Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

'Can't help but smile'


September 27, 2018

A. R. Vander Vegt

Jerry Gibson behind one of his giant pumpkins. He estimates it to weigh about 500 pounds.

The Great Pumpkin has been found, and apparently he doesn't just appear Halloween night, but rather is cultivated all summer long.

Jerry Gibson of Sturgeon Lake has some pumpkins that won't exactly fit cozily on your front porch. In fact, they may not fit on your front porch at all. Jerry Gibson has grown the Great Pumpkin, and it weighs about 500 pounds.

Gibson dabbled into pumpkin growing circa 1999. He had come across some large pumpkins just north of the cities, though those only weighed out to be about 75 to 100 pounds. Growing oversized pumpkins, though, piqued Gibson's interest.

Over the next few years, Gibson had his share of pumpkin patches but not quite scratching the weight class he achieved this year. Last year, his giant pumpkin came in about 350 pounds.

A 500 hundred pound pumpkin is a funny sight to behold. It's all lump and roll - in the sun, a person can almost imagine ripples running beneath its skin if the pumpkin were mobile. Cinderella, if she were only about three feet tall and didn't mind slouching too much, could definitely ride in this pumpkin to the ball.

"It's a little bit of a silly hobby," Gibson admitted on a recent autumn afternoon. People sort of chuckle at him when they find out about this pastime. But when they come out to his patch to witness the Great Pumpkin itself, "they can't help but smile."

Gibson's 500 pound squash variety isn't the largest to grace the state of Minnesota, though. In 2016, rookie grower Chris Qualley overtook the state record, growing a giant pumpkin that finally weighed in at 1,918.5 pounds. How did he do it?

"Apparently a lot of text messages went back and forth between him and the guy who previously held the record," Gibson said. And it doesn't hurt that there's about two more weeks of growing time down in Otsego, where the record pumpkin took root, than west of Sturgeon Lake.

There's a lot more to growing a giant pumpkin than plopping a simple seed in the ground. It's a particular variety to plant, and it's starting the seeds inside, then it's transplanting them into decent soil and training the vines to go a certain direction and keeping the stems from breaking and managing female and male flowers and and and ... the list goes on. Not to mention weeding, fertilization, watering and making sure the plant is self-pollinated.

Obviously, it's a bit difficult to heft such a large pumpkin onto a regular bathroom scale to check out its weight. Gibson shared that the weight is actually estimated by measuring horizontal circumference and over-the-top stem to blossom end. Every year, a new sheet is put out, which will give weight estimates based on those measurements. That's how Gibson estimates his pumpkin to be in the 500 pound range.

A. R. Vander Vegt

In addition to his giant pumpkins, Jerry Gibson grows a variety of jack-o-lanterns, perfect for carving.

What happens next to the giant pumpkins Gibson has grown? They're up for sale - he'll even help load it up. Otherwise, the giant pumpkins will continue to be a source of delight for Gibson and those who come to see it. He'll continue to grow them as a hobby and maybe even overtake the state record - though he knows that will take even more effort on his part.

Giant pumpkins aren't the only variety he grows. He also has a patch of jack-o-lantern varieties, perfect for carving.

People can come pick their own jack-o-lantern pumpkins and see the Great Pumpkin Friday, October 5 from 3 to 7, Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. His patch will also be open for picking the next weekend, October 12-14, same times, respectively. For more possible times and questions, you can call or text Jerry Gibson at (612) 804-9593.


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