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Growing Good Food at Home

Prepare for Pumpkin Pests and What to Do About Them

Pumpkin beetle on a pumpkin leaf.

Pumpkin beetle on a pumpkin leaf.

So, your pumpkin seeds have sprouted, you’ve thinned your plants, and everything’s going great—until it isn’t. Pumpkins can fall victim to a number of diseases and pests. It’s important for you to identify any problems early on, treat the symptoms, and save your crop. Here’s an overview of what could appear in your pumpkin patch and what to do about it.

First, let’s look at what you can do to prevent some of these ailments from afflicting your pumpkin patch in the first place.

Crop Rotation. Fungi, bacteria, and nematodes persist in the soil or on old crop debris. Rotate your cucurbit (pumpkin, squash, and cucumber) crops with non-cucurbit crops every three years. This is one of the keys to having successful cucurbit crops: never plant pumpkins, melons, or cucumbers in the same place as the previous year’s crop—give a planting area three years off from growing cucurbits.

Sanitation. Make sure your soil is free of last harvest’s crop debris, which may have retained problematic fungi or bacteria. Dispose of any diseased plant material—don’t compost it.

Disease-Resistant Varieties. Whenever possible, choose pumpkin varieties with a reputation for their resistance to pests and disease.

Pathogen-free seeds and transplants. If you start with healthy seeds and/or seedlings, you’re one step ahead of pests and disease.

Irrigation. Sprinkler-style irrigation helps spread plant pathogens. Wet leaves become targets for infections. Your best bet? Drip irrigation—either with an installed system (you can make a system yourself) or by watering manually. A soaker hose system is less expensive than a drip system, and it will save you and your back some aggravation once it’s set up.

Chemical Intervention. Foliar infections (of the leaves) may require the application of fungicide or bactericide. There are good options if you’re growing organic.

Scouting. You need to be out in the garden at least once a week to check your pumpkins for pests and diseases. It’s the quickest way to spot a problem—before your precious pumpkins start wilting on the vine.

Have you tried most of these tactics for preventing diseases and pests from ruining your pumpkin patch? Please tell us how you avoid these issues in your garden.

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