Monday, June 4, 2012

Pumpkin patch dream realized

I couldn't be more proud of the American Family community garden Pumpkin Patch People. On Saturday June 2, ten people created three 100-foot unreinforced raised beds and planted hundreds of winter and summer squash and pumpkin seeds. The Pumpkin Patch People is a small group of gardeners who opted to participate in a community effort to grow squash and pumpkins for the group, and to donate to local food pantries. 


None of us has grown squash and pumpkins at this scale before. My friend Steve showed us what not to do in a 10'x10' plot. He planted three or four hills of zucchini and it took over his bed. In fact, it was Steve's experience that led to the idea of a community pumpkin patch in the first place.


Below is a photo essay of what we did, or watch the patch unfold in a minute and a half.
The ground was prepared by Community GroundWorks at the same time as preparing soil for 62 new individual plots.

Going through the box of seeds from Community Action Coalition. We had so many varieties it was hard to choose. Thanks to the seeds, the gardeners and food pantries around Madison will reap the benefits as our community pumpkin and squash patch will most certainly produce more than we can handle :)



The first step was to rake loose soil from the paths into the beds. We wanted to raise the beds and lower the paths. We will line paths with cardboard and wood mulch.

We are very fortunate that there is a huge pile of compost about 500 feet from the community garden. The compost is from the company's landscaping and is turned once a year. The company offered it to the garden. Our friend Scott brought his Bobcat tractor to help move compost into the beds to further raise them. However, we quickly realized that the tractor was compacting the soil in the bed where he drove, and the paths weren't wide enough for the tractor.
To avoid compacting the soil, the Bobcat brought compost as far as the end of each bed. One Bobcat scoop filled six wheelbarrows, so we lined three barrows up and the Bobcat driver dumped half the load into them. We then dumped the barrows and went back to refill, while others raked the compost out.
  
With the beds in place, we planted seeds. The ground was 80 degrees, and we had learned it needed to be 70+ for good seed germination. We planted three beds with many varieties in each. There was much discussion about planting in beds or hills; we did both.

We planted seven varieties of summer squash, seven winter and five different types of pumpkins. We hope this will be enough for the 38 patch participants.




The Pumpkin Patch backstory

In February, when it was cold and I was dreaming about summer, an idea was born. We knew that Community GroundWorks would return in the spring to till and prepare 62 more plots in the American Family community. But there is a lot of land available, and last year, many gardeners planted squash and other expansive plants only to find they took over the plot. 


So I proposed an idea to our volunteer steering committee - what did they think about tilling up extra land and creating a squash and pumpkin patch? Not all gardeners would want squash and pumpkins, so participants would opt in. Since this expanded beyond 10'x10' plots, the participants would work communally to prepare, plant and maintain the patch. As vegetables ripened, we would all harvest the produce, and extra would be donated to local food pantries. The group liked the idea and one person who wanted a little extra space to grow "The Great Pumpkin" volunteered to lead the "Pumpkin Patch People" committee. 


Around the same time, Community Action Coalition announced to Madison-area community gardens that they had lots and lots of seeds. I went to one of the distribution days and picked up nearly a hundred packets of seeds of summer and winter squash varieties, and many different kinds of pumpkins. We chose our varieties from these donated seeds.