These pumpkin "patches" range from orange orbs displayed on beds of hay to gorgeous globes just plucked from the vine. Some of the patches feature corn mazes, hayrides and farm animals. But what they all have to offer is a festive autumn experience that celebrates the bountiful harvest of fall.
Location: 7250 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
Pumpkin Patch Opens: Mid-September
Hours: 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
More Information: 625-6219, www.ebfarm.com
This farm stand features organically grown produce with 50 unique varieties of pumpkins and squash available throughout the fall. For those looking for something beyond the standard orange jack, Earthbound Farm breeds many of their own varieties. Offerings include blue pumpkins, pink pumpkins, striped pumpkins and Italian pumpkins.
"A lot of our varieties are edible and delicious," said farmer Mark Marino. "They make lovely pies."
Attractions include gravity-defying pumpkin totems, organic specialty foods prepared in their certified organic kitchen and an abundance of fresh autumn produce. Don't miss their Harvest
HACIENDA HAY AND FEED HALLOWEEN MAZE TUNNEL
Location: 7180 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
Pumpkin Patch Opens: October 1
Hours: 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
More Information: 624-5119, www.haciendahay.com
"These pumpkins don't look like pumpkins you buy at the grocery store — they come in all shapes and sizes," said Tom Zobel, store manager. All pumpkins at Hacienda Hay and Feed are brought in from Swank Farms in Hollister. There is a farm-fresh produce stand with scarecrows, gourds and stuffed witches and attractions include a small maze tunnel for kids and a petting zoo that includes a donkey, giant tortoises, pot-belly pigs, goats, sheeps, rabbits, chickens, ducks and, of course, turkeys.
Location: Highway 68 at Spreckels Boulevard, between Spreckels and Salinas
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
More Information: 455-2575, www.thefarm-salinasvalley.com
One of the best things about this pumpkin patch is that the pumpkins are grown right there in the Salinas Valley where they are sold, so visitors can get the true farm experience. "You will even be able to see the vines," said Sarah Smith, the farm manager. They grow white pumpkins, green pumpkins, grey pumpkins, minis and all shapes and sizes. You can also find a good selection of winter squash and gourds. Smith said they charge by the pound and they probably have the lowest prices around.
The Farm has a demonstration farm and offers tours with hayrides, which must be scheduled in advance. A Fall Festival will take place on Oct. 17, with a pumpkin race, hayrides and puppet shows. Also, The Farm will celebrate Apple Day on Oct. 3, with an educational talk by local apple grower Hank Van Broklin on how to maintain apple trees.
CARDINALE PUMPKIN PATCH
Location: Monterey County Fairgrounds, Gate 7
Pumpkin Patch Opens: October 1
Hours: 11 a.m. to dusk Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to dusk weekends
More Information: 373-2871
"If people are looking for a pumpkin variety they've never seen, we can surprise them," said owner Vince Cardinale. "We have all sizes, from the mini up to 150 pounds, and many different varieties. We have more specialty pumpkins than most people."
The pumpkins are brought in from a farm in Morgan Hill and include several unique varieties, such as the greenish Jarrahdale, the white Lumina, the coachshaped Cinderella and the aptly named Flying Saucer, Turk's Turbin and Little Warty Thing. Kids can explore the autumn-themed barn decked out with ghoulish surprises. Cardinale also offers delivery service.
BORCHARD FARMS GIANT PUMPKINS
Location: 142 Rodgers Road (off Espinosa Road), Salinas
Pumpkin Patch Opens: September 18
Hours: 12-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 12-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
More Information: 594-5991, 449-1062 or email: email@example.com
Borchard Farms is known for its giant pumpkins. "We're the biggest — we have the most giant pumpkins of anywhere else in the area. Sizes range from 1,000 pounds down to a pumpkin that will fit in your hand," said Tom Borchard, the owner. Borchard Farms also specializes in custom-carved "logo pumpkins." They will engrave a pumpkin with the name of a business or family or anything else you want.
Entertainment for the kids includes a haunted barn, a bounce house and a five-acre corn maze. There will be a variety of farm animals, including chickens, pheasants, ducks, geese, quail, doves, bunnies and turkeys.
Borchard Farms is the host of the Annual Cal-State Pumpkin Weigh-Off, which will take place this year on Oct. 17. "Growers from all over the state come to this competition," said Borchard. "Last year the heaviest pumpkin weighed in at 1,350-something pounds."
CRYSTAL BAY FARMS
Location: 40 Zils Road, Watsonville
Pumpkin Patch Opens: October 3
Hours: 10 a.m.-Sunset, every day
More Information: 724-4137, crystalbayfarm.com
Sitting on a knoll above Monterey Bay, Crystal Bay Farms offers awesome views. The farm has been organically certified for 12 years. It features 40 different pumpkin varieties including heirloom pumpkins, bountiful winter squash, an abundance of other fresh produce and culinary delights. Many of the pumpkins you find here still have part of the vine attached.
"People say they love us because we have a really great variety, available right here on the farm where we grow them," said farmer/owner Lori Fiorovich. "We're not the biggest or fanciest, but we're the quaintest and cutest. You won't find a bouncy house here-just good down-home farm living." Farm animals such as goats, ponies, chickens and bunnies will be on display and farm tours are available.
How to Make Your Jack-O-Lantern Last till Halloween
Everyone is familiar with crumple-faced, moldy pumpkins rotting on the porch. But if you follow a few simple tips, you can increase the chances that your Jack-O-Lanterns will stand fresh and firm come All Hallow's Eve.
- Start with choosing the freshest pumpkins available — avoid those with soft spots and look for pumpkins that have solid, green stems.
- Etching designs into the surface will make the pumpkin last longer than actually cutting into it. If you choose this method, you can spray the surface with an acrylic finish spray (available at art supply stores) to "seal" it.
- Once you carve your pumpkin, spray it inside and out with a mild bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach: 1 quart water). This will kill and inhibit any mold, mildew or bacterial growth.
- Coat all cut surfaces with Vaseline petroleum jelly. Wipe off any excess with a paper towel. This will help to prevent the pumpkin from drying out.
- Keep your pumpkins cool and out of direct sunlight. Refrigerating them will help them last as long as possible.
- Don't light candles inside your pumpkin before the big night. The heat created by the flame will accelerate fungal and bacterial growth.
- The best way to ensure that your Jack will greet trick-ortreaters proudly from your porch is to wait to carve it until as close to Halloween as possible.
Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.