I can’t help but smile and fall in love when I see beautiful, orange pumpkins! I have been growing them, or trying to, since I was about seven years old.
Until now, the biggest problems with growing pumpkins or “Halloween-usable” squash, were squash bug and squash vine borer. I have experience growing them in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. But now I have added pickleworm to the mix here in Mississippi! So I have three insect pests working against me. Colorado State University has a nice publication on squash bug (Anasa tristis)
The best luck I ever had with pumpkins in Oklahoma was the year they sprouted in the compost pile from the previous year’s jack-o-lanterns…and in March no less! I think getting ahead start a few months before I would normally plant pumpkins gave them a better fighting chance when squash bug and squash vine borer arrived. Of course it was also the ONLY year out of six that we had RAIN!
In Arkansas I used to slit my vines when I saw frass (sign) at entrance holes and splitting from squash vine borer. Actually, I usually see the wilting leaves (symptom) first and know that something is up. Especially when plants perk back up in the evening. I would carefully remove any borers and squash them, and then cover the injured area with soil. I haven’t been doing it that way for a while, but I do try to build up some soil at leaf/vine junctions to encourage more roots to absorb water and nutrients. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has a publication on squash vine borer with color photos.
To grow pumpkins organically you really need to be vigilant. ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) has a great publication that is free to download online. Once I spot the first squash bugs, I keep a bucket filled with soapy water and handpick all life stages with my giant, plastic tweezers, dropping each bug into the bucket to die. You need to check at least every other day if not daily to remove adults, juveniles and eggs.
One thing I have read, that I will need to be sure to do because of pickleworm, is to remove and destroy all cucumber and squash vines this fall. The University of Florida has a really good page on pickleworm.
If you grow pumpkins organically, I tip my hat to you!
All images and text copyright Haunt My Town, 2014