Common Pumpkin Problems and How to Solve Them
Pumpkins fortunately suffer from very few problems. However, these problems can mean an end to your pumpkin crop if you don’t identify and treat your pumpkins quickly. Here is a list of the most common pumpkin problems and how to solve them:
Cucumber beetles: These critters may attack your pumpkins at any time. They will attack both the vines and the fruits.
Solution: There are several organic options to avoid cucumber beetles or get rid of them if they appear. Thick mulch can keep these pests from laying their eggs and plastic mulches can also deter their presence. Certain plants known as “trap crops” work to pull pests away from valuable crops. See our Resources section for websites related to trap crops. It’s also important to pick up garden debris during and after the growing season so that common pests don’t have a habitat to grow and spread.
Squash bugs: Squash bugs also go after pumpkins at any stage in their development. They will affect both fruits and foliage.
Solution: Companion planting works great to avoid squash bugs. Mint, catnip, nasturtiums, and marigolds are proven companion plants that help repel squash bugs. Squash bugs are generally easy to remove by hand. Some gardeners put small wooden boards near the plants. The squash bugs may eventually make their way to the boards where they can be removed from the garden. Another unusual option is to use the parasitic wasp Ooencyrtus (spp.) in your garden.
Other insects: Also keep on the lookout for the squash vine borer, the pickleworm, and the seed corn maggot.
Solution: There are a variety of options to treat these pests. See this site for more organic pest control methods, or visit this organic pest control site.
Downy mildew: This disease attacks many plants among the cucurbits. Downy mildew is a disease caused by the fungus Pseudoperonospora cubensis. It usually appears when temperatures are cooler and conditions are moist. Check for early signs such as yellowing spots on the leaves. The spots may turn brown and fuzzy later on. As the disease progresses, the patches will turn black. This disease will eventually deteriorate the quality of your pumpkins and can reduce your harvest.
Solution: Make sure you plant your pumpkins with plenty of space between them so that the air can circulate. If you expect extended periods of cold, wet weather, a compost tea can be very effective in keeping the disease at bay. Purchasing disease-resistant varieties is also critical.
Powdery Mildew: Look for a white mold on the leaves. It is caused by several different kinds of fungi. This disease will eventually kill the foliage and can affect the health of your pumpkin fruit. In contrast to downy mildew, powdery mildew usually occurs in warmer rather than colder conditions. High moisture levels will make the problem worse.
Solution: Keep your pumpkin foliage dry by using a drip irrigation system. Compost teas work well to treat this problem. Try mixing baking soda and water to spray the foliage (Try mixing less than an ounce of baking soda per gallon of water). Rotate your crops frequently and remove garden debris after you harvest all garden plants.
Gummy Stem Blight (Black Rot): This is a fungal disease that affects the foliage of the pumpkin plant and may spread to the fruits.
Solution: Use drip irrigation and proper plant spacing. Crop rotation can also help avoid this problem.