With fall in the air and Halloween just weeks away, it’s pumpkin picking time here at my farm!
I have a large pumpkin and winter squash patch that's planted in early June every year. My gardeners and I plant lots and lots of pumpkin seeds - many from our favorite seed companies, and some from interesting and tasty fruits I’ve enjoyed in years past. By late September and early October, they're ready to be harvested. Ryan and Wilmer were busy picking pumpkins this week ahead of some expected heavy rain.
Take a look at our bounty and enjoy these photos.
This year, we planted the pumpkin patch on the far side of the vegetable garden down by the chicken yard. This area is spacious and receives lots of full sun. The large leaves cover over most of the cucurbits as they form, so it is hard to see the beauties underneath.
However, at the end of the growing season, when the foliage on the vines begins to wither and turn brown, all the pumpkins and squashes become quite visible.
Wilmer cut each one off its vine using a sharp pair of garden clippers, trying to keep as much of the stem intact as possible.
The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word ‘pepon’ which means large melon. The pumpkin is a cucurbit, a member of the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupes. There are so many different varieties.
This ribbed, flat pumpkin is ‘Musque de Provence’ a thick, deep orange pumpkin with moderately sweet flesh.
We have such a wonderful variety, including traditional orange pumpkins for Halloween. The long green one is called ‘Naples Long’. The skin is a deep green, and the flesh is bright orange. This variety can weigh up to 50-pounds. Its flavor is rich and very sweet.
‘Hooligan’ pumpkins weigh less than a pound each and are deeply ribbed with long, dark green handles. They have an excellent sweet pumpkin flavor which is slightly nutty.
“Munchkins’ are productive mini pumpkins that are popularly used for decorating.
Wilmer lined the wheelbarrow with a packing blanket and carefully placed each pumpkin inside, never lifting by the stem to avoid breakage. The green oddly shaped one is called a ‘Triamble’, an unusual, triangular, blue-skinned fruit weighing up to 12-pounds.
Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June – we planted ours June 9th. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow. The seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
Ryan is careful not to injure the rind as decay fungi will attack through the wounds.
These white pumpkins are called ‘Valenciano’. They are slightly ribbed, with a smooth white skin, and thick, orange flesh suitable for pies.
This is a ‘Green Striped Cushaw’ – striking green and white striped fruits that are great for cooking.
This is ‘Sunlight’- an eye-catching four to six pound yellowish pumpkin.
Ryan and Wilmer are pleased with how productive the pumpkin patch was this year. Ryan is holding a ‘Knuckle Head’ pumpkin – a large fruit with numerous warts – a must for Halloween.
I like to leave multiple stems on the pumpkins whenever possible. I think this helps them last longer, and I like the way they look.
Several loads of pumpkins and squash were taken to my carriage house in our new Polaris Ranger. The big white pumpkin is ‘Polar Bear’. It retains its color after maturity in the field, at market, and in decorative displays.
Ryan lined a section of the carriage house floor with newspaper, and categorized the harvest by type and edibility.
Pumpkins are a good source of nutrition. They are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. They are also loaded with vitamins A, B and potassium.
Wilmer wiped down all the pumpkins with a damp cloth.
Always choose winter squash that is rich and deep in color. The skin should be dull and matte. Shiny skin on squash may indicate it still needs time to mature.
This is a mix of butternut squash, honey nut squash, and spaghetti squash. The big fruits on the right with tapered ends and bumpy, blue-green, hard shells are ‘Blue Hubbards’. They are medium-dry, and medium-sweet, with yellow flesh.
Ryan carefully spaced all the fruits, and made sure all were clean and intact.
We grow many pumpkins and squash from heirloom seeds. Heirlooms are old-time varieties, open-pollinated instead of hybrid, and saved and handed down through multiple generations of families.
Modern pumpkins grow commercially in the United States, China, Mexico, and India. Farmers in the United States grow more than a billion pounds annually, with Illinois growing the most.
