COLUMBUS — Even a drought can’t keep the Great Pumpkin down.
While other vegetables and fruits were hit hard during the scorching summer heat that draped the country in severe drought, pumpkins, for the most part, prevailed.
Growers in the area had a successful harvest this year.
“As long as they were given sufficient irrigation, there wasn’t a problem,” said Kelly Feehan, Platte County extension educator.
She said the hot, dry weather actually was helpful as pumpkins can suffer from diseases and rot to the rind due to too much moisture.
“A big issue with pumpkins a lot of time is disease. Because of the heat we didn’t have to deal with that, so that was a good thing,” Feehan said.
Becky Cheloha, who operates the family business Cheloha Farms located between Monroe and Duncan, said their seven acres of pumpkins did fine this summer because they have irrigated fields.
She had a wide variety of pumpkins and gourds in an array of colors and sizes for sale at the Farmers Market.
While the weather wasn’t a problem at her farm, the mice and insects were.
“This was the first year we had so many mice chew on pumpkins and ruin them. You’d pick one pumpkin up and six (mice) would run out from underneath. It wasn’t good if you are squeamish about those kind of things,” Cheloha said.
The rodents and insects like the cucumber beetle, attacked some of the pumpkins, especially the exotic varieties, grown in her field. Nevertheless, she said this year produced a good yield. The last few days were spent harvesting the pumpkins and storing them in a barn before the first freeze of the season settles in.
Keith and Alda Karel of Columbus also were selling at the Farmers Market. They had a couple of trailers full of pumpkins and also a selection of gourds, squash and other vegetables for sale.
The couple had some challenges this growing season. They had an issue with rodents on their farm land, too, which includes a pumpkin patch with more than 600 of the orange-colored vegetable. This was the biggest planting season for the couple, as far as pumpkins go, and, unfortunately for them, their pumpkin patch wasn’t irrigated. Every day, they had to water the field using 250 feet of hose that they would pull together to make sure the crop got sufficient water.
“It was water, water, water and then the rodents came,” Keith said. He estimated that they lost 40-50 pumpkins due to mice chewing through the rinds seeking out moisture.
He also had to do a lot of spraying for insects. Bugs were a big problem because last year’s winter was so mild and didn’t wipe out the insects like usual.