Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It's Pumpkin Time in Central New York

Logan Hilbert, 1, of North Syracuse during his first pumpkin patch visit to Behling's Orchard in Mexico.

It's pumpkin time and farms across Oswego County have plenty of the orange fruits to buy.

But how the crops fared varies on where in the county a farm is located.

For instance, Will Ruby of Mexico said his half acre or so "look good" and the weather was great for raising pumpkins.

But Josephine Godfrey, of Godfrey's Last Stand on Route 264 near Phoenix, said the pumpkins her family planted early in June didn't do well.

"It was the wet weather," she said. "We planted, they started blossoming and then we were getting a lot of rain."

She said the pumpkins the family planted later, in early July, did much better. She said the farm will have enough pumpkins for its customers, but won't be able to ship any to any other locations.

"We have about half a crop," she said of the 4 1/2 acres planted with pumpkins.

Ruby said he planted his pumpkins late (beginning of June) so they are just turning orange in the field now.

Pumpkins are huge sellers this time of year the closer Halloween gets on the calendar. Most people throughout the region use them for either autumn decorations or carve them to make spooky adornments for their windows at Halloween time.

As pumpkin are grown lying flat in a field, they can be harmed by too much rain or not enough rain. Too much rain and either they won't develop when first planted or they will be subject to mildew or rot nearer harvest time.

Cornell Cooperative Extension says on its website that another concern for growers are several different viruses which can cause plants to not produce fruit at all or results in poor fruit quality (size or color). Striped cucumber beetles and squash bugs remain the main insect pests.

New York state ranks amongst the top three states (Illinois and Pennsylvania are the other two) in pumpkin production in the country with more than 6,800 acres of pumpkins produced with an estimated value of $24 million each year.

Nearly all of these are for fresh market use for either decorating or eating. The pumpkin industry is highly variable with fruit ranging from quarter pound to several hundred pounds each.

Pumpkins are grown throughout New York state and are marketed through roadside stands, nursery centers and farmers markets and are also important in areas that have lots of agritourism. Included in this group are also other fall ornamentals such as gourds and ornamental squash.

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