Delayed Fruit Set and Pumpkin Color Development in 2020

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist; gcjohn@udel.edu

Some pumpkin fields have seen a delay in fruit set due to high temperatures in late June and July in 2020. When set is delayed until August, the question is will the pumpkin develop and color in time for sales?

Under favorable summer growing conditions pumpkins will start to color about 4 weeks after fruit set and will be completely colored by 7 weeks after set. If fruit set is delayed until August, reduced day lengths and cooler temperatures may increase the time for full color development. Varietal differences in days to maturity also come into play.

Recently set pumpkin. Most fruit at this stage on the 20th of August will turn orange color by the second week in October. Photo credit Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

In research at Purdue University, pumpkins that set in August were tagged and then evaluated for maturity in October. They found that for flowers that opened between August 10 and August 21, at least 70% produced pumpkins that were either turning or fully orange by October 2 and 10, respectively. The remaining 20 to 30% either never set a fruit, or the fruit was still immature at the time of harvest.

This indicates that pumpkins set in mid-August will be ready for October sales. In fields with delayed set, it will be critical to keep vines healthy through September. This will mean additional fungicide sprays through the month with special attention being paid to powdery mildew and downy mildew.

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