Rupp Seeds began breeding pumpkins about 25 years ago and veteran vegetable sales consultant, Barry Rupp, has been here that entire time and then some. Barry is passionate about pumpkins and he offers up the following "Tips for Success for the Novice Pumpkin Grower" or they could also be known as "Reminders for Success for the Experienced Pumpkin Grower". Regardless of your experience in raising pumpkins, here are nine helpful suggestions, listed in no particular order:
If rootworm, phytophthora and other soil diseases are holding you back, you may want to review your crop rotation. Crop rotation is critical in achieving a top pumpkin crop. An ideal scenario would be to only plant pumpkins in a given field every five to seven years. Additionally, planting your pumpkins following wheat would be best. This helps to reduce and possibly even prevent soil diseases and pest infestations. Use caution when planting pumpkins after corn or soybeans as that can increase the likelihood of higher rootworm populations and phytophthora, which will be detrimental to the crop. If you don’t have adequate acreage to rotate every 5-7 years, we suggest waiting a minimum of three years before growing pumpkins in the field.
Produce a more abundant and consistent crop and reduce disease pressure by using the correct plant spacing for each variety. Planting a full vine variety too close can increase disease pressure. Diseases like powdery mildew or fruit rot can become more prevalent when the vine foliage does not have adequate space for air movement to aid in removing moisture in the plant canopy. Planting too closely will also affect fruit size and yield by holding too much heat in the field and restricting the ability for pollinators to do their job. It also impedes insecticide and fungicide effectiveness by restricting spray penetration. Every pumpkin we sell is given a spacing category that correlates with row width, distance between plants and plants per acre recommendations.
The biggest problem I hear about concerning insect and disease control is when growers are using the same product in repeated applications. Rotate your insecticide and fungicides based on their mode of action and NOT just brand name or active ingredient. Remember scouting is one of your best tools. For chemical recommendations, consult the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide.
Pollinators can have a significant effect on pumpkin yield. I have heard it can take 14 – 17 visits by a pollinator (bees, etc.) in order for a flower to be fully pollinated. Scout your fields in the morning and if you don’t see or hear bees, I recommend bringing in 1 hive of bees per acre.
Make sure you know your target market before selecting which hybrids you want to grow. Most retail markets will accept a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors, where wholesale markets tend to have more specific requirements around bin count, size, shape, color and handle.
Vine crops typically perform better on well-drained sandy soils. The heavier the soils, the greater the importance of drainage. When a pumpkin is ripe, any rain that gets taken up by the plant is deposited into the seed cavity, which may lead to and even speed up the process of fruit rot.
Beneficial bacteria in the soil, or added at planting time, will colonize on the roots and improve root and plant health which will help the plant handle stress (i.e. – drought or excessive water) later in the season. Consider using a product like Naturall™ to boost your plant health from the start.
Multiple plantings are necessary when growing pumpkins with different maturities. If you plant a late maturing variety and choose to also plant an early variety on the same day, the early variety usually ripens way too early for your market and will likely rot before you harvest. Consult our Pumpkin Planting/Harvesting Timing Chart” to assist you with your planting dates so that your pumpkins mature when your market requires.
Soil testing can’t be emphasized enough. Know what is already in your soil, and what you need to add. For invaluable information of this, see the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide.
Putting these tips into action in your fields is sure to have a positive impact on your production. Giving you more, high quality pumpkins to make available to your customers.