life on the funny farm

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guest Post for Farm Friday - How to Grow Healthy Pumpkins

As I wrote last week, I didn't have too much luck raising pumpkins this year
is it raising or growing?

That's putting it too mildly.

I failed miserably, is what I did.

Swooping in to the rescue before you can say pumpkin pie in your face is Eve Harrow.

She contacted me about writing a guest post, and as it turns out, she knows a thing or two about sustainability and all things green.

So with a minimum of begging and pleading involved on my end, she agreed to write me up a post about how to successfully raise/grow pumpkins.

Perhaps next year I'll be able to redeem myself.

And here it is....


How to Combat Pests and Grow Healthy Pumpkins

It’s a fact; pumpkins are hard to grow. Well, they’re easy to plant, and easy to feed, but if you want them to look perfect – bright, plump, orange and rounded – you’re going to need to do more than pop a seed in the ground and add water. Pumpkins take a long time to mature – around 85 to 125 days. During that time, they are vulnerable. There are many garden pests that take advantage of this and will damage – or even destroy – the plant of your orange beauties by spreading harmful bacteria and plant fungus.

The good news is, there are several organic methods you can take to prevent this damage. Hopefully, the following tips will ensure that if you’ve not had success with pumpkins before, your luck is about to change.

Grow in late season
If you plant your seeds at the beginning or middle of the season, you’ll be subjecting them to prime bug time. It’s a frequent mistake; thinking that by planting at the beginning of the season, you are allowing your pumpkins the maximum time in which to grow. In reality, it opens them up to increased risk of infection. Make sure you leave enough time before the end of the season for your pumpkins to reach full maturity, but by leaving it until the end of the high season; many of the colonies of bugs will have reached the end of their life spans. To give your pumpkins extra chance to flourish, start them off indoors so they are totally protected in their earliest days.

Pyrethrin combats squash vine borers
Pyrethrin is an organic pesticide, which can be found in many anti-insect products. The substance – harmless to humans and animals – protects the plant from squash vine borer eggs before they hatch into pesky bugs. For maximum effect, douse your entire pumpkin plant in a pyrethrin pesticide once every two days during the first week it starts to surface.

You should always keep an eye out for squash vine borers as, after the larvae are inside the plant, pesticides are much less effective. The small black and orange moths can be easily spotted grazing on the plant’s flowers, and they tend to lay their yellowish eggs at the base of plant stems. Make sure you tackle them before they get inside your pumpkin plants!

Encourage pollination
Pollination – by insects such as bees – to the plant’s flowers will aid growth of the pumpkin. You can aid this process by making sure the flowers are fully exposed. Remove protective row covers on a daily basis (first thing in the morning is the best time) and then replace again in the evening.

Prevent slugs
After squash vine borers, slugs and snails are probably the next most harmful creatures to your pumpkins. They feast on the new and tasty flesh of your pumpkins and create unsightly – and unhealthy – holes and tunnels all over the plant’s fruit. You can deter these pests by placing a layer of sand underneath your pumpkins as they appear. The dryness and blandness of the sand will keep slugs at bay and prevent them from going any nearer to your pumpkin.

Water properly
For those that farm pumpkins professionally, watering is not as easy as it sounds. Many will employ the use of a farming vehicle to distribute the right quantities of water. It’s an expensive and complex business though, such to the point where farm vehicle insurance is paramount and a specialist watering vehicle or equipment is a necessity. On an industrial scale, watering pumpkins is like science.

Luckily, if you are just growing a few for fun, it’s a little simpler (and you don’t need a tractor – or insurance!) However, an understanding of the pumpkin’s ideal water intake is key. Pumpkins require a lot of water for their growth (they consist of around 80-90% water) so having the right equipment – and knowing the right dosage – will ensure you grow a family of healthy pumpkins.

