pumpkins are grown in the garden area of the land no bigger than 50 to 100 feet in size, said Yesterday's Farmer member Lyle Sander.

"This year's crop was a little short," he added. "It doesn't look like there will be much left over, but we give the rest to the Community Cupboard when the kids are done. We had some kids here already and are looking at more coming to get some."

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