Pumpkin is the name given to a group of plant species in the genus Cucurbita, including Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata. Pumpkin belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae and is grown primarily as a vegetable or ornamental plant. Pumpkin plants are short lived annual or perennial vines with branching tendrils and broad lobed leaves. The plant produces large yellow or orange flowers and a pepo fruit (berry with a thick rind) known as a pumpkin. The fruit can range greatly in size, from miniature pumpkins weighing a few ounces to giant pumpkins which can reach over 75 lbs (34 kg). The skin of the pumpkin is usually ribbed and is usually orange on color although some varieties are green, grey, yellow or red in color. Pumpkin plants are usually grown as annuals, surviving one growing season and the vines are capable of reaching 15 m (50 ft) in length if vines are allowed to root. Pumpkin may also be referred to as squash or marrow and is believed to have originated in Mexico and South America.
Pumpkin flesh can be cooked and eaten in a variety of dishes. The seeds are also edible and are commonly roasted and eaten as a snack.
Pumpkin is a warm-season crop, requiring lots of sun and good drainage to develop optimally and growing best at temperatures between 18 and 25°C (65–75°F). Pumpkin will yield best if grown in a fertile, well-draining soil, rich in organic matter and with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Pumpkin should be planted in full sun and provided with ample soil moisture due to their shallow root system. Vining varieties can grow to very large sizes and require a good deal of space. Smaller bush varieties are available for more modest spaces.
Pumpkin can be direct seeded or sown indoors and transplanted. If direct seeding,seeds should be sown after the last frosts and when the soil has warmed to at least 15.6°C (60°F). Sow 1–2 seeds 1.3–2.5 cm (0.5–1.0 in) deep, at least 90 cm (~3 ft) apart if growing bush varieties and 120–150 cm (4–5 ft) apart if growing vining varieties. Allow a further 1–3 m (6–10 ft) between rows depending on the variety. If transplanting, seeds should be sown 3–4 weeks before the last frost date in your area and transplanted before the plants develop their second set of true leaves. Seeds in sown both indoors and out require lightly moist soil for germination, care should be taken to avoid overwatering. Seeds should germinate in 5–10 days depending on the soil temperature.
General care and maintenance
Pumpkin vines are sprawling and require plenty space to grow. Vines can be trained to grow on a trellis or fence. Pumpkin also require a continuous supply of water and where drip irrigation is not being used, plants should be watered deeply once per week, providing at least an inch of water. Shallow watering or watering less frequently encourages a shallow root system. Mulches can be used to conserve soil moisture and black polyethylene mulch has the advantage of warming the soil. All pumpkin varieties produce both male and female flowers (monoecious) and are pollinated by insects such as bees.
Pumpkins are harvested by hand when the fruit reaches full maturity. The fruit is ripe when the color changes uniformly and the rind becomes hard. Pumpkins should be harvested by cutting the stem of the fruit with a sharp knife. it is best to harvest the fruit with a portion of stem as the fruit will keep better.
Small, yellow-brown spots with a yellow or green halo which first appear on the oldest leaves; as the disease progresses, lesions expand and becone large necrotic patches, often with concentric patternation; lesions coalesce, leaves begin to curl and eventually die
Disease is prevalent in growing areas where temperatures are high and rainfall is frequent
Cucurbits should be rotated with another crop every 2 years to reduce levels of inoculum; crop debris should be removed from the field as quickly as possible after harvest or plowed deeply into the soil; applications of appropriate protective fungicides can help to slow the development of the disease; water plants from the base rather than from above to reduce periods of leaf wetness which are conducive to the development and spread of disease
Initial symptoms appear as necrotic flecks on leaves with chlorotic halos; as the disease progresses, the flecks grow into spots which may join together into large, roughly circular lesions; if infestation is severe, leaves begin to turn yellow and die
Pathogen survives between growing season on crop debris
Crops debris should be removed from the field or plowed deeply into the soil after harvest; applications of appropriate protective fungicides can hep reduce the incidence of the disease
Small water-soaked lesions on leaves which expand between leaf veins and become angular in shape; in humid conditions, lesions exude a milky substance which dries to form a white crust on or beside lesions; as the disease progresses, lesions turn tan and may have yellow/green edges; the centers of the lesions dry and may drop out leaving a hole in the leaf
Spread through infected seed, splashing rain, insects and movement of people between plants; bacterium overwinters in crop debris and can survive for 2.5 years
Use disease-free seed; do not grow plants in field where cucurbits have been grown in the previous 2 years; protective copper spray may help reduce incidence of disease in warm, humid climates; plant resistant varieties
Small soft bodied insects on underside of leaves and/or stems of plant; usually green or yellow in color, but may be pink, brown, red or black depending on species and host plant; if aphid infestation is heavy it may cause leaves to yellow and/or distorted, necrotic spots on leaves and/or stunted shoots; aphids secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold on the plants
Distinguishing features include the presence of cornicles (tubular structures) which project backwards from the body of the aphid; will generally not move very quickly when disturbed
