Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
You’ve probably heard the joke that it’s time for pumpkin flavored everything. But my pumpkin patch is no joke. It’s a big contributor to my income. Different criteria come into play in deciding whether a crop is worth growing – cost, ease of growing, market demand, space, and weather risks. Pumpkins and winter squash mostly weigh in on the plus side. One negative is they require a lot of space, but that means they are perfect for my larger per-urban plot. The big headache to growing them is weather risk. Every year is a battle with the FFF – First Fall Frost.
Right now I have 7 SPIN segments planted (a total of 7,000 square feet). The plot is about a half hour from my home base.
It’s too big to cover with row cover, so the crop just has to tough it out as the temperature drops. There are about 500 pumpkins and winter squash in the plot now, widely varying in size. If the current weather holds until the end of the month, my expected yield is 3,000 – 4,000 lbs. Varieties include Cinderella, Boston Marrow and Pink Jumbo.
I harvest them and then put them into storage. All of my sales are direct market. Chefs will buy whole large heirloom pumpkins for around $25 each. I price smaller ones between $5 and $20 for sale at the farmer’s market. I also cut up the largest ones, and sell by the slice. That way I can make $30 + per pumpkin. So there are a lot of different ways to make money from this crop. Jack-o-lanterns isn’t one of them.
The one downside to growing pumpkins for Wally is he has to hope Mother Nature delivers a treat rather than a trick.