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pumpkin patches

 
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I was thinking of an elaborate pumpkin patch near tulsa. they have hay rides, pony rides, petting zoo, strawbale mazes etc......as well as some misc jams/jellies jerky for sale in addition to a wide assortment of gourds pumpkins and natural fall decorations. it is always packed full during the halloween season. they are certainly not the only ones in the area that seem to be making a buck off some holiday fun. last oct I only heard of one pumpkin patch near our new place and it came across as kinda lame.

year round at a different location they sell in season produce, christmas trees, nuts, spring seedlings etc....

what a fun way to help pay for your place! I love kids and growing things and animals.
if you have any thoughts or ideas on the matter throw them out there!
 
steward
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I set up a punkin patch in NY this summer.  Although I had left before the harvest and have no information about it since then, I can tell you what I did.

A section of field was plowed by draft horses 150 feet along the road, a few feet inside the fence line, about 80 feet deep tapering to 50 feet due to a line on pine trees, about 8-10k sqft.  Another neighbor used a tractor to till the area once larger rocks were removed.  The soil was not amended or treated any further, and was pretty rich to begin with, albeit a heavy clay.  This was treated as a Maybe-we'll-get-lucky project.

Pumpkin seeds were sowed directly into the soil in groups of 4 at intervals of about 6 feet from the top to the bottom.  Seeds went into the hills in a square or triangle pattern with about a foot between seeds.  There were about 250 of these 'hills', but they were not hilled in any way, just the slope of the land.  1000 seeds is all it took.  It took a couple of hours to get the field planted.  Seeds go in pointing down.  It was zone 5, I planted the field on the first of July so they would be ready starting in late September.  Time your planting for a harvest when they are to be sold.

Cultivars planted included Howden Field Pumpkin, Big Max, Wee B Little, Jack of All Trades, something with the word MOON, and a few other samplers.  The objective was to try several types to get some variety of size and color, and see what would grow. 

I walked the field every couple of weeks to check on progress.  They showed up right away and grew like weeds.  Being the first planting of vegetables in that field for several years, the bugs were not bad at all.  By mid August the entire field was covered with a canopy of dinner plate sized leaves fit for Hide and Seek.  Looking under the canopy was an assortment of fruit, still green and growing.  Most of the plants had shown up, I did no thinning, the crop looked especially promising.

Howden Field Pumpkins will grow to about the size of a human adult head, have a good shape to them, make excellent carving pumpkins and are the standard for Halloween. 5 bucks each is a fair price.

Wee B Little are the smaller fruit, 6" diameter would be expected.  A couple of bucks.

Big Max-thats a popular BIG pumpkin.  50-75# is common, larger is easy to find.  These have become popular in recent years with prices of $20-30 per pumpkin.  People like them for decorating and they are often too big for Trick or Treaters to steal and smash in the road.  Sell a couple hundred of these, its a fine boost to your farm income.

White pumpkins offer eye appeal in holiday decorations.  While they are called white, they range from white to cream to light yellow.  They can be grown from small to large.

Pie pumpkins are sweeter than jack o lanterns and are well suited for baking.  Usually a little smaller than your head and don't store as well as a field pumpkin, but its the flavor that these are grown for.  5 bucks is fair.

Hauling a pile of punkins off to market can be hard work.  Some of these things get pretty big.  Steps should be taken to prevent them from rolling off the truck or flatbed.  When the fruit is ready to harvest, the leaves die off to expose the fruit.  Makes it a lot easier to find them. 

Pumpkins are well suited for a Pick Your Own operation.  More effort will offer better results.  Compost in the soil, thinning the hills to 1 or 2 plants, culling excess fruit on the vines to only 1 or 2 fruit.

Most people will go far what they are used to.  Howden Field is a good choice.  All the others offer variety which gives your table/booth/patch eye appeal and can draw customers.  In a farmers market setting, try setting out a booklet of carving patterns, its another way to bring in traffic.

Unsold fruit is not so much of a problem, load up the truck, haul them to the compost heap.  Be ready for volunteers!  You could also scoop out the seeds, have snacks for a year.  The chickens will work on a pumpkin, but you have to smash it for them. 

The big season is a week before Halloween up to Thanksgiving.  If the fruit is ready in Mid October, they will hold up for a couple of months.  Unsold pie pumpkins can be made into pies, frozen or canned.

