As the long hot summer days melt and slip away like butter on a hot knife and the leaves begin to turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, Farmer Amy and I start roaming the pumpkin patch. We are in search of the often-elusive bulbous orange Halloween sigils we have growing among the jumbled mass of vines and giant leaves.
Up until this point our pumpkins have been more of an annoyance than anything, the spiky sharp haired vines look innocent enough during the morning and evening garden inspections but while we are away at work, they explode in huge fits of growth! I’ve come home from the office to find what was an innocuous little vine that morning has transformed into a monstrosity crawling up a struggling apple tree that is groaning under the weight of the vines by evening. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that we have found pumpkins trying to set fruit six feet in the air while perched atop a branch like a falcon swaying in the wind. Why may you ask do they like the apple trees so much? Simple, due to our limited gardening space (limited more by sun exposure then ground space so choose your land wisely), we at the Urban Farmstead have had to become quite creative in our plot layout.
Spread among Apple, Pear, Peach, Fig, and Cherry trees are studiously drilled out Home Depot buckets full of carefully mixed soil (carefully mixed a concrete mixer, more to come on that later). Those indispensable and never around when you need them, maybe because if they sit still for too long become planters, buckets are full of pumpkin plants. Many farmers from what we read, do not prefer growing pumpkins due to their massive space, water, and food requirements coupled with the fruit’s long maturity time. What I can tell you is that after three seasons, two of which were near failures, the home depot bucket method really seems to work. It’s strange how things that come to you in a random moment, like when you are trying to find a plot for those extra couple seedlings, can truly be the best decision of the season!
In my traditional pumpkin area, I do have several plants still clinging to life and producing fruit but not even one of them has matched the size of bucket pumpkins, secretly I think it’s that the buckets are orange. After being outside for a season the buckets are even a perfect match in color for a ripening pumpkin, I’ve made that mistake once already while searching for the elusive fruit.
With all the devilishly tricky vines winding their way through trees and over grow boxes, the monthly fertilizer feedings, the daily watering, slivers from removing vines from trees, and scorn from other farmers, you might ask why I would want to grow the orange menaces. You would be well within your rights to ask that for sure, given the amount of effort I have put into them this season.
Call it the magic of watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” one to many times as a kid, or the disgusting fun of ripping piles of seeds from inside the great gourds and carving frightening faces into them for Halloween. I don’t think I could say for sure exactly where this madness comes from but maybe one day, I will step into the field in late fall, while sipping on a pumpkin spice latte, and look up from my steaming brew, to see a towering mass of ripe, orange flesh, just waiting to be carved into the best Jack-o-lantern ever!