Pumpkin Crop Abundant, Consistant Despite Drought, Heat
By George Ford, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Many Eastern Iowa pumpkin growers are enjoying an abundant harvest despite a record-setting drought and heat during the 90-day growing season.
Maury Wills, chief of Iowa's Agricultural Diversification & Market Development Bureau, said pumpkin growers who planted seeds early in the season before two beneficial rains fell or who irrigated their crop are reporting good results.
"We have three acres of pumpkins that we planted in early June like we normally do and we have a fantastic crop," Wills said. "The size and consistency have never been better. The shape is great and the quality is fantastic."
Wills said rainfall amounts and timing, soil conditions and weed control were key factors in determining the type of pumpkin crop that emerged.
"If you didn't have weed control and you didn't water, you probably don't have much of a pumpkin patch," he said.
Wills said the heat had a side benefit of reducing the mold and pests that sometimes hinder a pumpkin plant's growth.
Paul Rasch, owner of Wilson Orchard in Iowa City, said his pumpkin crop turned out "really great" despite the fact that he was only able to irrigate about half of it.
"We have a property that's divided by a creek, so we were unable to get water to the other side," Rasch said. "We can't see any difference. We have five pumpkin patches and every one of them has record yields.
"The pumpkins are big, but they don't weigh as much. It appears the hot, dry weather lowered the moisture content, so they seem to keep real well."
Kim Gingerich, co-owner of Bart's Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Marion with her husband, Bart, attributed her abundant pumpkin crop to field preparations before the seeds were planted.
"My husband did a very deep plow this spring because our ground was pretty compacted with everyone walking on it," Gingerich said. "I noticed when I pulled weeds that there was always moisture at the roots for them. The pumpkin roots were able to get down a little deeper and do their job."
After a summer of scorching hot, dry weather, Bonnie Sanders was surprised with the size and quality of her pumpkins this year.
"People would ask me how my pumpkins looked and I was not very optimistic," said Sanders, owner of Sanders Pumpkin Farm in Vinton. "It was such a blessing to have so many great pumpkins.
"It seemed like the germination was slow in the spring and that had me concerned. We don't irrigate, so the lack of rainfall had me worried because such a large percentage of pumpkins is water."
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