To Jerri Johnson, growing a pumpkin is a spiritual affair. He takes the same from-the-heart approach to all of the growing things in the garden that he and wife Julie tend every year. Maybe that’s why his pumpkins are so big.
Both Johnsons work as house painters at their business, Falls Painting. At home, though, they’re both avid gardeners. Jerri started all of this with a carrot plant, then, as his green thumb matured, turned to corn, then a three-foot-wide garden patch. When Julie decided, several years ago, that she wanted a fish pond on their patch of ground, downhill from Snoqualmie Casino, he decided he got to have something new, too. So they planted a pumpkin patch.
Jerri’s biggest pumpkin has a 40-foot vine that feeds a single, enormous fruit.
He deadheads randomly—mowing the lawn around the vines will do the job—and hand-pollinates, of a sort. Jerri takes the male flowers containing pollen, picks them, refrigerates them overnight, then places them next to female pumpkin flowers for bees to find.
Their Snoqualmie patch has been a neighborhood attraction on Southeast 88th Street.
“We like pumpkins because they bring so much happiness,” says Julie. Families in the neighborhood walk by, “watching as it grows and grows.”
This year, for the first time, they hosted a home garden seminar and visitors in October, opening their patch to U-pickers.
Also to be found were pinto and scarlet runner beans growing in profusion, and Jerri’s 10-foot-tall ‘Mammoth’ sunflowers.
Jerri and Julie try to keep their bees and plants safe from chemicals and pesticides.
“I can only compost what I grow,” he says.
He doesn’t spray chemicals, because he doesn’t want to kill his bees, who live in a hive by the house.
The big secret to growth is the soil, says Jerri—or rather, the manure provided by the couple’s two goats.
Tragically, their favorite white goat, Simon, was taken by a bear two weeks ago, shocking Jerri and Julie. They’re now concerned for their neighborhood, and gave away their remaining goat, Alvin. Jerri will rebuild the fences, and is thinking mini-donkeys next.
Jerri and Julie with a ‘Mammoth’ sunflower. They insist on safe, non-chemical methods in their garden, which they opened to Snoqualmie neighbors this fall.
Julie gives kisses to her pet goat, Simon, recently taken by a bear.
Julie, with a 40-foot vine that nurtures one big pumpkin.