If aphid population is limited to just a few leaves or shoots then the infestation can be pruned out to provide control; check transplants for aphids before planting; use tolerant varieties if available; reflective mulches such as silver colored plastic can deter aphids from feeding on plants; sturdy plants can be sprayed with a strong jet of water to knock aphids from leaves; insecticides are generally only required to treat aphids if the infestation is very high - plants generally tolerate low and medium level infestation; insecticidal soaps or oils such as neem or canola oil are usually the best method of control; always check the labels of the products for specific usage guidelines prior to use
Singular, or closely grouped circular to irregularly shaped holes in foliage; heavy feeding by young larvae leads to skeletonized leaves; shallow, dry wounds on fruit; egg clusters of 50-150 eggs may be present on the leaves; egg clusters are covered in a whitish scale which gives the cluster a cottony or fuzzy appearance; young larvae are pale green to yellow in color while older larvae are generally darker green with a dark and light line running along the side of their body and a pink or yellow underside
Insect can go through 3–5 generations a year
Organic methods of controlling armyworms include biological control by natural enemies which parasitize the larvae and the application of Bacillus thuringiensis; there are chemicals available for commercial control but many that are available for the home garden do not provide adequate control of the larvae
Foliage turning yellow; secondary shoots begin growing prolifically; stems take on a rigid, upright growth habit; leaves are often small in size and distorted, may appear thickened; flowers are often disfigured and possess conspicuous leafy bracts; fruits are small and pale in color
Disease is transmitted by leafhoppers and can cause huge losses in cucurbit crops
Remove any infected plants from the field to reduce spread; control weeds in and around the field that may act as a reservoir for the phytoplasma; protect plants from leaf hopper vectors with row covers
Dark, angular lesions on leaves; leaf lesions may coalesce and cause severely blighted foliage; water-soaked lesions which enlarge and develop into tan scabs, or blisters, on the fruit; blisters eventually flatten as they reach their full size
Jack-o-lantern varieties particularly susceptible; disease can spread rapidly in a field; disease can be introduced through contaminated seed
Avoid overhead irrigation; rotate crops away from cucurbit species to prevent disease building up; use new seed each planting as saved seed is more likely to carry bacteria; apply appropriate protective fungicides; copper containing fungicides generally provide good control
Wilting of individual runners or entire plant; leaves and stems of affected parts turn dark green; wilting is irreversible; affected parts turn necrotic
Spread by striped or spotted cucumber beetles; disease can be confirmed by cutting the stem and slowly pulling the two ends apart - infected plants will ooze strings of bacterial exudate
Control cucumber beetle populations on plants; hand pick adult beetles and destroy; soil and foliar application of appropriate insecticides may help to control populations
Large or small holes in leaves; damage often extensive; caterpillars are pale green with a white lines running down either side of their body; caterpillars are easily distinguished by the way they arch their body when moving; eggs are laid singly, usually on the lower leaf surface close to the leaf margin, and are white or pale green in color
Insects overwinter as pupae in crop debris in soil; adult insect id a dark colored moth; caterpillars have a wide host range
Looper populations are usually held in check by natural enemies; if they do become problematic larvae can be hand-picked from the plants; an organically acceptable control method is the application of Bacillus thuringiensis which effectively kills younger larvae; chemical sprays may damage populations of natural enemies and should and should be selected carefully
Initial symptoms of disease occur on older leaves as small spots with light to tan brown centers; as the disease progresses, the lesions enlarge to cover large areas of the leaf surface; lesions may have a dark border and be surrounded by a chlorotic area; the centers of the lesions may become brittle and crack
Fungus survives on plant debris; spread by wind and water splash; occurs mainly in tropical and subtropical growing regions
Any diseased plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent further spread; crop debris should be removed after harvest or plowed deeply into the soil to reduce inoculum
Stunted seedling; damaged leaves, stems and/or petioles; reduced plant stand; plants may exhibit symptoms of bacterial wilt; scars on fruit caused by beetle feeding damage; adult beetles are brightly colored with either a green-yellow background and black spots or alternating black and yellow stripes
Beetles overwinter in soil and leaf litter and emerge from soil when temperatures begin to reach and exceed 12.7°C (55°F)
Monitor new planting regularly for signs of beetle; floating row covers can be used to protect the plants from damage but will need to be removed at bloom to allow bees to pollinate plants; applications of kaolin clay can be effective for management of small beetle populations; application of appropriate insecticides may be necessary
Plants are severely stunted; foliage is covered in distinctive yellow mosaic; leaves of plant curl downwards and leaf size is smaller than normal; flowers on infected plants may be deformed with green petals; fruits become distorted and are small in size; fruit is often discolored
Transmitted by aphids; virus has an extensive host range; can be mechanically transmitted via tools etc.
