The Making of a Pumpkin Patch

A A “Red Warty Thing” pumpkin from last year’s garden.

Notes From the Farm

by Ginger Graham

I’ve always wanted a big pumpkin patch. There’s nothing more fun than walking through vines of Red Warty Things and too many One-Too-Many’s or beautiful Orange Smoothies and Big Whites, Howdens, New England Sugar Pie and Jack Be Little pumpkins. It just takes a LOT of room. This year, we decided to create a space big enough to grow pumpkins and gourds for our outdoor market at Ginger and Baker… and we’ve gone pumpkin crazy!

Mowing the new patch. Mowing the new patch.

Seemed like we had a perfect location with land just south of the irrigation ditch; it’s close to the garden and the pumpkins would not have to be watered since the ground water gets really high when the irrigation ditch is turned on. It would just require some time, sweat and a little equipment.

We marked off an area of the pasture and with my dad’s 35-year-old Case International tractor and brush hog, we mowed the grass really close to the ground.

Then, several passes through the tough pasture grass were made with the disc to break the surface and the Bobcat worked perfectly to scoop up the top layer of grass clumps and big chunky roots to get them out of the way. All that dirt will come in handy to fill some holes in this pasture!

The Ginger and Baker team hard at work. The Ginger and Baker team hard at work.

The last step of preparation was to lay down the weed barrier fabric, helping to prevent the grass from taking over the pumpkins. If my Dad were still living, this is about the time he would accuse me of “having more money than sense.” Our new pumpkin patch was becoming a bit more of a project than I first imagined. 😄

After all that, the growing (no pun intended) Ginger and Baker team met to dig holes; removing old dirt and adding new soil and peat moss, then hand-planting over 100 pumpkins!!!

It was a fine 97-degree Colorado summer day and we – and the pumpkins – had to be watered multiple times that afternoon!

The pumpkins did well for about a month and then the ground water began to rise.  Just when I think I know something about farming and gardens, there’s always a new lesson. I was right about not needing to water… what I didn’t know was HOW high the ground water would rise in this pasture.

Rescuing the pumpkins.  Rescuing the pumpkins.

All those gourds and pumpkins were sitting out there in standing water with drowning roots and yellowing leaves!  So we dug them up, filled the holes with more dirt and built mounds on top of the ground.  Even that may not be enough as we’ve had lots of thunderstorms in July and the water table is rising.

It’s a great reminder to appreciate how hard it is to farm the land.  I grew up watching my parents and family members work long hours to manage our family farm, seven days a week, regardless of weather and circumstances. It was crucial as it was a big part of our livelihood. Now I’m thankful that I don’t have to grow my own food every day!

I love that Fort Collins is a well-grounded agricultural community, but when I travel I meet so many people who don’t appreciate how hard past generations had to work to survive. That’s when I’m reminded of a quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield”.

We’re still hoping all these pumpkins survive, so come October you’ll be able to visit us at Ginger and Baker and get heirloom pumpkins for your fall cooking and decorating.  Stay tuned…

Early morning pumpkin patch. Early morning pumpkin patch.

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