Ask a Question forum: Pumpkin plants

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Name: Bill
Mentor, Ohio (Zone 6a)
Billk
Jul 27, 2016 7:11 PM CST
Hi. I have several questions about pumpkins. I planted two varieties, Cinderella and Long Island cheese pumpkins each in two hills about five feet apart. The cinderellas have produced three nice sized pumpkins. The long islands have produced three smaller fruits. Both plants are now showing signs of distress, wilted leaves, small whitish spots on the leaves while some of the vines are yellow with wilted flowers. I use 8-16-8 liquid fertilizer on each hill once a week. Should I cut off or remove the damaged leaves and stems and if so, how? Can I water or fertilize the vines and leaves as well as the roots? Also, should I use a different fertilizer to stimulate leaf and vine growth. I have read that a high nitrogen fertilizer can be used in the beginning but not while the fruits are growing. I have sprayed for vine borers twice and have not seen any evidence of borer damage. I have raised butternut squash with success in the past but not pumpkins. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 27, 2016 7:29 PM CST
Hi Bill, it will help a lot if you could let us know where you are, please? You can fill it into your profile so that your city/state/country will show in the upper right of your posts each time. Your climatic conditions are pertinent to answering your questions.

My first thought is that once pumpkin plants are sizing up fruit, they need a ton of water. Have you been having really extra-hot weather like a lot of the country? Longer, hotter days indicate increased irrigation

The white spots might be an infection of powdery mildew on the leaves, if you've been watering them with sprinklers. Soakers or micro sprinklers to keep the water low down, off the leaves work better. Also are you watering deeply in the early morning? It's the best time, to minimize evaporation and also to keep the leaves dry through the night. You can treat it with various things, but a favorite of many on here is milk, sprayed on the leaf surfaces. Baking soda is also a preventative, but washes off in the rain so needs to be re-applied often.

The fertilizer regime sounds fine, although a lot of work applying it every week. A pelleted timed-release fert for vegetables would be much more constant and efficient.

Oh, I forgot, some pictures of the plants would also help a lot!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jul 27, 2016 7:30 PM (+)]
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Name: Bill
Mentor, Ohio (Zone 6a)
Billk
Jul 28, 2016 8:27 PM CST
Hi Elaine, thanks for replying. We're having a really dry summer in northeast Ohio this year. I'm watering when needed in the early morning and around the root base. I have since learned that watering directly on the roots can cause rot and that I should water around the hill instead. Should I water the vines as well low to the ground off the leaves? Also, I've heard of using a 50/50 mixture of milk and water sprayed on the leaves. I've read of a fungicide that is copper based but I don't know anything about it. I try to use insecticides that will not harm bees. A while back the bee activity in our area was so low we had to pollinate by hand. If I do use a pelleted fertilizer what is a good ratio of NPK?
Thanks again.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 28, 2016 9:13 PM CST
Hi again, Bill. Water a LOT, now! You truly can't give pumpkins, squash or melons too much water in hot weather as long as they have good drainage. Since you planted yours on a hill, I'm sure your drainage is fine.

Your pumpkins absolutely need to be watered every day during hot weather unless it rains an inch or more. A passing thunderstorm rarely rains enough for your big, demanding plants like pumpkins. Their vines sometimes grow a foot or more per day, and when they're sizing up the fruit, that takes a ton of water, too. If your plants are on a hill, yes, water the whole hill deeply - half an hour or more if you're using a sprinkler. The roots don't go straight down from the plant they fan out into the soil to a surprising distance from the plant.

For fertilizer, I use Osmocote for Fruit and Vegetables. It's widely available at nurseries, and the big box stores. The analysis is 14-14-14 which is known as a "balanced" fertilizer. You might want to give your County Extension service a quick call or e-mail to ask their recommendations because different soils need different analysis sometimes. But I use this same fert in my sandy garden in Florida, and in my daughter's clay soil in Utah. She (we, that is) grows pumpkins too, by the way. They water their vegetable garden an hour every morning with an automatic micro-sprinkler system that I installed for them. It's a desert, there though. Very dry air and very hot in summer.