The secret to the watering process is not to give it to them unless they really need it. Check the soil moisture before watering; if it is moist and the plant looks healthy, it doesn’t need watering. When the soil starts to dry out, or the plant starts to wilt, that’s when it is thirsty. In this case, give it a good, long soak.
Deep and infrequent watering is key to ensuring healthy pumpkin patches. Furthermore, water plants at the base of the stem, not on the leaves. The best time to water is at the start of the day, so the plant is fully soaked when the light kicks in. This will also help protect from fungal diseases, which are rife in dry plants during the day time. When your pumpkin starts going orange, it will require less water. It will hardly need any water during its final 7-10 days.

Good luck for next season!


Thanks, Eve!


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In case you didn't know it, I'm like the queen of blog-hoppin' lately. It's kind of like square dancing but without the dated outfits, smelly gym, and elderly caller.

Here's the schedule I keep:
Monday: Homestead Revival's Barn Hop
Tuesday: Heavenly Homemaker's Gratituesday
and Wrinkled Mommy's Tuesday Archive Link-Up
Wednesday: My Life and Kids Finding the Funny
Thursday: A Rural Journal's Rural Thursday Blog Hop
Friday: Deborah Jean's Dandelion House's Farmgirl Friday
Saturday: Camera Critter's Life With Dogs Pet Blogger Hop and Country Momma Cooks Saturday Link-Up

Since today is Friday, that means I'm linking today's post with Deborah Jean's Dandelion House's Farmgirl Friday, but I'll also be linking this same post up with some of the hops listed above in the coming week. Come join the fun!


  1. Thanks- I needed some advice because mine didn't do very well until it started raining again but now there is powdery mildew (??) on the leaves. The pumpkins look ok. Our garden is pretty far from the house so we have limited ability to water in a large area although we ran temporary lines up there. There is just not enough water pressure. I like the sand idea, I never thought of that.

  2. Hi Kathy, yeah, I liked the sand idea, too. And of course I was like, "Why didn't I think of that?"

  3. Thanks for the's very helpful! I don't like growing pumpkins because of all the work, but am thinking of trying again. So I will pin this info for next year! Greetings from Farmgirl Friday...Nancy at

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for coming by. I was thinking the pumpkins really weren't much work at all, but then again, maybe that's why I only got one pumpkin! If I had done all that was needed, I'd probably have a nice crop to show for it, but it would have been more work.

  4. I got pumpkins this year but they were VERY tiny. Not worth baking. I am going to try to add sand to the soil next spring and hope that that helps. I will also try to plan later. Thanks for the post!

    1. You're welcome, Tara, hope it helps. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Love this post - we got pumpkins this year, but they were tiny. I think I'll try some of these tips next year. I am just starting a new homestead related link up, and would love you to join. If you get a moment, come by and check it out!

    1. Thanks, Gretchen (love ur name), I will b sure to check that out!

  6. Thanks for these great tips! I have struggled with pumpkins a few times. These watering tips will help a lot! I would love it if you could post this on my new blog hop Natural Living Monday! I know my readers would too. Thanks!


  7. I always seem to mess up on the pollination thing...the flowers are always beautiful but then there is no 'fruit'....these are great tips!

    1. Yeah, Danielle, this was my first time, and I thought it was going so well: lots of flowers, lots of bees, but almost no fruit. Sigh. Maybe I'll have better luck next year with these tips. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. some great tips, will you remind me next year?!

    1. Ha! I can't remember what I had for brkfst!

  9. This is great advice - I'll keep it in mind for next year!

  10. I think I need to try pumpkins again next year. Great tips! :)

  11. Hi, Anne,

    Nice blog and post--you are definitely a "bountiful" writer! While I had several middling sized pumpkins two years ago, this year I got two distinctly dinky orange balls. I was so mad--there went my first homegrown Thanksgiving pies! A few weeks ago, a local farmer told me that the most important ingredient for pumpkins is sunshine, and that solved my dinky pumpkin riddle. Companion planting potatoes and squash, though theoretically ok, provides too much shade for the pumpkins. Loved your tip about spreading sand to stop slugs--will that work around lettuce and spinach?

    1. Thanks, Benita, so glad to have you here.
      You ask a good question, but I'm afraid I don't know the answer. I'm curious, too! This was a guest-post, written by someone more knowledgeable than I. I'll try next year and see what happens!



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