TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — A local agritourism business is getting ready to open for the season.
Co-Owner and President of Exploration Acres, Tim Fitzgerald, said they’ve had to overcome some challenges this year. They planted everything on schedule, but it was very dry before and after they planted.
Fitzgerald said the farm received little to no rain in June and July. Because of that, Exploration Acres was not able to have the sunflower maze this year.
“Two things happened because we had problems with germination and then a lot of the chemicals we put down to suppress weed growth, they’re called pre-emergent, they did not work,” said Fitzgerald. crop that came up and used the nutrients in the soil, so we ended up having to spray our entire sunflower maze and kill it.”
Fitzgerald said there were also germination issues with the pumpkin patch. After he planted the pumpkins, two-and-a-half weeks passed and still nothing was up.
“I made the decision to install our 10 miles of drip irrigation early that we put out every year just an insurance in case we have a real dry growing season,” said Fitzgerald. “But we had to use it to germinate the pumpkin plants. “
It was a good thing Fitzgerald made that decision as conditions remained dry.
“It was kind of a bizarre year for us,” Fitzgerald said. “But the pumpkins are about two or two-and-a-half weeks behind schedule, but Mother Nature has a way of trying to catch-up.”
Fitzgerald says just as a safety measure, the first weekend Exploration Acres is open in September they would like to advice people to stay out of the pumpkin patch.
“We are going to let people know right now that in September in that first week, we’re probably just going to encourage people to stay out of the pumpkin patch and not go into it until the second week of September and then all of October said Fitzgerald. “It will just give those plants as much time as possible to remain healthy and finish off the crop for us so that we’ve got a lot of mature pumpkins available.”
Fitzgerald said while there’s no sunflower maze this year, he’s thankful to have the pumpkin patch and corn maze ready to go.
“While we were dealing with the sunflowers and pumpkins trying to keep those crops alive, we had some fox tail and timothy creep up in our corn maze.”
As far as the 23 acre corn maze, Fitzgerald says it’s ready to go right now. He’s pleased with how it turned out, despite some issues they had to overcome.
“While we were dealing with the sunflowers and pumpkins trying to keep those crops alive, we had some fox tail and timothy creep up in our corn maze,” said Fitzgerald. “When it was about two foot tall we went back there and couldn’ t believe it because the chemicals there did not work that were supposed to suppress the weeds.”
Fitzgerald said the 23 acre maze is finally in good shape, but it took a lot of spraying.
“We had to literally go in and start spraying, so we spent about two-and-a-half weeks with an ATV hand-spraying those with a wand. About 15 of the 23 acres had to be sprayed by hand down in between rows , in the paths in order to kill the grass to reclaim the maze.”
Exploration Acres is well-known for its complex corn maze, which has a specific theme each year. This year the theme for the corn maze is zombies.
“It’s kind of like what a Scooby-Doo zombie would look like,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ve got a female and a male zombie in there and we have a zombie hand coming out of the earth.”
With opening day quickly approaching, Fitzgerald said they’re looking forward to a great season.
“Things are returning to normal at Exploration Acres after COVID and after this drought for certain,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re definitely going to have the corn maze and the pumpkins as usual this year.”