We also grow many ornamental gourds. They come in a mix of shapes and are perfect for decorating. The colors can range from cream and yellow to green and bicolored.
Pumpkins and winter squash come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors!
Look at our wonderful bounty. Let me know how productive your pumpkin and winter squash crops are this year.
Early fall is a great time to start on all those lawn maintenance chores.
Here at my farm, my outdoor grounds crew is busy edging all the interior roads, so they look crisp and clean - it's a task we do at least once a year. Edging the lawn can be done manually with a variety of spades, but depending on the size of the yard, it can become quite time-consuming. Rotary edgers, powered by gasoline or electricity, reduce the time it takes to complete the job - these machines feature a spinning blade that cuts through turf as the edger is pushed along the grass border. We edge the roads with a Little Wonder Power Edger. It works really well for creating that beautiful, smooth edge.
Here are some photos of our process.
I have four miles of gravel covered carriage road at my farm. We have several big events coming up on the calendar, so it’s a good time to edge the roads – it can take several days to complete. This section of road is ready to be edged.
This is such a handy tool – it is my Little Wonder gas powered edger – a single purpose machine used to make good, crisp lines along the edges of garden beds and lawns.
Power edgers are easy to use – just line up the edger blade on the turf side of the road, and turn it on. On this gas powered machine, one has to pull a cord to start the motor.
It’s always important to wear safety glasses, long pants and closed shoes to avoid injury from any flying debris – edgers can cause small stones to fly up to nearly 10-feet.
The blade is about 10-inches long, which cuts a very clean edge. Here it is protected by a metal cutter head that can also prevent some of the debris from flying.
The blade can be adjusted to a cutting depth of up to four-inches.
My outdoor grounds crew foreman, Chhiring, keeps both hands on the edger handle at all times when it is running. Here he is guiding the machine slowly along the carriage road, keeping the blade tight against the paved surface, so it cuts through the earth.
Chhiring listens to the edger to guide the speed. The machine works harder when cutting through turf and is generally quieter when it finishes.
Here is the finished line made by the edger – so clean and crisp. This task can also be done manually with a spade, but with the amount of roads that need edging around the farm, it is a lot easier to use our Little Wonder.
The important thing is to focus on staying in line with the turf – one of the biggest problems among homeowners is that they go too low and ignore the line they are following.
Once a section has been edged, pull up any existing vegetation between the cut edging line and the lawn.
Pete uses a basic paddle hoe. It has a six-inch blade on a 52-inch wooden handle attached with a goose-neck for better alignment.
The hoe has a blade set at approximately a right angle to the handle, and easily draws the soil out from the edge – it looks so beautiful and clean.
Chhiring uses mason’s twine and a stake to mark perfect lines wherever the carriage roads are straight.
He lines up the twine where the edger should go – orange makes it easy to see against the grass.
Then he lines up the edger again, and continues to edge along the road.
Here is Pete following along with the hoe to pull out the cut turf.
Once a section of old grass has been pulled from the edge of the road, Pete rakes up the clippings for the compost pile.
It looks so wonderful now.
This is the road leading into the woodlands – all edged. The roads are about 12-feet wide, which is what it should be after any overgrowth is removed.
And another finished road down behind the chicken coops.
Here is the boxwood allee – a favorite spot for guests. I am so proud the boxwood has done so well over the years. Edging the carriage roads just gives this area a beautiful finishing touch. Remember, it’s all in the details!
It was a crisp, beautiful autumn day - just perfect for a wedding at my Maine home on Mount Desert Island.
Last weekend, my gardener at Skylands, Mike Harding, married his fiancee, Christina. Mike asked me some time ago if he could have the wedding at my house. Mike has worked with me for more than 13-years, so I was delighted with the idea.
