Don't be like Linus and wait all night in the pumpkin patch for a great pumpkin to arrive -- get out and find one yourself!
York County is teeming with prolific pumpkin patches, and you can traipse among the vines to find a gorgeous gourd just for you. Pick-your-own pumpkin experiences make a perfect weekend activity for the family, and we're here to help make sure you go home with the pumpkin perfect for Halloween.
In fact, we talked to a couple of local pumpkin-picking experts, Hugh McPherson of Maple Lawn Farm and Julie Flinchbaugh of Flinchbaugh's Orchards & Farm Market, for a few helpful tips you can put to use during your next pick-your-own adventure.
So, how do you know a pumpkin is ready to be picked?
Before you pluck your pumpkin from the vine, take a few moments to inspect it. McPherson advised rolling it around to make sure it has no holes or damage. Look for a vibrant uniform color and a strong green stem. Those are sure signs a pumpkin is ready to be picked.
There's also a simple test you can use to ensure that orange oblong is ready for its next life as a jack-o-lantern.
"The pumpkin will also be firm enough that slight pressure from a fingernail will not cut the flesh," Flinchbaugh said.
Is there a proper way to pick a pumpkin?
Once you've identified your pumpkin, don't just rip it from the vine. You'll want to extract it without damaging the fruit or the plant.
"To pick from the vine, hold the stem at the top of the dark green color and gently pull the light-colored softer vines away," McPherson said.
The goal is to keep the stem as long as possible, without cutting the plant more than necessary. And once it's off the vine, don't carry it by the stem, or you might find yourself picking your splattered pumpkin off the parking lot.
Instead, Flinchbaugh suggested bear-hugging it to carry it from the patch. That'll keep it safe for sure.
Does it matter whether I want to carve it or cook it?
If it's a pie that you'd like to make, the pumpkins that make the best jack-o-lanterns probably won't make the tastiest dessert. Both McPherson and Flinchbaugh said you'll want a long-neck pumpkin instead. They have the most fruit - and it's sweeter. All the better for pumpkin pie!
If you want to make a spooky jack-o-lantern that will delight trick-or-treaters this Halloween, then your mission is clear. According to Flinchbaugh, you'll want a tall and wide pumpkin with plenty of room for cutting. The best carving pumpkins are typically 25-30 pounds and sit upright, McPherson said.
"Make sure it will sit up the way you like before you pull it from the vine," he said.
Flinchbaugh's grows a variety of pumpkins fitting that mold, including Gladiators, Magic Lanterns, Magic Wands and Aladdin pumpkins. Maple Lawn's patch explodes with more than 100,000 pumpkins in the fall, so the odds are pretty good you'll find something to fit your carving project there, too.
How should you dress for a PYO experience?
Since you'll be in the middle of a pumpkin patch, it's probably best to avoid sandals. Wear closed-toe shoes and be mindful of the vines, Flinchbaugh said.
How can I make sure my jack-o-lantern stays fresh all fall?
You'll find no fresher pumpkin than one straight from a farmer's patch.
"Pick-your-own is the only way to know that your pumpkin will have its longest life off the vine," McPherson said.
But McPherson also shared a nifty trick you can use to extend your pumpkin's haunting season. Just mix a weak chlorine solution with household bleach in a 5-gallon bucket, then dunk the entire carved pumpkin or brush the solution over the surface to keep it free of decay.
You'll need about 3 teaspoons of bleach in 3 gallons of water for the solution. It's super simple -- and ensures you won't have any sad, sagging jack-o-lanterns adorning your porch this fall.
OK, when can I actually PICK my own pumpkin?
Flinchbaugh's Pick Your Own Pumpkin Patch opens on Saturday, September 16, and will be open Monday-Saturday through October 31. The market will be stocked with ornamental pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and more decorative items. Flinchbaugh's also features its Fall Festivals every Saturday from September 23-October 21.
Maple Lawn's PYO pumpkin season starts September 23 and runs every weekend through October 29. Guests will take a hayride to the patch, where the farm likes to say pumpkins are "adopted," not just picked.
Both Flinchbaugh's and Maple Lawn's patches feature wild and crazy pumpkins of all shapes, colors and sizes. You'll even find blue, green and pink pumpkins hiding among the vines!
And keep an eye out for more PYO opportunities at Brown's Orchards & Farm Market, another great place to find the perfect pumpkin.
Let us know how your PYO adventures are going on social media. Tag posts and photos with #ExploreYorkPA to be part of the conversation.
And if you're looking for more fall adventures in York County, don't miss our list of more than 50 things to do this fall.