ROCKFORD TOWNSHIP, MN For four years, Kaj Meister has been growing large pumpkins. Though he fell short of growing his first 1,000-pound pumpkin, Meister reached a new personal best with an 884-pound pumpkin.
“It’s a fun hobby,” Meister said. “I like to do it. It seems like a lot of people are getting into it.”
For Meister, it took a while to learn how to do it.
“I tried and tried,” he said. “Finally, I did my research and found out how to do it. The big thing is to get the right seeds. It’s all genetics. It’s a lot of work and a lot of luck.”
One resource Meister used was www.bigpumpkins.com, a forum for pumpkin enthusiasts everywhere.
“There are so many giant pumpkin growers out there,” Meister said. “They like to share a lot of information.”
Some successful pumpkin growers also sell their seeds. Meister’s seeds came from previous record holders Tim Mathison and Ron Wallace.
“It’s like football. I’m in the peewee league and they’re pros,” Meister said.
While growing giant pumpkins begins with quality seeds, it doesn’t end there.
“You have to water them the right way and use the right fertilizers,” Meister said. “Getting the soil right is difficult. It’s not just throwing seeds in the ground. You have to do so much more to these pumpkins.”
Meister started growing his pumpkins in his house, and then moved them to a small greenhouse in the back yard. One nice spring day, he decided to put his plants outside.
“I put chairs around them to keep the kids away from them since they were only a foot tall,” Meister said. “It was really windy, and the wind blew a chair over, and sliced a plant by the stalk.”
Despite the mishap, Meister was able to salvage his plant.
“I got some cloning powder and, because it was cut off at the dirt, I was able to regrow the roots on it so it didn’t die,” Meister said.
Part of the equation is luck. A bit of bad luck likely kept Meister from a half-ton pumpkin a year ago.
“Last year, I had one that was potentially going to be 1,000 pounds,” Meister said. “I had too many root systems too close to the stalk. The roots held the vine and it snapped it off. Basically, there wasn’t anything I could do, and it rotted out.”
Meister said he can tell from the beginning which of his pumpkins will be the largest, though he doesn’t tell his three kids which one that is. He grows four pumpkins one for each of them, and a backup.
In addition to Meister’s largest pumpkin, the other three weigh in at 522 pounds, 533 pounds, and 702 pounds.
Most years, he carves the pumpkins. His goal was to do so Wednesday, but the cold, rainy weather kept him from doing so.
“It’s not like we can just carry them into the house and carve them,” Meister said.
Even though he couldn’t carve them, he still displays them prominently in front of his Rockford Township home.
While Meister is happy to have grown his largest pumpkin to date, he’s already looking forward to breaking his personal record.
“My goal is to break 1,000 pounds,” Meister said.