 
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Kpeavey you say chickens will eat pumpkins and the seeds i suppose. Dont pumpkins store quiet well  if you have any barns space i suppose they fill up a lot of floor, so pumpkins could be chicken feed for a few mounths.? agri rose macaskie.
 
Ken Peavey
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My girls eat everything I put in front of them.  They would surely peck at a pumpkin.  I would not store pumpkin to serve as a staple in their diet, I can feed them weeds all year.  As a treat now and then, I can see it working out.  The seeds being so large and tough, cracking them would be a big help.
 
                              
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Pumpkins are a good supplement feed for chickens that can help against certain type of worms though.  Our girls like pumpkin and most any type of squash and melon if you cut them open for them.  They especially love the seeds.

However, I grow pumpkins specifically for the seeds so I'm kinda stingy and don't share many of those with the girls.

The hollowed out rinds make great bowls for giving them treats of yogurt and such.
 
rose macaskie
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kpeavy , you say that cracking th eseeds of pumpkins would help your girls if your girls are hens are you sure this is necesary when I dressed pidgeons an dpheasants on my grandmothers farm they had whole acorns in there crops, and hens are bigger than pidgeons or pheasants, I think you can cross a pheasant and a hen, so hens shoulds be able to deal with the shells of a pumpkin seed, i suppose they would swallow them whole and there crops would deal with the seeds.  agri rose macaskie.
 
Ken Peavey
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I'm in Florida.  The whole state is a giant sand bar.  There is not much as far as grit for the hens to fill in their crop.  Without a fair amount of decent size grit, the hens have a harder time digesting larger seeds.
 
pollinator
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The "weed 'em and reap" videos mention that high-residue no-till methods work especially well for pumpkins, because the cover crop residue keeps soil from damaging their skin. (Also because the canopy of pumpkin plants closes relatively quickly & thoroughly.)

That residue will also be nice for visitors to walk around on, of course.

A place near my hometown has a sledding slope, although that could be some serious liability.

kpeavey: I've read that broken glass works for chickens OK. It seems maybe the small, square shards from tempered glass would be better. I would like to try giving them the insulators out of spark plugs (aka Ninja rocks) to allow them to digest minerals better: that ceramic is hard enough to grind up most sorts of stone. Are there local varieties of mollusc shell hard enough to open the seeds in question?
 
Ken Peavey
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Crushed oyster shell is cheap, gives the birds the grit they need.  A handful now and then is all I offer them.

The canopy of the NY pumpkin patch was about 2.5' high.  I could duck under it and be hidden from view.  Because they shading was so complete, there were few weeds able to compete and survive long enough to extend through the canopy.  The pumpkins owned the land.

I peeled up and cut some sweet potato last night, made sweet potato french fries.  Excellent flavor to them, reminded me of pumpkins.  Anyone ever try deep frying pumpkin?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Re: oyster shells: Good to know.

If I had unsold pumpkins and wanted to store them (for chicken feed, or some other purpose), I would seriously consider digging a clamp. Especially if space or transportation were an issue.

As I understand it, storing veggies in a clamp amounts to burying them, only with layers of brown vegetation surrounding them for drainage & insulation plus a bundle of twigs reaching above the ground for ventilation.
 
Ken Peavey
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Oyster shells also provide calcium for the hens egg laying need.

What is a clamp?  Never heard tell of such a thing. 
From your brief description, I'd think bugs would be an issue and adding DE would be a simple solution to that issue.  Got a link for building a clamp?

I've canned winter squash cut into cubes.  I expect pumpkin would store equally well.  The fruit will hold up as they are for several months under the right conditions.  Canning may not be necessary.  Sounds like a clamp can do the job without a root cellar.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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clamp:root cellar::lean-to:house

As in, clamps seem to have been used worldwide since neolithic times.

http://www.greenchronicle.com/gardening/storage_clamp.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storage_clamp

Bugs in chicken feed would probably be a feature, not a bug...
 
Ken Peavey
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Would you be interested in writing an article about clamps for the wiki?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I enjoy writing, but have never tried this.

I only know it works because of its multi-thousand-year track record.
 
gardener
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has anyone ever thought of/tried a pumpkin patch but planted in the three sisters pattern? I'm sure it could be done with a bit of tweaking. It'd make your patch unique from those around, eliminate the monoculture, and you could possibly offer decorative corn stalks for sale on top of selling the cobs themselves. And who doesn't like beans...

I could see it being an attractive U pick or simply an eye catching roadside garden to draw people into your stand. Or maybe it'd be an illogical blunder.
 
