October has arrived, and with it the annual pilgrimage to pumpkin patches. By prowling in fields or rummaging through bins looking for the perfect jack-o’-lantern, we’re all getting into the fall mood.

Memorable fall enjoyment is ripe for the picking at area farms, and local growers are holding annual harvest festivals that are complete with orange, grey, white, wart-filled and giant novelty pumpkins. Hop on a hay ride or test your skill at navigating a corn maze; you’ll find there’s fun for everyone at area patches.

If you plan on getting out early to pick a pumpkin, choose one that will last longer with these tips:

  • Strong stems keep the pumpkin fresh, so look for those that are fully attached to the skin.
  • Choose firm pumpkins, not mushy ones and avoid those with cuts in the skin; they’ll rot quickly.
  • Keep your pumpkin cool, not freezing or overly hot and store it away from direct sunlight. Be sure to bring it inside if frost is predicted in the local forecast.

Once your pumpkin is picked and safely at home, keep it fresh and ready for Halloween with these tips:

  • Wait to carve the pumpkin until one or two days before Halloween.
  • Scrape out the walls of the pumpkin to a thickness of 1 inch for easiest carving.
  • Immediately after carving the pumpkin, smear petroleum jelly over the interior and cut surfaces to lock moisture in.
  • Pumpkins will wilt in three days; perk yours up by soaking it in water.  Mix one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water to prevent mold from growing.

Ready to shop?  Check out these pumpkin patches near you this fall:

  • Red Wagon Farm, 7694 North 63rd St., Longmont, offers you-pick or easy-shop pumpkins, a straw bale maze, and fun meeting alpacas, llamas, goats and other animal residents of the farm.
  • 7th Generation Farm, 1536 Courtesy Rd., Louisville, hosts hay rides, pumpkin picking and a corn maze.  Check out its farm-fresh meat, eggs and honey, too.
  • Rock Creek Farm, 2005 S. 112th St., Broomfield, is full of traditional jack-o’-lantern and pie type pumpkins in one of the largest you-pick pumpkin patches in Colorado.
  • Anderson Farms, 6728 WCR 3 ¼, Erie, features farm tours, corn mazes, a zombie paintball hunt and handicapped accessible you-pick pumpkin fields.
  • Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch, 9057 Ute Highway, Longmont, is an organic pumpkin ranch to that features fun for goblins, young and old, including observing honeybees in their hive.
  • River Ranch Farms, 1220 Langston Lane, Loveland, offers pumpkin picking along the picturesque Big Thompson river, with thousands of pumpkins to browse through.
  • Munson Farms, corner of Valmont and 75th St., Boulder, is a place to go on a hayride or find classic and unusual pumpkins of white, slate blue or firehouse red.
  • Cottonwood Farm, 1535 N. 75th St., Boulder, specializes in fall fun for everyone with mazes, hay rides, pumpkins, gourds and more at this family-owned farm.
  • Find a full list of Front Range autumn events in the Daily Camera’s fall events guide.

Also, if you  are interested in helping others garden, the Colorado Master Gardener program in Boulder County is currently taking applications for its spring class. Classes run late-January through mid-April and will be held 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays. Call 303-678-6238 to receive an application or apply online at cmg.extension.colostate.edu.

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