He and Christina planned a small and intimate event with their immediate families and closest friends. They also planned to do all the arrangements and preparations themselves - everything from cooking the food to making the table centerpieces. It was quite an undertaking, but the results were nothing short of beautiful. Enjoy these photos.
This garden is on the property of an old house I recently bought in Maine right near Skylands. It was the perfect venue for Mike’s wedding.
Mike gathered all the woodland elements for his centerpieces – sphagnum moss, pincushion moss, haircap moss, and reindeer moss. All these were, of course, returned to the woods after the ceremony. He also used willow branches. Mike said while preparing for the wedding, he utilized all the skills he’s learned working for me over the years – they came in very handy.
All the moss, branches and pink granite rocks and stones were placed in galvanized metal planter inserts we had not used for a long time.
Mike also used spruce branches to add more texture and height to the arrangements.
Each of the three centerpieces took about an hour to complete.
They look so beautiful with battery operated fairy lights weaved through the willow branches – one centerpiece for each of the three eight-foot long tables.
Mike also made an arbor out of a felled white cedar tree. The uprights are eight feet tall, and each of these cross bars is about two and half feet long.
He built it in a corner near the garden, so it would be easier to transport to the actual ceremony location.
The arbor weighed more than 100-pounds when it was complete. When it was time to move it, Mike screwed 2x4s on the front and back to use as supports. He didn’t want anything to happen to it during its 150-foot trip to the garden’s center.
Mike borrowed 24 teak chairs from the property, and carefully moved them from storage to the site.
Mike’s friend, Scott LaForge, helped set-up the chairs the evening before the wedding.
That day before the wedding was a little drizzly, but it didn’t last long, and preparations moved very smoothly.
The day of the wedding was perfect – low 60s, dry and sunny. Here is a simple yet beautiful setting overlooking Seal Harbor.
I had recently hosted a gathering in the carriage house of my stable, so it was already suited for a reception. Mike set-up the three tables to make one long one – I love this room with all the wonderful large windows looking out onto my vegetable and flower gardens.
This is a red maple tree that had to be cut down. Mike repurposed the top to decorate the reception space. He and Scott woke up very early on the day of the wedding and “planted” it in a bucket of pink granite pea stone.
Mike and Christina prepared this platter of bites. It included various cheeses, salami, fruit, blackberries, grapes, and nuts. Mike says they are still enjoying the leftovers.
The actual ceremony was casual and non-traditional. Christina’s children, Rylee and Dylan, served as maid of honor and best man.
The officient was Jennifer McWain. She is also the town clerk for the Northeast Harbor. Mike has known her for years and was thrilled to know she was available to perform the ceremony.
The couple planted an azalea in this vessel as part of the wedding.
They kept the rings on the azalea as they added soil to the pot. They then removed the rings and exchanged their personal vows.
Here is a lovely photo taken at the moment Mike and Christina became husband and wife.
Christina baked her own wedding cake – a classic white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. Mike set up two planting boxes upside down for the cake platform. If you look closely, you can see part of one of my horse carriages on the right. It’s a Bar Harbor buckboard carriage. In the 1900s, these were designed for use by hotels as beach wagons during the holiday season.
Here are Mike, Christina and his parents, Bill and Betty – the first of many family pictures.
Each table sat eight. Christina found all the table setting pieces herself from shopping online and in local shops.
These are Mike’s longtime best friends – Art Gowie, Ryan Corliss, and Scott LaForge.
Here is Scott putting wood under the lobster cooker right outside the garden shop. On top is a large galvanized wash basin that can cook many lobsters at a time.
The table lights were turned on just before the wedding ceremony, so when everyone arrived at the carriage house, this is what all the guests saw first – a beautiful table lit up for the special occasion.
This photo was taken in the pagoda next to the overlook garden. Mike and Christina are looking out over Seal Harbor towards Little Cranberry Island. Christina also created her own bouquet out of dahlias and hydrangeas picked at Skylands.
Congratulations Mike and Christina – I wish you all the very best.