Reconsidering Pumpkins

It’s been a while since we grew pumpkins here, but I’m thinking about setting aside a garden for them next year.

We had good reasons to drop pumpkins. First of all, there are other winter squash that we like better. Second, they take up a lot space that could be used for more desirable crops. Third, they take a long time to mature, giving squash bugs plenty of time to kill them and leaving me wondering whether we could keep them alive long enough for a harvest. But most of all there isn’t a market for them here except as decorations and jack-o-lanterns. Sure a few people might eat them, but very few. And I like growing food, not decorations. So, we quit growing them years ago.

Overย the past couple of years I’ve considered putting in a large pumpkin patch and allowing families to come out and pick their own Halloween pumpkins. That seems a popular thing to do these days. But I never acted on that. We’d need another rider on our insurance if we did it and I’m not sure I could supervise such a thing and take care of the other farm duties too. So that idea is tabled for now.

But, as I said to begin this, I’m considering putting in a patch this year. But if I do my plan is to plant them, then do nothing else. They’ll be on their own–no cultivating, no irrigating, no deer exclusion, no squash bug patrols. I have a large garden area that I’d decided to take out of production because we can’t keep deer out of it. Maybe I’ll plant it in pumpkins and if the deer eat the plants, no great loss. If the pumpkins mature, then we’ll takeย whatever we don’t want or can’t sell (and since I won’t be trying to time them to Halloween I don’t expect we’d sell many) and feed them to the pigs.

Just a thought for now, but maybe worth a few hours as an experiment.

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25 comments on “Reconsidering Pumpkins

  1. Our pigs love any kind of pumpkins or squash. Although we feed primarily a natural feed from a local feed store, they sure love their “treats.” Recently, we got a pallet of honeydew melons that had gone bad and they have been having those for variety along with the hog food.

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    • Bill says:

      During the season our pigs get a lot of great stuff–watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, etc. But I’ve never grown anything for the specific purpose of feeding it to them. The pumpkin idea just came to me as I was browsing a seed catalog. We have a large area that would be easy and inexpensive to plant. And the pigs would definitely enjoy the pumpkins. So I think I’ll give it a shot this year.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    Is there any chance that having a free pass at the pumpkin patch would keep the deer away from less easily accessible things? Hard to predict, I’m sure. There’s a bit of a market here for the smaller pie pumpkins. They seem to sell as well as other squashes, but that may be just a quirk of our market. I haven’t used canned pumpkin in several years.

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    • Bill says:

      Before this year I would have told you that deer don’t eat squash plants (as they’d never done it before). But unfortunately for us I learned that in fact they do. Nevertheless, squash plants aren’t their favorites, so pumpkins as a trap crop probably won’t work. But if it does, that will suit me fine.

      Summer squash sells very well here and is an important part of our traditional regional food culture. Winter squash less so. Pumpkins, hardly at all. I don’t recall having ever eaten it when I was growing up, or knowing of anyone who grew them. I’m sure we’ll sell a few, as people are now discovering pumpkin bread and that pies taste better if the pumpkin doesn’t come out of a can, but I’d venture that 99% of the pumpkins sold in this area for for jack-o-lanterns or other decorations.

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  3. Buffy says:

    My chickens love pumpkins!

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  4. I love watching pumpkins grow but haven’t had much luck with them so will be interested to see how your free range pumpkins do. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      I grew some several years ago and I agree that it’s fun to watch them grow. I remember that by the time I picked them they were covered in squash bugs, but that hadn’t stopped them from maturing. Hopefully we’ll have that kind of result again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Scott says:

    I tried Dill’s Atlantic Giant “on their own” last year and they didn’t fare well. Too dry I think. But my green and white bottleneck squash-looking things (can’t remember the name for the life of me…) grew like gangbusters after I tossed one in the compost the fall before. Too bad I had to move the whole pile and kill the plants to put up my woodshed.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s always interesting to see what volunteers in the compost pile. Often the plants look so good I hate to turn the pile!

      My plan is to till the garden and make the rows. Then I’ll just plant the seeds and forget about that garden till fall. All I’ll have invested are the cost of a few packs of seeds and a little of my time.

