At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Designer pumpkins

Our tests of a new variety of pumpkin from Bob’s Designer Pumpkins is underway.  The sample pumpkins have been planted in three fields, each with different soil and environmental pressures. 

Field 1: Located in the Denver area, the field borders a creek.  The soil is clayey loam, and has been under cultivation since 2005.  It is expected that wildlife will be the biggest threat to pumpkin production here.  Advantages are climatic, with little wind and more moderate temperatures.  No fertilizer will be used at this field.

Field 2: Located in the Agate area, the field has sandy loam and is sheltered from the north by a windblock.  The seeds have been entrusted to an amateur gardener, who is expected to be the largest threat to pumpkin production here.  The field has been under cultivation since 2007, with at least 2 seasons of fallow preceding planting.  Fertilizer will include goat manure.

Field 3: Located in the Agate area, the field is exposed to the high winds of the Palmer Divide.  Also sandy loam, also recently fallowed, the biggest threat is expected to be the climate.  Fertilizer will include poultry manure.

In all three fields, the pumpkins have been interplanted with pulse, grain, and small vegetables. 

For those new to the story, Bob’s Designer Pumpkins are the result of 10 years of selective breeding, crossing pumpkins with various winter squashes.  The result of this open pollinated seed is a highly variable crop designed for ornamental and agrotourism markets. 

Though size, color and shape are as variable as there are differences between delicate, acorn, carnival, and other winter squashes, the designer pumpkins may be characterized as being bicolored, long stemmed, thick walled and naturally long-lasting.  Germination rates of the seed are more than 90%.

Bob Koenders, of the Backyard Bouquet Farm in Armada, Michigan, is new to the vegetable industry, having trained in agronomy and practiced floriculture.  For 30 years, he has practiced an independent agricultural consulting business, having tested more than 250,000 acres of soil for his area farmers.  He donates more than 500 pumpkins to area public schools, where he lectures on genetics and breeding.

His farm has a naturally calcium-rich ancient lakebed of level topography, loam and sandy-loam soils.  He improved his soils with potassium and phosphate, and subsurface tile drainage.  He is an advocate of no-till and minimum tillage, relying on rye grass cover crops.

10 years ago, he found volunteer pumpkins growing in a ditch nearby, aggressively competing among the maple trees and quackgrass, even out competing the rose bushes.  Impressed by their vigor, he allowed them to fruit and the pumpkins hung on vines so strong that they were supported entirely off the ground from the branches of the trees!

By autumn, he was able to identify the squashes as being crosses between pumpkins and winter squashes.  He harvested them and used them as attention grabbers at his farm stand, where they did the job well.  Demand for the pumpkins was obvious, and he began to deliberately cross his pumpkins and squashes.

All farmers might tell a similar story: it is an important lesson to keep an eye out for mutations and random selections.  From the pink grapefruit to the zinfandel grape, farmers have in the past learned to grab hold of opportunity when it comes, and we look forward to testing these amazing pumpkins.

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