Many factors to consider when growing pumpkins
Published 9:52 am Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Agriculture in Western Tidewater is more than just corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans. Many farmers also cultivate other crops such as strawberries, sweet corn and watermelons, to name a few. These and other produce were the featured topic at the recent Southeast Virginia Vegetable Production meeting, which took place last week in the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Suffolk.
One example was pumpkin production. Speaking on the topic was Chris Drake, who farms in the Newsoms area of Southampton County. He also works as an independent representative for Phytogen Cottenseed, and before that he was an extension agent in Southampton County.
“Pumpkins need pollen transfer. Without it, the fruit set and yields are lower,” Drake said, adding a recommendation of using honeybees to help.
“Early weed control is vital,” he said about the crop, mentioning Oxone (Parquet), AIM and Roundup as chemical options.
Naturally, fertilization is a must. For example, using 80 to 90 pounds is the range for nitrogen; 0 to 150 pounds for potassium, depending on the soil type; and 0 to 120 pounds for phosphorus.
“Most important,” Drake stressed, “is variety selections. Miniatures to giants, there’s a myriad of choices.”
Some examples of these varieties include:
• Mini — Jack Be Little and Munchkin
• Small — Iron Man and Prankster
• Pie — Mystic Plus Field Trip
• Medium — Gladiator and Gold Medal
• Giant: Prizewinner and Big Max
• Others — White Lumina and Full Moon
Disease control is also extremely important. Alternate the chemistry to reduce resistance, with spraying done every 10 to 14 days or, more locally, every seven to 10 days. Insecticides can be mixed in the tank for worm beetle control when necessary. Speaking of which, for beetles, cutworms and squash vine borers, there are lot of insecticide control options, such as Bravo and Pristine.
When it comes to time to take the pumpkins out of the patch, he said, “Harvest as much of the stem as possible. That’s a key selling point.”
Curing follows, and pumpkins can be stored at 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity. Growers can spray with four parts water to one part household bleach to keep off fungus.
Cultivating pumpkins can be both “very challenging and very rewarding,” Drake said. But he cautioned that, “consistent high returns are not always expected due to weather conditions fluctuating from year to year.”
More topics discussed that day by other experts included: disease management in cucurbits and tomatoes; new fungicides and insecticides; small fruits, including bramble production; sweet potato production; and high-tunnel vegetable production.
Overall, the meeting was a success, according to Janet Spencer, the Extension agent for Isle of Wight County.
“The rest of the day went fantastic,” she said. “We had a really good group of speakers and the surveys at the end of the day were overwhelmingly positive.”
Though no new seminars are immediately planned, Spencer said there will be other informative programs later this year.
For more information on such activities, call 365-6261.