Control of the virus is largely dependant on the control of the aphid vectors; reflective mulches can deter aphid feeding; aphid outbreaks can be treated with mineral oils or insecticidal soap applications; some resistant varieties are available
Stems of young transplants or seedlings may be severed at soil line; if infection occurs later, irregular holes are eaten into the surface of fruits; larvae causing the damage are usually active at night and hide during the day in the soil at the base of the plants or in plant debris of toppled plant; larvae are 2.5–5.0 cm (1–2 in) in length; larvae may exhibit a variety of patterns and coloration but will usually curl up into a C-shape when disturbed
Cutworms have a wide host range and attack vegetables including asparagus, bean, cabbage and other crucifers, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato and tomato
Remove all plant residue from soil after harvest or at least two weeks before planting, this is especially important if the previous crop was another host such as alfalfa, beans or a leguminous cover crop; plastic or foil collars fitted around plant stems to cover the bottom 3 inches above the soil line and extending a couple of inches into the soil can prevent larvae severing plants; hand-pick larvae after dark; spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants (this creates a sharp barrier that will cut the insects if they try and crawl over it); apply appropriate insecticides to infested areas of garden or field if not growing organically
Dead or dying leaves; yellow to brown lesions on the upper side of leaves; purple growth developing on the underside of leaves
Disease emergence favors cool nights and high moisture
Do not overcrowd plants; avoid overhead irrigation, water plants from base; apply appropriate fungicide
Small holes or pits in leaves that give the foliage a characteristic “shothole” appearance; young plants and seedlings are particularly susceptible; plant growth may be reduced; if damage is severe the plant may be killed; the pest responsible for the damage is a small (1.5–3.0 mm) dark colored beetle which jumps when disturbed; the beetles are often shiny in appearance
Younger plants are more susceptible to flea beetle damage than older ones; older plants can tolerate infestation; flea beetles may overwinter on nearby weed species, in plant debris or in the soil; insects may go through a second or third generation in one year
In areas where flea beetles are a problem, floating row covers may have to be used prior to the emergence of the beetles to provide a physical barrier to protect young plants; plant seeds early to allow establishment before the beetles become a problem - mature plants are less susceptible to damage; trap crops may provide a measure of control - cruciferous plants are best; application of a thick layer of mulch may help prevent beetles reaching surface; application on diamotecoeus earth or oils such as neem oil are effective control methods for organic growers; application of insecticides containing carbaryl, spinosad, bifenthrin and permethrin can provide adequate control of beetles for up to a week but will need reapplied
Wilting of leaves progresses to wilting of entire plant and plant dies within a few days; distinctive necrotic rot of crown and upper taproot when plant is uprooted; plant breaks easily below soil line
Fungus can survive in soil for 2-3 years
Plant fungicide treated seed; rotate crops on 4 year rotation
Brown or tan spots of various sizes on leaves; leaves covered with lesions; stems splitting and forming cankers; wounds exude a brown, gummy substance; wilting vines; death of stems
Disease may be seed-borne
Use disease free seed; treat seeds prior to planting; rotate crops every 2 years
Sudden and permanent wilting of plant; leaves do not change color; plant death within a few days; roots and stem close to soil line discolored light to dark brown; plant easily removed from soil; fluffy mold growing on soft rotting fruit
Disease emergence favors warm, moist conditions
Efficient management of water to avoid saturated soil; avoid long periods of irrigation
White powdery mold on stems, leaves and petioles; stems may be weakened
Disease emergence favors periods of dry weather
Plant in sites with good air circulation and sun exposure; do not overcrowd plants; sanitize equipment regularly
Initial symptoms of disease are small dark water-soaked spots on the leaves which turn beige to white in dry conditions; lesions develop thin brown borders and the centers may become brittle and crack; small white spots may erupt on the surface of infected butternut and acorn squash and pumpkin fruit
Pathogen can survive on crop debris for periods in excess of 1 year
Scout plants during cool wet conditions for any sign of spots; early application of an appropriate protective fungicide can help limit the development of the disease if spots are found, cucurbits should be rotated with other crops every 2 years to prevent the build-up of inoculum; crop debris should be removed and destroyed after harvest
Sudden wilting of leaves; yellowing foliage; browning stem above and below soil; browning branches; stem may be covered with fan-like mycelial mat; rot on fruit that begins on side in contact with soil
