Halloween is coming early to at least one Grand Fork residence. At the house of local mechanic Jim Hartley, he’s already got a Jack O’Lantern pumpkin out on the deck.
Hartley has been busy growing some very large pumpkins after getting into a contest (for $5) with a couple of buddies—although those buddies have long since conceded soon after Hartley’s pumpkins passed the 50-pound mark.
Hartley has lived in Grand Forks for four years after moving here to take care of his parents. He has been growing pumpkins for seven years.
“The first year, the first pumpkin was about the size of a plum,” he admitted. “(I spent) 7$ on seed and $100 on dirt and it was that small.”
Last year, Hartley’s top pumpkin was up to 85 pounds. When he has finished growing the pumpkins he takes them to Boundary Lodge where the residents have a “guess the weight” contest.
“They really look forward to it,” he said.
This year he also plans to take one (of the three left) to Silver Kettle where his dad resides.
“I take a razor blade and carve my grandchildren’s names into the pumpkin so they grow a big scar with their names on it,” he said.
Hartley is hoping to break 100 pounds this year. “I think I’m going to do better than that this year,” he said.
He started the pumpkins as seedlings in the house in March. He has removed 240 pumpkins from his patch to concentrate on four large ones he is growing.
Hartley’s keys to growing big pumpkins are having really good dirt and using chicken manure.
“Pumpkins like a real hot dirt,” he said. “They’re dirty eaters. The richer the soil, the more they like it.”
He has not entered any contests with his pumpkins but is looking at entering the Rock Creek Fall Fair pumpkin contest this year.
“I was there last year and my pumpkin was bigger than the one that won the competition and it was only 85 pounds,” he said.
Another highlight of the pumpkin growing for Hartley was having his grandchildren come in from Ontario for a visit recently and to help carve and decorate one of the pumpkins.
“I have a Jack O’Lantern on my deck in the middle of August,” said Hartley.