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Travis Philp wrote:
has anyone ever thought of/tried a pumpkin patch but planted in the three sisters pattern? I'm sure it could be done with a bit of tweaking. It'd make your patch unique from those around, eliminate the monoculture, and you could possibly offer decorative corn stalks for sale on top of selling the cobs themselves. And who doesn't like beans...

I could see it being an attractive U pick or simply an eye catching roadside garden to draw people into your stand. Or maybe it'd be an illogical blunder.


My mother said the planted the pumplins/squash in the three sisters. pumpkins were eaten as a breakfast food. In their off grid totally organic, middle of the woods farm they grew up on.
 
steward
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If I were to do a 3 Sisters pumpkin patch, I would seriously consider doing the multi-colored ornamental corns (and some ornamental gourds).  At that time of year, people are doing more decorating, and those items might be hot sellers.

One interesting tid-bit about the marketing of a U-Pick pumpkin patch:
Mama goes to the super market with 2-3 children to buy a Jack-o-lantern.  They pick a good one and buy it.  On the other hand, they go to a You-Pick, and each kid hunts out their favorite.  Mama ends up buying one for each kid!

If you do something like a petting zoo (please talk to your insurance agent FIRST), make certain to have a lot of small Dixie cups.  For only 50¢, the kids can buy a cup of pellets, crumbles, etc to feed the animals.  So, they end up paying +/- $8 per pound for the feed that you already had purchased to feed the critters anyways.  (LOL, and evil grin!)

Edited to add link:
If you want to do the decorative gourds, here is a site that can give you some good info (check out their "Links/Resources")
http://www.americangourdsociety.org/
 
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What the original poster described is "agritourism". Our state is pushing this. Works for some people.

As to pumpkins, they're one of the things we plant to feed our livestock come late fall and winter. Sheep, pigs and chickens. The seeds act as a dewormer and the pumpkins have lysine as well as other good things. The pigs love them. Frost softens the meat. Over summer we grow a lot of them in the winter paddocks as they are rich in nutrients for the plants to use.

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/2009/09/plateau-pumpkins.html

As noted, the pumpkins are very good at competing.
 
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John Polk wrote:
If I were to do a 3 Sisters pumpkin patch, I would seriously consider doing the multi-colored ornamental corns (and some ornamental gourds).  At that time of year, people are doing more decorating, and those items might be hot sellers.





Ooooh thank you all! I've now got a new polyculture entitled "Fall Money Making Polyculture!" (heh heh) composed of: white casper pumpkin, howden pumpkins, and ornamental gourds and corn.

I noticed where someone else said to plant in late July to ensure a late Sept harvest. Looking forward to this experiment, though we live so far out in the boonies I don't know that anyone will come out here to buy.....we'll see!
 
John Polk
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Have you seen how much the supermarkets charge for the ornamental corn and gourds?
And it sells.
OUCH!!

Maybe a few days early, you could "gift" one to the local disk-jockey and mention that you are doing a "pick your own pumpkin patch this week end".  He may just plug you (and even comment on the wonderfully flavorful eggs you gave him also).
 
Savannah Thomerson
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John Polk wrote:
Have you seen how much the supermarkets charge for the ornamental corn and gourds?
And it sells.
OUCH!!

Maybe a few days early, you could "gift" one to the local disk-jockey and mention that you are doing a "pick your own pumpkin patch this week end".  He may just plug you (and even comment on the wonderfully flavorful eggs you gave him also).



Brilliant, John!!
 
John Polk
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If you do get people coming to pick pumpkins, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a garden cart there full of yams and other seasonal veggies, fruits & nuts.
 
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Anyone ever try deep frying pumpkin?



Deep-fried tempura kabocha (pumpkin) is a standard item in Japanese cuisine.  At home, we rarely do tempura, but will sometimes lightly pan fry kabocha with sesame oil and sea salt.  Very tasty. 

As far as flavor goes, kabocha is sweeter and tastier than any other pumpkin or squash I have eaten.  The skin is edible and not tough. 

Most often, we just chop in large pieces and steam it.  One time, some of the seeds went in the steamer by accident, came out easy to open the husk and eat the seed, so ever since then we just throw the seeds in with the pumpkin and steam and eat it all together.  Saves extra steps of drying or roasting, which I never seem to get around to. 

We like kabocha or sweet potato served with a tahini-lemon-shoyu sauce. 
 
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