Our garden is in Northern California, on the coast. Last year the
pumpkin patch did not get seeds until late June and they were not
ready by Halloween. So this year the patch was seeded by late March
and the sprouts were immediately devoured by slugs and earwigs. A
heavy application of organic insecticide killed off all the little
pests and by early May I thinned the sprouts to just one robust
plant. It is now host to more than 20 linear feet of vine.
But the swellings under the female blossoms just turn black, rot, and
Does anyone have any ideas about what to do next year (or even now) to
fix this problem. I and my neighbors are at a loss, but to be fair,
they are not growing pumpkins.
Grow at least two plants. These can be right next to each other (the
classic pumpkin 'hill').
Hand pollinate, if you don't see a lot of active bees. Try to ensure you
are doing at least some cross-pollinating, one plant to the other.
Don't give them too much nitrogen, and be sure you have a good soil
bank of phosphorous. In my garden, pumpkins and squash go into
beds prepped with compost and alfalfa pellets, then get mulched with
shredded leaves just before the vines start to run. Other than an
occasional spray with seaweed, that's all the feeding they get. (My
garden soil tests high in phosphorous.)
Research varieties best suited to your area.
Are you growing pumpkins just for Halloween rather than eating? Look
for varieties that carry the precocious yellow gene (Wizard, Oz) or are
otherwise bred for early color and yield. 'Autumn Gold' is an AAS
winner (which means it should be widely adapted) which is early to
color and ripen.
My favorite Halloween pumpkin (after trying a number of different ones)
is 'Rocket,' available from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I planted them on
May 31, and pulled them out of the garden on October 3 (in advance
of a frost warning), all nice and orange.
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)
This happens when the flowers are not pollinated. Perhaps your area
has a shortage of bees? If so, pollinate by hand, moving pollen from
the male flowers into the female first thing in the morning, every
Perhaps you have plenty of bees, but showery weather is keeping the bees
tucked snuggly up in their beds and your damp pumpkin flowers are not
being visited by bees? If so, again try pollinating by hand.
John Savage (my news address is not valid for email)
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