If you’re a gardener, you know as well as we do that it can be full of surprises! For example, we’ve shared with you about the surprising amusement of the accidental, ever-growing Jack-Be-Little pumpkin patch in our gardens, on our social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and gave you a peek of it at the time. So we thought maybe you’d be interested in reading the short tale, and know what fruits that came of that accidental Jack-Be-Little pumpkin patch, in the end!
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The Pumpkin Patch Madness……
The photo above is the ever-growing patch in progress in our gardens, and frankly, as shown here, it wasn’t nearly done taking over….well, almost everything!
You could say it got out of control. But then, that’s what pumpkin patches of any kind do. They need ample rambling room. And if you don’t give it to them, they’ll just go head and take it!
What in the Heck?!….
We first saw it started in one of our raised beds. To be honest, we actually weren’t even sure exactly what it was, when it first started growing. We thought maybe cucumbers. Then we realized, no, no, it seems to be a squash.
Next thing we knew, there was more of the same growing out of the rock path, between a different garden bed and the fence. Which was especially perplexing because we knew there was no soil under the rocks, having put landscaping cloth under all the rock paths, to prevent weeds growing. Nonetheless, that thing kept growing. And growing. It took over the area, the bed next to it, and then found it’s way under the picket fence out into the driveway!
The other plant that was growing in the garden bed was claiming it’s own vast territory. Not only the whole bed, but the rock paths on either side, as well as the lawn area on the far end.
Soon, we were elated to realize it was PUMPKINS! Not squash. (Can’t even tell you how relieved our kids were! 😉 ) What kind of pumpkins we were not sure at first, but soon figured out that they were Jack-Be-Littles! The most popular gourds there are. No doubt because of their cuteness-factor.
The truth is, I was initially sort of hoping they would be large pumpkins, since our actual on-purpose pumpkin patch got planted way late. (As in, too late. And my plan was definitely to get out of paying per-pound for big pumpkins this year.) But ok….Jack-Be-Little pumpkins it is! (Also known as JBL’s). HOW FUN! I always want a ton of those too, and this year, they would be FREE!
I wondered how many we were going to get, and tried more than once to count, as I snaked around the expansive patch, peeking under the jungle of leaves and vines, trying to find hidden baby pumpkins growing. I thought maybe we’d get close to 50.(?) That would be plenty enough to share with others, too!
The cute Jack-Be-Little pumpkins growing everywhere, adorned with their adorable curly little tendrils, only added to the excitement of my very favorite season on the way: Autumn/Fall. (Which do you call it?) It was definitely a healthy, thriving, accidental pumpkin patch, and watching it grow and grow was just a bonus thrill, for all of the joys that come from the on-purpose, laborous gardening intentions we strive for every year.
Although many of the Jack-Be-Little pumpkins looked ‘done’ even in early September, we wanted to keep them on the vine for as long as possible, so that they would have that nourishing lifeline to keep them going at least until it felt like Fall, and we were ready to pick them, for Fall-like decorative elements. (You can cook with them as well, by the way. We just never have. Yet, anyway.)
Jack-Be-Littles, by the way, are technically not pumpkins, but baby acorn squashes. We just like to pretend they are baby pumpkins, along with the rest of the world.
So how do you know when it is definitely time to start picking your Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins?
Well, first you’ll see your patch really start to die back. And it just keeps looking more and more dead, every day.
It’s not a pleasing sight, in the gardens you’ve worked so hard in, which have been providing you with such beauty and nourishment for months, but….it’s just time for that to happen, and the cycle of nature.
The exciting part of your patch dying back, is being able to well see all of the pumpkins you have!
For us, the Jack-Be-Littles were just…..everywhere.
More signs to look for that tells you it’s time to harvest your pumpkins….
Those curly, sweet little tendrils will have turned brown and dried up.
Also, you’ll see too that the thick vines themselves are starting to look more pale, translucent, and soft.
Well, actually this is a task I took on all by myself. It was a lot of hard work, but oh-how-satisfying!
It was an early Saturday morning. Michael and the kids were off somewhere, and although harvesting was on our agenda for the day, I was too excited to wait for them. So I just started going at it all by myself.