Fungus can survive in soil for long periods; disease emergence favored by high temperatures, high humidity and acidic soil; disease found mainly in tropical and subtropical regions, including the southern United States
Remove infected plants; avoid overcrowding plants to promote air circulation; rotate crops with less susceptible plants; plow crop debris deep into soil; provided a barrier to infection by wrapping lower stems of plant with aluminum foil covering below ground portion of stem and 2-3 in above soil line
Speckled leaves which turn yellow and brown; wilting plants; dieback of runners; blemished fruit; fruit death; adult squash bugs are often misidentified as stink bugs; they are grey-black in color with orange and black stripes on the edges of their abdomen; nymphs are greenish gray in color and often covered in white powder; female squash bugs lay conspicuous copper colored eggs on the undersides of the leaves
Squash bugs overwinter in crop debris or under rocks and stones
Destroy all crops residue as soon as possible after harvest or on plant death; apply row covers at planting to protect plants;organically acceptable control methods include applications of insecticidal soaps and oils
Symptoms vary with variety being grown but plants can show symptoms which include include green veinbanding, mottled leaves, blisters, ring spots or potruding veins at leaf margins; some squash varieties may develop leaf enations; infected plants are often stunted and fruits may be malformed with mottled skin
Virus can be transmitted through infected seed and spread by striped cucumber beetles
Use only certified disease-free seed
Wilting plants; holes in vines or at base of petioles; green frass (insect excrement) visible around holes
Insect overwinters in soil as larvae or pupae and adults emerge in spring; adults lay eggs on leaves and larvae burrow intro stems to feed
Apply appropriate insecticide if eggs are found on leaves; plow plants into soil after harvest
If population is high leaves may be distorted; leaves are covered in coarse stippling and may appear silvery; leaves speckled with black feces; insect is small (1.5 mm) and slender and best viewed using a hand lens; adult thrips are pale yellow to light brown and the nymphs are smaller and lighter in color
Transmit viruses such as Tomato spotted wilt virus; once acquired, the insect retains the ability to transmit the virus for the remainder of its life
Avoid planting next to onions, garlic or cereals where very large numbers of thrips can build up; use reflective mulches early in growing season to deter thrips; apply appropriate insecticide if thrips become problematic
Symptoms generally appear after fruit set; chlorotic leaves which develop necrotic areas; leaves collapsing; symptoms only on one side of vine; discoloration of vascular tissue in roots
Fungus can survive in soil for many years; disease emergence favored by cool or mild weather in Spring
Do not plant in areas where other susceptible crops have been grown previously; delay planting until temperatures are warmer
Symptoms vary widely depending on species, cultivar, virus strain and environmental conditions; symptoms on leaves may include green mosaic patternation, green vein-banding, chlorotic rings and disfigured leaves
Virus is found in almost all Cucurbit growing regions in the world; virus is spread by over 20 aphid species
Treatments that control populations of aphid vectors can also reduce the incidence of the virus; spraying plants with mineral oils or insecticidal soaps can help to reduce aphid numbers
Infected plants are severely stunted and leaves can exhibit a variety of symptoms including yellow mosaic patternation, severe deformation, blistering, reduced size and necrosis; fruits are deformed
DIsease can cause devastating epidemics when present
Use of resistant varieties, where available, is usually the most effective method of controlling the virus; control of aphid populations on the plants can be achieved through the use of mineral oils and insecticidal soaps but is rarely effective at controlling the virus
Anderson, C. R. Pumpkins. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Available at: http://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/.... [Accessed 02 April 15]. Free to access.
Bratsch, A. Pumpkins. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Available at: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-100/43.... [Accessed 02 April 15]. Free to access.
Strang, J. (2012). Pumpkins. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. Available at: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/intros.... [Accessed 02 April 15]. Free to access.
Zitter, T. A., Hopkins, D. L. & Thomas, C. E. (1996). Compendium of Cucurbit diseases. American Phytopathological Society Press. Available at: http://www.apsnet.org/apsstore/shopap.... Available for purchase from APS Press.
Paul Growing in Epsom, South East of UK. It was planted out a bit late, but has made good progress and is about 45 inches around. It was grown from good seed. I only water at the...