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West Hartford's Accidental Pumpkin Patch

A Van Buren Ave. homeowner nurtures a plant that sprouted like a weed from his retaining wall, and has a crop of pumpkins to show for it.

An "Accidental Pumpkin Patch."

There's no better way to describe the vines that have taken over nearly the entire left side of Jeff Digel's driveway at the corner of Van Buren and Ellsworth.

Patch received a tip about the unusual garden from one of Digel's neighbors, and he was happy to share the history of his surprise crop.

Digel said the story began with last October's cataclysmic storm, which pretty much distracted all of West Hartford from celebrations of Halloween. The Digel's pumpkin lay forgotten.

"Last year's Halloween pumpkin rotted behind the tall grass all winter, and it had disappeared by springtime. The parent pumpkin was a storm refugee," Digel said.

"In May, I pulled into my driveway and saw what looked like a weed growing out of a 'weep hole' in my retaining wall," he said. "Two weeks later, it had giant leaves and didn't look like a weed anymore."

About three weeks after that, Digel said, it began to look like a pumpkin vine.

"By August, we could only park one car in the driveway."

He thinks a squirrel probably relocated one of the seeds from last year's pumpkin, and has no idea how such a healthy vibrant plant resulted. There's a second vine growing on his walk.

"Ironically the rhododendron plant right above the vine has been almost wiped out because the pumpkin has stolen all its nutrients," said Digel.

Digel watered the vine all summer, and even put latticework under part of it as protection from the hot asphalt of the driveway. "My TLC had zero impact, because the part of the vine that wasn't protected was just as healthy," said Digel who now believes that pumpkin vines are very hardy.

Digel said that he has harvested seven pumpkins so far. "Both of my kids are in DC, and they each insisted that we bring them one, which we did," said Digel. He's saving three in his garage for neighbors who have claimed them, and definitely plans to keep one for himself.

He's not sure what will happen next year. One neighbor, happy to share in Digel's harvest this fall, has offered to be the squirrel.

Jean Smith October 05, 2012 at 12:32 PM
My family refers to these rogue plants as "volunteers" and we make a project of nurturing them. Glad to see Digel's made it's survival a project that paid off.
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 01:01 PM
This is such a heartwarming story that epitomizes autumn. I think it would make for a great children's book!

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