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  6. I think you might be onto something with pumpkins for pigs. I’m planning to sow pumpkin, turnip and corn in my pig paddock this spring. And as mentioned above, my chickens love them too. And you know how the rule works – if you ignore them and leave them to chance like that, they’ll thrive, the deer will ignore them and the bugs will invade everything else ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      That’s what I’m hoping for. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’ve thought about sowing food crops in the pig paddock, but I figured the pigs would eat them/root them up before they were mature. Something quick like turnips might work for us, but I suspect they’d eat the pumpkins as soon as they were starting to form. Still, I like the idea. Maybe I’ll buy an extra packet of seeds and try that too.

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  7. avwalters says:

    We’re considering pumpkins (unprotected) for the low lying areas. We had great luck with them in Two Rock– carving pumpkins (for the kids), french “Cindrella” pumpkins, and, my favorite, the small sugar, or pie, pumpkins. They seemed to do better than the other squashes with squash bugs (thicker skin, maybe?) We’re not big fans of most winter squashes, but do bake pies and pumpkin bread–so we use them. We’ll continue with the delicata in the fenced garden, but give the pumpkins a run, if they can fend for themselves.

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    • Bill says:

      Our experience has been that winter squashes handle squash bug pressure better than summer squash. We grow a lot of winter squash–acorn, butternut, spaghetti, delicata–but just haven’t been bothering with pumpkins. If it turns out that they can survive without any effort from us, I’ll put them into the permanent rotation, as pig food if nothing else. They spread so rapidly I’m not too worried about weed pressure. Rainfall will be important since I’m not going to irrigate them. And it will be up to them to make themselves unappealing to the deer and squash bugs. We’ll see…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dani says:

    Bill – Any alpaca owners near you? They will be of great assistance to you if there are.

    I’m going to do a posting in a couple of weeks which may interest you ๐Ÿ™‚

    This year my pumpkins / butternut / marrows took up no space at all – just be patient – I’ll show you why. I’m blown away with the success of my experiment.

    In the meantime – I reckon you should go ahead, order pumpkins and butternut… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  9. Dani says:

    P.S. Orange and dark green veggies are vital for the underprivileged – gives them important “easy” nutrients that they would normally not have access to and with which they can supplement their mainly maize (mealie meal) diet.
    Plus, they’re easy to dehydrate if necessary. Over here they’re kept in their skins (i.e. as they’re harvested) and placed on a tin roof exposed to the sun. That way they last most of winter – even in rainy weather. I’m sure if you ensured the pumpkins were properly dry after picking you could store them in an airy barn quite successfully.

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    • Bill says:

      Most folks around here wouldn’t know what to do with a pumpkin. And our experience has been that telling them it’s good for them doesn’t necessarily increase sales. ๐Ÿ™‚ But we’ll see what happens. If pumpkins become big sellers for us I’ll be delighted.

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  10. If you have a place for them, go for it. I like pumpkins for decorations and then, we roast the seeds. Seems like a lot for what is mostly a snack, but that’s our favorite use for the pumpkins. I have three sitting on my counter waiting to get seeds out after the holidays and roasted on a cold winter day. I picked them up at our local farmer’s market because my pumpkin plant gave it up this year. Sigh. We know all about squash bug patrol. I swear they like the pumpkins best. Good luck!

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    • Bill says:

      We have one garden that is just too difficult to keep deer out of, so I decided to quit tending it. But it’s already prepped so I might as well give it one more go. I like the pumpkin idea because it requires little effort.

      We roast squash seeds and enjoy snacking on them too. Good stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. Sue says:

    Excellent thought to use as pig food.
    Any pumpkins that “wander” outside my fenced area are always destroyed by deer, and yet I see lots of farms around here with fields full of them undisturbed. Maybe the deer like mine for reasons I can’t fathom, but I wish I could put that tangly mess somewhere OUT of my garden. Ah well…….
    Merry Christmas to you folks

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    • Bill says:

      There’s a high probability that my pumpkin experiment will do nothing other than feed deer. Tonight when I came home (from an unsuccessful hunt) there was a deer standing in the garden eating our Asian greens (notwithstanding my baited, electrified double fence). Gets really old seeing things like that.

      Oh well, wishing a very merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  12. Dearest Bill,
    That sounds like a worthwhile try.
    Yesterday, over tea, husband Pieter was telling me how as a child they had to rake the acorns together for feeding them to the pigs. They loved them. I love the idea that whatever nature produces, doesn’t go to waste.
    Merry Christmas!
    Mariette

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    • Bill says:

      I still do that. ๐Ÿ™‚ There are some oaks in the pasture so our pigs have acorns, but I like to rake up a big bucket of them from elsewhere every now and then and pour them into their feed trough. They do love acorns!

      All best wishes for a very merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

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