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10 Mid-Season Tips by Wayne Hackney

Orginally published in the N.E.P.G.A. Newsletter - June, 1994

1. The Striped Cucumber Beetle may have already arrived by the time you receive this newsletter. Knock them out with Sevin or Methoxychlor. The vine borer usually becomes active around the 3rd week in June so spray the vines at least once a week and reapply after heavy rain. Concentrate on the vines especially at the base of the plant. (This is the favorite egg laying spot.) Northern New Englanders may not have to worry about the borer.

2. Some grower's pumpkins may have vines already but if you still have an upright plant getting ready to flop over, they are at a vulnerable stage. A good gust of wind can snap the vine right off. Have good wind protection and mound some dirt around the base of the plant to add extra support.

3. As the vine crawls you can use crossed stakes or other ingenious ways to hold the vine down until the tap roots take hold. A bad thunderstorm will whip the vine around and roll it over, causing damage.

4.    At every leaf node, cover the vine with dirt to encourage good tap rooting.

5.    Pollination time is right around the corner. Take male flowers and very gently apply the pollen to the newly opened female. Some use a soft bristled artist's brush to transfer pollen.

6. When the pumpkin is about the size of a basketball, slowly move the pumpkin out close to a right angle to allow room for the expanding pumpkin shoulders. Go slowly and only move a little each day so the pumpkin does not snap off the vine. If you have moved the pumpkin a little and are tempted to move it just a little more - DON'T DO IT! There are no warning signs and you will hear a loud snap and your prize pumpkin will be gone. Take at least a week and go slow.

7. Watch out for woodchucks and deer. I use an electric fence with a high wire and a low wire (2" off the ground) for the woodchucks. If you do not have an electric fence, get some kind of fencing to keep the animals out. One of the favorite things a woodchuck will do is to bite off the tender end of the main vine. If your vine is only six feet long and you haven't set fruit yet, the woodchuck can end your season.

8.    Spray the pumpkin and the plant with a vegetable disease control product like Ortho's Vegetable Disease Control, found in most garden centers.

9. Allow one or two pumpkins to develop per plant. If you are going with two on one plant, make sure the two pumpkins are on separate vines. Let your pumpkins get to the beachball stage or even a little larger before you prune off the rest of the fruit. Some pumpkins abort when they are small but once in a while you will get a 50 pounder that will abort. A young pumpkin that is in good shape will be lemon yellow in color and will have a shiny luster. If you have a pumpkin that is dull yellow and growing slowly it is probably getting ready to fall off so pick another one. Sometimes the first few pumpkins do abort, just keep pollinating and you will have luck.

10. I don't mean to concern anyone unnecessarily but here is one last mid-season tip. It is human nature to be very proud of your fast growing pumpkin. It is best to keep a low profile; try not to let the whole neighborhood know about your giant. It has happened more than once where a large pumpkin has been stolen or vandalized. Under no circumstances should you ever tell the news media of an impending champion pumpkin when it is still in your garden. If you are lucky enough to have a giant, invite news media over for the picking ceremony. That way when your good fortune hits the TV or papers, your pumpkin will be tucked safely away in a secure area.

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