Pumpkin pickers should have a field day this season

| Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, 1:46 a.m.

It will soon be pumpkin-picking season in Armstrong County and everyone is wondering if the hot, dry summer will mean bad news in the local pumpkin patches.

Last year the weather was the opposite — wetter than usual, thanks to a hurricane and a tropical storm that drenched the Northeast. The soggy conditions resulted in a smaller number and a bigger price for those bright orange jack-o'-lantern pumpkins used for carving and displaying each fall.

Fear not, all you Charlie Browns out there ­— it looks like you'll be able to find a great pumpkin this year.

Bob Pollock, a horticulture educator at Penn State Extension, says there will enough pumpkins to go around.

“The vine crops like the hotter weather, anyhow,” Pollock said. “They mostly like to be dry. I realize, it was a little too hot at times, and in the 90s for spells, so it won't be a bumper crop, but there should be a pretty steady supply of pumpkins.”

The big, fat pumpkins need water, and pumpkin growers likely used irrigation all summer and especially during the extended dry periods, according to Pollock.

“Most farmers growing vegetables in Armstrong County use either trickle or overhead irrigation,” he said.

With trickle irrigation, the growers use plastic tubing along the ground to pump water from a source such as a pond. Aluminum sprinkler heads water the crops with overhead irrigation.

“If not (without irrigation), size may be down a lot,” said Pollock.

The 150-acre Morris Farm along Route 268 in East Franklin doesn't grow a lot of pumpkins but they are ready, looking good and coming in thick, according to Andy Morris who helps run the family's small farm along with his brother Randy. When Andy Morris isn't harvesting pumpkins or corn, including Indian corn, on their farm, he's milking cows on someone else's farm.

Morris is expecting to harvest the 200 or so pumpkins starting this weekend which they sell to be used as novelty items and jack-o'-lanterns at their small roadside stand at the end of their road along Route 268.

Andy Morris said they price their pumpkins by size — from $5 for the smallest to $20 for the largest — rather than by the pound.

“The pumpkins came up nice,” he said. “They're about the same size and as many as last year. The Indian corn is really long this year too.”

They let the weeds grow up around their pumpkin patch.

“It is awful weedy,” said Andy's mother, Janice Morris. “Sometimes I think the weeds protect them.”

Janice Morris said they don't grow as many pumpkins as they used to.

“We once had a whole field full,” she said. “Thousands of them. And we sold everyone of them.”

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or mfryer@tribweb.com.

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