Monday, August 8, 2011

Problems with Pumpkins — Can You Help?

I have written about my enthusiastic attempt to grow giant pumpkins, and I have given an update of what plants in my garden are producing and which are not. So now I am asking (begging, actually) for late-season advice to ensure at least one pumpkin the size of a volleyball and perhaps a zucchini or two can be harvested before the end of the growing season.

The pumpkin vines have spread in all directions. I pulled two of the six
original vines because they were cracked at the main root. The four
remaining plants are in the same row with the bamboo arch you see
in the photo above. The pumpkin leaves you see have spread from there!

Here is where I'm at with the not-so-giant pumpkins: My biggest pumpkin (if you can even call it that) is almost the size of a baseball. Yes, really, seriously, I'm not joking. The vines have grown to be almost 20 feet long, and I have blossoms galore, but no produce to speak of is being produced!

The size of this "pumpkin" has grown slightly from
the size of a golf ball to almost baseball size.

A newly sprouted "pumpkin" from a female blossom

Why? Or rather, what can I do? How big will the golf-ball-size squash grow before harvest time?

People had asked about pollination. I don't believe that is the problem. Bees and other insects are all over the blossoms, happily carrying pollen from one flower to the other.

A bee and two other insects are working
their pollination magic on this pumpkin blossom.

I have noticed the male blossoms far outnumber the female blossoms on my pumpkin vines. The same holds true for my summer squash, zucchini, and Boston marrow squash — in fact, I have not yet witnessed a single female blossom from any of those plants! What would cause this?

The male pumpkin blossoms have a long thin stem.

The female blossoms have a "bulb" below the flower
that will turn into the pumpkin. Notice how this soon-to-be
pumpkin is butted against pine branches . . . it is farther
than 15 feet from the main root and resting at the edge of my garden.

In addition to the minimal number of pumpkins being produced, the ones that do exist tend to be growing at the end of the vines. I had been told that once you have a few established pumpkins, you must pinch off some of them and the ends of the vines as well to allow all the nutrients to feed the chosen squash(es) and that your chosen ones should be as close to the main root as possible. The problem, once again, is that all the potential pumpkins I have so far are at the ends of my vines.

I will shamefully admit that I did not have my soil tested. I mixed my homemade compost, newly purchased organic garden soil, and newly purchased moo doo manure with the soil already in the garden. I was confident that this mixture would be nutrient rich enough to give me a bounty of produce. I was mistaken.

Last weekend I took some initiatives to try to correct the lack in squash production. I read that eggshells are good for pumpkins, so I crumbled up eggshells and sprinkled them around the main roots. I also bought organic blood meal and sprinkled that onto the soil surrounding all my garden plants. I do not yet know if those efforts were helpful or not.

Other than the squash (and a few other problem plants that were unmentioned in this post), I do have a few plants that are looking good. See below:

Lemon Drop cherry tomato. There are many more of these —
some have already graced my salads, while many more have yet to ripen.

These cherry tomatoes have sprouted alongside my Swiss chard.
I believe they are a product of my compost — I did not plant them!

My first cucumber is ready for picking! Many more are days away
from harvest, and even more are just beginning to grow.
My cukes were late this year, but they now seem to be bountiful.

I picked my first bundle of green beans last weekend,
and there are many more to come.

Bell peppers are producing well.

Several hot cherry peppers are ready to be picked and pickled!

As you can see, some of my produce has picked up the pace. But the squash — what happened to my squash? Can anyone give advice on how to get them to produce this late in the season?

I look forward to hearing your advice.

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager


i_have_spoken13 said...

Did you pinch of the ends of the vines? If you do this, it signals to the plant that it is time to put more energy into fruit than into growing. Once my plants start to flower, I pinch the end of the vine off. (Do this on a dry, sunny day or you may be opening the plant up to a fungal infection. Also, be sure to use a clean pair of shears. One part bleach to ten parts water will kill anything that could harm your plant.)

Hope this helps!

Kristy Rustay said...

I haven't "pinched" anything yet. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to pinch... from what you wrote, it is more like a clean cut, right?

Thank you for the advice!

sista said...

You didn't say what part of the country you are growing them in or what your weather was like this year. Pumpkins typically grow male blooms first. This has never made much sense to me but that's what happens. The female's bloom later so if you got your pumpkins in late or the weather wasn't conducive to growing them right away you will have late pumpkins. Have patience. You still have until September or October (depending on where you live).

Zucchinimom said...

My fair guess would be your soil. You're growing leaves galore and no fruit...that's usually an indication of too much nitrogen. I would definitely get your soil tested. I usually have no problems with my squashes (hence my screen name: zucchinimom---we grow and eat our weight in it) unless there is something wrong with my soil. Usually I have to amend with compost and make it more fertile; you may have the opposite problem. Check the soil...that is usually the "root" of the problem. Good luck and keep trying!!

Kristy Rustay said...

I am so appreciative of the great advice, thank you!

I think it might be too late for soil testing, but I plan to pinch my vines tonight, so that the pumpkins I do have get the nutrients they need.

Also, I have had some progress with my pumpkins since I wrote this post on Friday. I now have quite a few little guys growing and they have exceeded the size of a softball — so exciting. I also have my first zucchini. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Next year I will be smarter and have my soil tested and adjust as necessary before planting.

And finally, I never did mention where I live — Western Massachusetts. Hopefully I still have about 2 months for these softball-sized pumpkins to grow into usable sized squash for both eating and fall decorations.

Anonymous said...

Lots of water will also help your zucchini, We are having a dry spell this year and my zucchini were not producing. I mentioned this at the green house where I purchased my plants and was told to try watering them every day it didn't rain. Problem silved