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Commercial Farming of Pumpkin Seedlings

The Basics of Commercial Farming of Pumpkin from Seedlings

Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo and maxima from the Cucurbitaceae family) is commercially propagated across South Africa. Though the vegetable is often grown directly from seed, there are several advantages to growing it from seedlings received in bulk from reputable vegetable nurseries:

• Improved plant uniformity and stand.

• Better yield.

• Improved disease and pest resistance.

The farmer can plan production better and do not have to risk plant losses due to some seeds not germinating. The farmer is also certain of the plants’ characteristics, and the period between planting and harvesting is shorter. As such, the farmer saves on the cost of chemical treatments and irrigation. Pumpkin seedlings from respected nurseries are propagated in greenhouses where they are protected against pests. The first chemical treatment is applied at the nursery before the seedlings are delivered to the farmer, giving the plants protection for the first few days in the field until the farmer can start with their chemical treatment programme.

Plant Description

The plant has several surface feeder roots and the roots can grow quite deep. Pumpkin has a woody stem, large leaves, an extensive vine system, and bright, yellow flowers.

Propagation

The vegetable prefers warm weather and is sensitive to frost. The best temperature range for propagation is about 18 to 25 °C. The vegetable performs well in areas with long summer seasons. Where it is grown in an area with temperatures that often exceed 35 °C, the plants grow more male flowers, resulting in lower fruit yields. Grow it on level ground to prevent water accumulating in the hollows. Uniform provision of moisture is essential throughout the growth period, though overwatering can damage the plant. The ideal soil type is sandy loam with an available growth depth of more than 100 cm. It is possible to propagate from seedlings in heavier soils with good drainage. The plant performs best in soil with a pH range between 6 and 7,5. More water should be given if the plants are grown in drier areas, but avoid waterlogging. It is best to use an irrigation method that enables watering under the foliage to prevent the development of mildew on the leaves. Frequent weeding is essential.

Harvesting

With the duration between planting seedlings and maturity being shorter, the crop is exposed to fewer environmental variables, ensuring better crop success. Harvesting is done when the skin is hard, its shine disappears, and the vines are dead. Avoid leaving the fruits on the ground for a prolonged period after the foliage has withered, since the fruits can become damaged. Signs that indicate harvest readiness include a dull, greyish skin, cracks in the stems, and a hard vegetable skin. Leave 5 cm of stalk on the fruit. Follow the nursery’s instructions for transplanting the pumpkin seedlings. Get in touch with Hishtil SA for more information about their available varieties.

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