The pumpkin season
Pumpkins don’t necessarily have to be orange — white and blue are also good for decorating for the fall season, along with squash and gourds
COTTONWOOD — Traci Olson of rural Cottonwood has always believed that Halloween was special and that everyone should have a pumpkin of their own. And, not just orange ones.
Olson made her second attempt at growing white pumpkins this year because her nephew in Detroit Lakes is getting married Oct. 20, and the bride-to-be wants white pumpkins for wedding décor.
“I grew white pumpkins four or five years ago, but for only one season,” she said. “Then my nephew wanted them for his wedding, so I said I would try it. They want 75 pumpkins, between the white, orange and blue, along with Baby Boos and gourds.”
Olson’s pumpkin patch accommodated the order and then some. She and her family planted the three colors of pumpkins, multi-colored gourds and about four varieties of squash.
She said there will be plenty left over for other customers as well.
“I’ve been growing pumpkins for sale for 24 years,” Olson said. “I thought it was a shame how expensive they are. I just think everyone should have a pumpkin for Halloween.
“My goal is to always have pumpkins ready for October,” she said. “September 1 is too early and they might spoil, but October 1, for sure.”
Olson said she loves Halloween, autumn and harvest. She also enjoys sharing her wares through a small storage shed along her driveway, south of Cottonwood on County Road 9. The orange pumpkins are arranged outside by prices of $1, $2 and $3, depending on size and shape, not weight.
The colored pumpkins, gourds and squash are in bins or on tables inside the shed.
“It’s a self-serve system,” Olson said, indicating the sign-up sheet and cash box. (Of course, the box is emptied frequently so that it never contains much cash.) “What I have that’s ready is always out. I’m always picking.”
Olson has a regular client in the Lakeview School where she works during the day.
“I’ve always done the squash for the school,” she said. “I did pumpkins and squash for homecoming. Unfortunately, the squash part of the field was flooded this year.”
Additionally, the Walnut Grove Mercantile in Marshall goes to Olson for decorating as does the Cottonwood Fire Department for fire hall decorations for its fall open house. Greenwood Nursery of rural Marshall also goes to Olson if it runs out of its own pumpkins, Olson said.
“I love watching people spend time picking out the perfect pumpkin,” Olson said. “I love harvest.”
While harvesting the pumpkins is easy and comes in waves that meet with customer needs, weed control and insect management are the hardest, Olson said.
“It’s not organic, and yet we have to rotate (field locations) every year because of the weeds,” she said. “We try to keep it away from fields that may have insecticide.”
The insecticide used on aphids cuts down on pollination, she said.
Olson never knows from year to year how large her pumpkin patch will be.
“The plot is as big as whatever Charlie (husband) gives me,” she said.
But it’s usually plenty big. They ran out of pumpkins only one year, otherwise there’s always some left over, Olson said.
Then she and her kids also bake with pumpkin.
“We do a lot of pumpkin cookies and pumpkin breads,” Olson said.
In the spring, the Olsons plant the seeds “by hand.”
“We plant in rows,” Olson said. “We sit on a four-row drag with only two middle tubes and we drop one seed every six inches.”
Concern over how many seeds to a hill has been nullified. Even squash grows on bushes instead of on the ground on vines, she said.
“My squash are now big bushes like zucchini,” she said.
Pumpkin, squash and gourd sales hours are as easy as reading the sign.
“When the sign is up, we’re open,” Olson said. “We take the sign down right after Halloween.”
Then they’re closed.