(La Porte County, IN) - Local pumpkin growers are reporting a good crop this year despite a dip in production statewide from a dry start to the season.
Pumpkin seeds planted in late spring and early summer have trouble germinating in dry soil, said Stephen Meyers, an assistant professor of weed science in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University’s College of Agriculture.
Not only was there limited rainfall during June and July, but it was one of the hottest Junes on record in the state, he said.
Meyers said his family’s one-quarter-of-an-acre pumpkin patch, which doesn’t have an irrigation system, had to be replanted in spots where seeds failed to germinate.
“We planted and didn’t receive much if any, rainfall for June, which doesn’t encourage much growth for the pumpkins starting out,” he said.
Last year, according to USDA, Indiana was the second leading producer of pumpkins in the U.S., with about 25,000 pounds per acre harvested on 7,500 planted acres.
Illinois led the nation, with about 40,000 pounds of pumpkins per acre harvested on about 15,000 planted acres.
Tuttle Orchards near Greenfield in the central part of the state have about 20 acres of pumpkins that are mostly not irrigated. James Kriner, a manager of the farm store on the property, said yields were slightly down, primarily with specialty and decorative pumpkins. He said all the pumpkins look nice but seem more diminutive in size.
“It was a pretty dry summer overall,” Kriner said.
Kriner said it’s also been more challenging to find enough pumpkins to buy from wholesalers to supplement their supplies for customers.
“We’re having more trouble doing that this year,” Kriner said.
Pumpkin yields from the irrigated fields of John and Jean Coulter from Westville were not impacted by the dry start to the growing season.
“I think ours is at least average or above,” said Jean Coulter.
Coulter also spoke highly about their quality.
“Great. Wonderful,” she said.
The Coulters started raising pumpkins nearly 40 years ago and grow them on about 20 acres. Jean Coulter said conditions at her farm in June and July were also dry, but none of her seeds had trouble germinating because every acre of her pumpkins has an irrigation system. She also noted pumpkins, once established, don’t require as much water as other crops.
The Coulter pumpkins are available at the store on their farm along U.S. 421 and out in the fields where customers on hay rides are taken to pick on weekends.
The Coulters also grow sweet corn on 20 acres and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, eggplant, okra, and beets on another 1.5 acres. The Coulters, their son, and their grandson also raised seed corn and soybeans on 4,000 acres.
Nearby Garwood Orchards, which irrigates all their pumpkins on up to 10 acres, reported a good-sized crop.
“We’re fortunate. Our pumpkins have done well,” said Carey Garwood.
There’s also a store offering pumpkins along with u-pick at the orchard known primarily for its close to 300 acres of apples.
Garwood said her farm is also being contacted more this year about filling larger pumpkins orders. She said some requests are for 100 to 200 or more pumpkins by people from throughout the region whose regular suppliers cannot meet their needs at places like nursing homes and special events.
“I think that tells me some other farmers with pumpkins didn’t fare as well,” Garwood said.
Michigan, California, Texas, and Virginia are the other leading producers of pumpkins in the nation, according to USDA.