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IN THE GARDEN: Pumpkin patch tips

Rebekah from Cassie writes: “I hardly get much pumpkin production, and then it looks like squash bugs or something come in and cut around the stem.”

So, let’s delve right in.

First, some tips for pumpkin production. Pumpkins need lots of water, deep sessions so the roots will be thoroughly watered. Try to avoid the foliage (leaves) of the pumpkin, which tends to rot if wet for too long. Pumpkins drain the soil of nutrients while they are growing. When your plant is about a foot, give it a boost of a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Then, right before it blooms, use a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

As your plants grow and vine, grab your trimmers to prune. When you begin to prune, the idea is to redirect the nutrients and water to several pumpkins to grow larger and healthier. To accomplish this, first choose the healthiest vines/pumpkins on which you want to concentrate. Trim the blooms off of the weaker vines and trim excess vines. For nice, big, plump pumpkins, you should concentrate on three per plant. As they grow and get larger, you can spin them a little and place a piece of cardboard underneath so your pumpkins are rounder and less distorted.

Pest solutions for pumpkin patches

One of the biggest culprits is squash bugs. Squash bugs look like stinkbugs, but you’ll find them on your vines and fruit. The adult squash bugs and nymphs feed on all parts of your plants. One solution is to apply neem oil. However, you only want to apply neem oil if your chosen vines have completed the bloom cycle.

Second option, you can pick the bugs off and drop them into a container filled with soapy water. You can, of course, squish the squash bugs. They don’t sting, bite, or stink. Make sure to look under the leaf — they like to play “hide and seek.” Or, mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Shake and spray directly on the bugs. The contact of the soapy spray is what suffocates them. Therefore, you might need to repeat.

Third, you can catch them with duct tape.

Another preventive measure is to plant nasturtium in your pumpkin patch. Nasturtium is an annual, low-growing, beautiful flower. Squash bugs run from nasturtium, making the flower a wonderful companion plant for cucurbits (winter/summer squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and gourds). And, they’re purty.

Do y’all remember Tim the Tool Man? This final solution made us think of the old TV show "Home Improvement." Grab the hand vac you use to clean the inside of your car or a shop vac with a long extension cord. You can actually vacuum the squash bugs, and they’ll be gone in minutes. IF possible, use a brush attachment to protect the vine. Careful: You don’t want to vacuum around the flowers. You might suck up the petals like one of us did (not telling who).

Now, all you need to do is decide which pattern to carve on your pumpkin or recipe to use to bake your pie.

WD-40

We mentioned using duct tape to remove stink bugs. Another standby most of us have is WD-40. It’s not just for loosening bolts. WD stands for Water Displacement. You can use it to keep flies off of cows and horses, remove tomato stains from clothing, clean dead bugs off of your grill (too bad they’re not squash bugs), and apply to fire ant bites to take away the sting. Do you know what the basic ingredient in WD-40 is? Fish oil. We bet the Native Americans had this figured out long before we did.

Till next time. Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

"In the Garden" is written by father-daughter duo Bill and Martelle Luedecke and Bill Luedecke. Contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or luedeckephotography@gmail.com. Contact Bill at 512-577-1463 or bill@texasland.net.

Find more "In the Garden" columns in the Lawn & Garden Guide.

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