Yes, by all means try the milk mixture to prevent the fungal blight from spreading. It won't remove what is already there, but it will stop it from reproducing and infecting any more leaves. If it doesn't work for you there are a few other fungicides you can try, but be absolutely sure they are rated for use on edibles before you spray anything! Also, remove any dead leaves that have the powdery mildew on them, bag them and throw out in the trash, not on your compost. You don't want any more airborne spores flying around than you can help.

It's pretty important to try to keep the foliage dry to prevent things like powdery mildew. But as long as your plants have good space around them for air movement, and you aren't watering them in the evening then leaving them wet all night, the preventive measures you take with the milk spray or other fungicide should stop that problem.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Bill
Mentor, Ohio (Zone 6a)
Billk
Aug 2, 2016 4:03 PM CST
Hi again Elaine. I've been watering a lot like you suggested and the plants are looking better. There is definitely some vine growth. I'm using a 50/50 milk and water mixture on the leaves and there is a little improvement but not a lot. Also, the leaves on one of vines are folded over like they do when they're not getting enough water. These leaves are quite a distance from the hill and they are on a vine that has a large pumpkin on it. I'm thinking maybe I should water that hill a little more. Should I also water the vine and the leaves? Also, I don't want to overwater so I usually stop when puddles form around the hill. Should I really water for a half an hour? Thanks a lot for your help!
Name: Michelle M. Losey
NE Ohio, USA (Zone 5b)
Organic GMO free Squash Grower
Organic Gardener
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WARYR1
Aug 2, 2016 6:00 PM CST
Hi neighbor! I'm in Ashtabula about an hours drive east of you Smiling
Just wanted to add I use 20/80 mix milk and water. Watering too much will cause the downy mildew to spread. (Downy mildew has always been bad in our area) Also if plants are still wilting and no signs of borers place a mound of dirt over/ or around each leaf joint. They'll send out more roots at those areas. On the unknown squash I posted in forums for ID got completely severed by borers while I was in the hosp. I came home reburied end that got cut off and buried each leaf joint. and the plant is doing fine now. At 1st the big leaves wilted but came back up in the evening. The plant did that to prevent moisture loss. Now they no longer wilt and that squash is growing extremely fast. So try it it may work for you too Smiling Oh being organic I use Dr Earths cottonseed meal (slightly acidic like squash like it) after four real leaves appear not too close to plants or you'll burn them. Then about a month later I switch to Dr Earths Flower Girl for roots and blooms. :)
Michelle M. Losey
WARYR1
[Last edited by WARYR1 - Aug 2, 2016 6:20 PM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Aug 2, 2016 6:46 PM CST
Yes, you need the water to penetrate really deep down into the ground, not just wet the surface of the soil. So think of it as, say a 10 minute rain shower which would barely wet your driveway, vs. a 30 minute rain shower. Same as watering your lawn (if you have a lawn). You water deeply so that the water penetrates well down into the soil, not a little bit so just the top of the sod gets wet.

You can try it and see - set the sprinkler going and put your timer on for 10 minutes. Then go out with your trowel and see how deep the water goes down into the soil. Depending on how hot the weather is, and things like wind and humidity, it might take even longer than 30 minutes to water your pumpkins deeply enough.