First, I went and found myself a big basket where I keep that kind of thing, and brought it out to the garden. Then I put on my gloves, took a pair of cutting pruners, and just started going around, cutting them off the vine. As I got so many, I gathered them up and brought them over to my basket. And I just kept going.
Now and then, I would realize my back was killin’ me. But….oh look! There’s another one! And another! And then it was time to gather them up, and bring that bunch over to the basket, too.
When cutting pumpkins of any kind off their vines, you always want to be sure you use a sharp cutting tool, and leave as much stem as possible on the pumpkin! Pumpkins not only look nicer with a nice long stem, but I believe the stem helps them last longer. It’s like their bit of umbilical cord, if you will. (If that analogy isn’t too much for you. Ha haha!)
And on and on I worked, until it appeared I had found and gathered all there was, to find and gather.
Want to see how many we got?
ONE BIGGISH BASKET WASN’T NEARLY BIG ENOUGH!
What a blessing!
Of course, the work was far from being done. I still had to go around and pull all of the vines out, cutting them as I went, to try and manage them a little easier. That was some real physical labor too, my back reminded me. But….looking over at my overflowing basket of Jack-Be-Littles, made me smile and kept me going. It was all worth it!
Michael pulled in with the kids, just about the time I was finishing up. Imagine that! It was as if he was spying on me, just waiting for me to be done! Ha haha. No, I know he was out doing other things that needed to get done. And besides, I was leaving my huge pile of dead vines for him to remove and
How To Wash and Disinfect Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins, or Other Gourds
It was later that night, that I got to the task of washing and disinfecting them, one by one. The reason for doing this is to remove any dirt or bits of the dead dried leaves that clung to them, and most especially, to remove any mold spores – visible or not. Little-pumpkin/gourd growing people have all kinds of ways they swear by, or prefer, to go about this task, to help their pumpkins/gourds last as long as possible.
Many people use bleach to wash their pumpkins/gourds. But we avoid that toxic chemical at all costs!
(Besides, it does not kill mold spores on non-pourous surfaces, as commonly believed.)
People have their various ways of washing their Jack-Be-Littles or other gourds after harvesting, but here’s how I did it:
I just filled a sink with warmish water, and added some disinfectant soap. My go-to disinfecting soap cleaner is OnGuard, by doTERRA., but you can use any kind of soap that disinfects, I would imagine. I also had a very soft cloth on hand. Adding a drop of exra soap on my soaking wet soapy cloth, I got to washing every little pumpkin well, by hand. I then rinsed them off with plain water, but I am personally carefully not to get the stem soaking wet. I placed them on a laid-out towel on the counter.
Soon though, I called the kids one at a time, to help take turns drying them by hand, and lining them up on the other counter – or I would have never had room. It was a little one-on-one quality time with each kiddo, anyway. Right? And hey, if they want lil’ pumpkins for their room, they can at least help with them a little! Makes them appreciate them more. (That’s what they say, anyway.)
It was then that we got to counting them all. Did you take a guess at how many we had grown?
In all, we had . . . .
Nice to under-guess, in cases such as this!
68 is plenty to decorate with these Fall elements indoors and out, and still have plenty to share.
We’ve got them all over the place. In this basket on the table as a centerpiece, and plenty more in a big basket by the door, for anyone who wants to take some on the way out. There are still more in the gardens near pots of Mums and hay bales, others outside by the front door, on our mantels, in the kids’ rooms, rec room and schoolroom – just everywhere.
TIP: One thing you want to be sure of, is that they are kept in places that are dry and cool. Otherwise, they will spoil quickly. That can be tricky in New England! Especially this year, when it was in the 80’s again more than a week into October!
Anyway, this gardening surprise makes me wonder if we could be this successful growing Jack-Be-Little pumpkins on purpose! I think we’ll give it a try next year, along with big ones. And some Baby Boos! (The little white ones.) Yes, we will be darn sure to plant pumpkins of all sizes and colors, all on time, next year!
Oh, and by the way, the mystery of how this accident came to be, has been solved. It seems last year, after the first frost had come and gone and the Jack-Be-Littles we had bought were done for the season and starting turn, our boys decided to have a fight or sorts, with them. Much like a balloon fight. But different. Very, very different. That would explain th accident Jack-Be-Little pumpkin patches though, huh? Nice.
Anyway, so glad you came by to let us share more of our gardening tales.
Please leave your thoughts with us!