It’s the perfect time to go to a pumpkin patch

The pumpkin patch at Central Christian Church on Lake Shore Drive in Waco carries thousands of pumpkins.  The patch was open until today and sells pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes.  Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
The pumpkin patch at Central Christian Church on Lake Shore Drive in Waco carries thousands of pumpkins. The patch was open until today and sells pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
By Claire Cameron

Whether you decide on a white Cinderella-shaped pumpkin or a traditional orange Jack-O’-Lantern, either makes the perfect spooky addition to any Halloween décor.

Jack-O’-Lanterns and bright orange pumpkins are a staple for Halloween decorations, and where better to find the perfect pumpkin than at a pumpkin patch?

In the fall, pumpkin patches begin popping up all across the country, and one of the biggest patches in Waco is at Central Christian Church. Central Christian Church, located on Lake Shore Drive, hosts an annual pumpkin patch and rolls in 10,000 pumpkins from Amarillo for the occasion.

“This is one of my favorite events we do all year,” said Kristen Jack associate minister at Central Christian Church. You drive down Lake Shore Drive and you can see the hill covered in pumpkins.”

Marilyn and Bob Garber own a pumpkin patch and said they are fans of the fall tradition. The Garbers’ own Silo Christmas Tree farm, just outside of Temple, and they also cart in two semi-trucks full of pumpkins and squash in every shape, size and color.

Marilyn Garber said that last year her and her husband sold 13,000 pumpkins.

“Last year, we had six acres covered in pumpkins and we sold out in four weekends,” she said.

The one thing both Jack and Garber agree on is that it’s all about the atmosphere.

“When you come here, you aren’t just buying a pumpkin. It’s an experience,” Jack said.

Marilyn Garber said they have been hosting a pumpkin patch at their farm for more than 10 years and for them it’s more about the people. Garber said she and her husband buy pumpkins from Lubbock.

“That’s where they grow the pumpkins,” Garber said. “It’s too hot to grow them further south, so we have to get them from Lubbock or Amarillo.”

Pumpkin Pyle, located in Floydada, a city near Lubbock and Amarillo, has been growing pumpkins for more than 22 years.

“It all started about with our son, Jason,” said Paula Pyle who owns the farm with her husband, Robert Pyle. “His grandfather gave him five acres of land and said, ‘You can plant anything you want on these five acres.’ So he chose pumpkins and we have been growing them ever since.” The Pyles’ own 500 acres of land and every fall they grow pumpkins, hay, corn and various specialty gourds.

“One of the most challenging things about owning a patch is raising the right amount of gourds for everyone every year,” Mrs. Pyle said.

The Pyles’ also do wholesale, which means they sell their crops to be shipped to various patches around Texas.

“Every year we almost always run out of something,” Mrs. Pyle said. “It’s about getting all the pumpkins ready for pick-up on time.”

The Pyles’ said they start planting pumpkin seeds in May and end in early June and that by the end of September most of the pumpkins are ready to be harvested.

“My favorite part about growing pumpkins are the colors,” Mrs. Pyle said. “I love when they first start coming in with their beautiful colors.”

She said her family also grows various crops year round but her favorite season is fall.

“I love Halloween,” she said. “It brings out the kid in you, and in the past few years, it’s become more family-oriented and has more family values too.”

Mrs. Pyle said growing pumpkins can be tricky in Texas, as the temperature has to be perfect.

“If it’s too cold or stays too hot for too long you’re bound to have a crop fail,” Mrs. Pyle said. “Even with one or two crops failing we always seem to have enough to pumpkins.”

Central Christian Church also offers special events. On Saturday, the church hosted Picnic in the Patch.

Marilyn Garber said she thinks pumpkins are a great way to celebrate fall and are the perfect Halloween decoration.

Garber said the way to tell if a pumpkin is good for carving is to look at the grooves of the pumpkin.

“The pumpkins that make great Jack O’ Lanterns are the very dense, heavy pumpkins,” Garber said.

Garber also said that the smaller pumpkins that weigh less than 10 pounds are also better for baking.

“You don’t want one too small to bake with, but if you can find a smaller pumpkins that’s dense with no hollow sound, those have more meat and are great for baking,” she said. “They make the best pie.”

The perfect time to get a pumpkin is late fall. Jack said that the pumpkins only last about month before they rot and only about three weeks if you carve them.