Common Pumpkin Problems and How to Solve Them

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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.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Dagley July 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I let our Halloween pumpkin rot in a side garden I covered it with black soil. Soon the vine began to grow. It prodduced many flowers but they wouldn’t last. The ones that lasted and produced tiny pumpkins would not develop and appeared to be very soft. What can be the problem and how can I get at least one pumpkin from an active vine?

mary ellis August 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm

our pumpkins are ripening already, what should we do with them if anything,as its only the middle of August. There is still quite a few dark green ones on the vines.

Arthur Stevens March 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

I am trying to grow a cow pumpkin for a competition and the fruit doesn’nt seem set on it as i live in a sandy soil. I have tried potash and dolimite but still seem to be any different. Waiting a reply. Thank you. Arthur Stevens.

Damon June 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hey my pumpkin vines are doing great but it seems like most of the baby pumpins are dying on the vine. On one of them I am sure that I fertilized the female flower directly with the stamen of the male, but the flower fell off and now the little pumpkin is turning yellow, squishy and has brown spots on it like it is going to rot. Some of the other baby pumpkins are turning yellow before they can even bloom. The plant is in a very sunny location. I have two other vine planted in shade and they are not nearly as big and as yet have no females on them. Any suggestions?

Damon

keith sharp August 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm

first time pumkin grower.I recently weeded out the pacth and the vines that ancor down the plants seem exposed .Should I put soil over the exposed vines to protect them and help them retain the water??

shellie September 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Hi my kids planted a pumpkin seed and now we have a wonder plant. The larger leaves are starting to turn yellow. Am I watering it too much?
Also should I prune the flowers? I really have no idea what Im doing we are just having fun!!
Shellie

Stephanie September 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi. First time pumpkin grower, should I remove any leaves so that pumpkins get light. Do they need that to ripen?

Robb Nance September 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

My pumpkin plants will not produce pumpkins! This is the second year I’ve tried.

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