How I came to grow Pumpkins

Pumpkins, they fascinated me from the first time I saw one. We cut faces into them and went door to door getting candy then we made pie and ate them. Well so I thought, as a four-year-old. I remember when the spring of 1961 came around and my father was getting the garden ready. We had a little tiny yard and my father would always get massive amounts, (well what I thought was massive), of veggies, tomatoes, squashes, beans, corn. This time of year, was spent pickling and preserving.  

While dad was pulling the weeds and having me pile them up in the corner of the yard, I asked him… 

“Daddy would you grow me a pumpkin this summer?” 

Well, my father always the ‘educator’ responded… 

“No son, but I will show you how to grow pumpkins. Would you like that?” 

Every time I see a pumpkin, I remember this conversation as if it was yesterday. “That would be cool daddy” I sadi. 

The next day when he got home from work, he took me to the nursery and showed me where they sold seeds. I still here him telling the clerk, “I’m going to teach my son how to grow pumpkins this summer Charlie, would you show the seeds so he can choose the type he wants to grow”.  

With that ‘ol Charlie does that old country thing rubs my head and says, “So you’re going to be a Pumpkin Farmer huh young man???” well I looked up at him and with my toothy grin I say.. 

”YES SIR!!!!” 

So, Charlie shows me the selection of seeds. Back then there were three different types. Puzzled I look at my dad and ask, “Daddy, which ones do we cut the face in and eat?” As you can imagine Charlie and my father bust up laughing so hard, you’d a thought they were watching Redd Foxx.  Of course, me not knowing any better I start laughing with them thinking I had told a joke.

Charlie says, “Well I see you have a lot to learn about pumpkin farming, you see son, the pumpkins you make pie with are not the same you grow to cut faces in.” 

“They’re not???” I asked defiantly. Then quickly I turned to my father and asked, “Do we have room to grow both? I just know Grandma knows how to make pie from pumpkins she can make anything!”  

This time they both roared with laughter. My father shook his head and said,  

“We’ll find a way son; we’ll find a way. But you have to tell your Grandmother you volunteered her to make pie.” 

I do believe this was the first time I used the word “Groovy!” I exclaimed. “So, which are the pie pumpkins?” I had already picked the seed package a face in the pumpkin.  

So that day I came home clutching two pack of pumpkin seeds. I still remember running into the house and yelling “Grandma Grandma!!! I’m gonna grow pumpkins for you to make me pie!!!” Grandma cocked her head got that stern look on her face, not knowing I had already gotten my first lesson in Pumpkin Growing 101 and asked. 

“Just what makes you think I can make pie from a pumpkin?”

“Cuz you can make anything Grandma I just know you can!” I said all wide eyed.  

Well, little did I know that Grandma had never actually made a pie from an actual pumpkin. But she did learn.  With that mt father said, “Come on son, time to go fix the ground for planting.” 

“Fix the ground/” I asked. 

“Yes son, you have to prepare the planting area so you can successfully grow your plants, and we are going to have to find two different spots because you have two different types of pumpkins.” 

“What do you mean daddy? Two spots? Why?” 

Johnny’s Seeds

He looks at me and did that sigh thing as if asking himself, what have I gotten myself into? “Well son”, he says, “you are going to be growing two different types of pumpkins and you don’t want them to cross pollinate” he looked down at my bewildered stare and continued, “You see son, if they cross pollinate you won’t have good pie pumpkins for Grandma to make you a pie with” 

Well, that got me. “Sure, don’t want that daddy, no sir.” then I my face got all twisted up. My father looked at me, “What’s the matter son?”  

“What’s that thing you said, pollinate? What is that?” My father then proceeded to give me my first lesson, a very short simplified lesson in the “Birds and the Bees”. 

So my Father helped me plant the seeds one type on each side of the yard. I remember when they started to flower. I got so excited.  Ever the little inspector one day I noticed that there were two different types of flowers. So that day I was waiting on the corner for him to get home from work. Back then my father worked Graveyard shifts as they paid higher wages. Even back then it was hard to feed two kids and pay the bills, but he found a way.  

I grabbed his hand and I was yelling “Daddy! Daddy they have flowers and they are different!!!! Something is wrong with one of them!!! Come quick and look!!!” as I’m literally dragging him, he is hysterical as I had no idea that the different flowers were the boy and girl flowers…enter the second chapter in the book of the “Birds and Bees…and Flowers”.  Well needless to say he showed me how to pollinate the flowers explaining that I would have to get up every morning before the sun came up to beat the bees to the flowers. He showed me and explained to me in pretty graphic detail (for a four year old), how to rub the pollen of the boy flower on the girl flower. Explaining that if I let the bees do it they would carry pollen from one type to the other and that would not the good for Grandma’s pie pumpkins.  

I grew a 27-pound pumpkin that year, my dad took two photos of me with the pumpkin on my lap in the midst of the pile of pumpkins I grew. My Grandmother made pies for everyone that year. Charlie hung the photograph my dad took for him on the his “Future Farmers” wall. Yes, I was the talk of the town, I even got a ribbon for the 27-pounder. In hindsight it was great encouragement as I did not really know that twenty-seven-pound pumpkins were really small!!!!  

Over the years I refined my pumpkin growing skills. Learned about the many different types of pumpkins, the largest I have grown was a 343-pound Atlantic Dill variety. Growing up, me and my brother would grow pumpkins, gourds and what was once called “Indian Corn” before the political correctness started destroying our wonderful country. We would harvest the corn and gourds in the last week of September so they had time to ‘cure’. The pumpkins by the middle of October and get all the pumpkins weighed, charging a whopping three cents a pound. Then we would load everything in the wheelbarrow and go door to door in the neighborhood selling our wares. When we got home, we would give our father monies for the next years seeds and dad would take us to the bank and we would deposit our earnings in our saving accounts.

Yes, it was a very different time. But I’m lucky in respect that I had the type of father that always took every opportunity that arose to use as a vehicle to educate and teach. Use the moments to bond and help develop habits that would carry over in life.  

Johnny’s Seeds

Hope you had a GREAT Halloween, in part two I will delve into the many types of pumpkins and the health factors…for example did you know that the pumpkin pie is probably the healthiest item on the Thanksgiving menu??? Until you put the Whipped cream on it… 

I’ll follow this up with a more detailed in depth article on pumpkins, the different types and health facts. Growing tips. All the good stuff I’ve learned over the years…

Until Next Time…

Happy gardening…

 

Written by Aaron Aveiro

Photographs By Aaron Aveiro Unless otherwise noted.

Aaron Aveiro