I like the idea a lot of burying the leaf nodes to make the plants produce more roots, too! Never tried that myself. You'll have to remember to water the whole vine if they root along the length of it and put down a little fertilizer where the new roots are, as well.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Michelle M. Losey
NE Ohio, USA (Zone 5b)
Organic GMO free Squash Grower
Organic Gardener
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WARYR1
Aug 2, 2016 7:40 PM CST
The reason I mentioned too much water is bad too is because I did that a few times this yr so far. the bottom leaves turned yellow and fell off I dug dwn w/ trowel to find it was saturated. I was drowning the poor things. So best to water 1ce or twice a week but very deep watering!!! I don't have sprinkler I water by hand/ Hose and even that way it takes about 20 min's or so. And remember don't just water the hill or the surrounding dry soil will steal (wick) all the water! Make sure the soil is wet all over the whole area Smiling Next yr you can try growing some of the Powdery Mildew Resistant varieties I'm growing c. Max this yr and am trying Bylinka its suppose to be PMR I'll let you know at the end of the season if it survived PM Smiling (its not on this list for some reason)
http://garden.org/plants/search/advanced.php
Its not letting me post the link so chk boxes in this search that say vine, vegetable and Powdery Mildew resistant don't chk any other boxes and it'll give you the list
Michelle M. Losey
WARYR1
[Last edited by WARYR1 - Aug 2, 2016 8:19 PM (+)]
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Name: Bill
Mentor, Ohio (Zone 6a)
Billk
Aug 6, 2016 8:18 AM CST
Ok, so I now have discovered vine borers. Lost one pumpkin already and have two more that have evidence of borers. On one, we found the borer but cannot remove it. The vine is pretty damaged. The pumpkins are orange but still not ripe. I have read that they can be harvested early and cured outdoors. Can I pick them now before any more damage is done? With the borer still in the vine I don't think it can get any water or nutrition.
Btw: I tried burying the leaf nodes and watering the vines. Am also using a balanced fertilizer.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Aug 6, 2016 8:22 AM CST
Bill, there's a product called Bt (which stands for Bacillus thuringiensis) that is widely used here to prevent/kill caterpillars that feed on food crops. It's organic approved and available at any nursery or garden center. It's a targeted product that only kills caterpillars that feed on the plant's leaves or stems after it has been sprayed on. Not sure if it will help with your vine borers after they have already gotten inside the vine, but it would kill any more that come along.

Just be VERY careful at this time of year if you use this product to not spray any butterfly host plants, as it will also kill butterfly caterpillars. Only spray when there is no wind and just get it on the pumpkins.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Michelle M. Losey
NE Ohio, USA (Zone 5b)
Organic GMO free Squash Grower
Organic Gardener
Image
WARYR1
Aug 6, 2016 7:08 PM CST
I have never used BT but know of it.... I always just take a razor blade or my sharp mora and make a little slit over the borer area then use anything to pull those vine killers outta there! But just heard recently that if you go out at night and shine flashlight through back on the vines you can see where the lil critters are and just stick pins through them. That way you don't have to cut the poor vine. Never tried it but in theory it should work. I had a squash vine borer moth land right in front of me yesterday! GRRR the nerve of that thing Hilarious! Oh if you have to cut the vine make sure to cover the whole end and water well. Yeah might be too late to fix now but at least ya tried huh? If pumpkins are ok leave them on the vine till it shrivels up or they get ripe. Whichever comes 1st. Unless vine gets a disease which is entirely possible w/ vine damage. Next yr when babies have about 4 leaves or if you seeded them indoors when you transplant out... wrap as much of bottom as you can w/ tin foil fold it gentally around them so it will expand w/ vine grow. Don't crinkle it all up tight or it'll hurt your babies. bury the end that is closet to the ground w/ dirt. Others use floating row covers. I haven't had much luck w/ those. Like yesterday those moths can come and go in an instant and I found out even after being careful soon as I open it to hand pollinate the damn things swoop dwn like they've been plotting the attack for weeks Hilarious! also if you use row covers make sure you plant in area that never had squash/ pumpkins in it as the moths can hatch out under the covers. Someone said they wrap womens panty hose around the stem of the babies. I think i'll try that next yr. Seriously untill I moved to this house after I lost my farm is the 1st time I ever had vine borers. My councelor came up w/ a good reason he said "this is the 1st time in your life you don't have chickens!" Lightbulb moment for me! Our chickens were free range.
Michelle M. Losey
WARYR1

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