Weather shrinks Great Pumpkin hopes

  • Halloween pumpkins could be on the small side this year, according to the Royal Horticultural Society. Photo: Geoff Kirby/PA Wire

    A sea of pumpkins at Oakley Farms in Outwell, Cambridgeshire, in October 2010. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

  • Weather shrinks Great Pumpkin hopes
    27.10.2011 15:20



    Anyone aping Linus van Pelt of “Peanuts” cartoon fame and sitting in a pumpkin patch to await the arrival of his wholly imaginary “Great Pumpkin” might be taking a keen interest in the Halloween weather on Monday.

    The Great Pumpkin was to Linus what Father Christmas is to every other child. Santa, however, tends to turn up on cue whereas the Pumpkin never did. "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people”, Linus eventually declared. ”Religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

    There was a fear, at least in the USA, that this year there might not be many pumpkins, never mind a Great one. As it is the harvest should be sufficient but with fewer specimens at the top end of the size scale.

    Much of the pumpkin crop is planted and harvested in the eastern states, where a wet spring meant that planting was late. A soggy summer followed, leading to attacks by the phytophthorafungus on the growing fruit, and to much of it rotting in the saturated ground rather than ripening merrily in the three months or so of warmth and sunshine that it ideally needs.

    In the UK, the Royal Horticultural Society reports similar problems with the harvest. On this side of the Atlantic the issue with spring was the opposite: it was so dry that our pumpkins struggled to force their roots through the soil, and then a cool and damp summer followed to inhibit growth in a similar way to their American cousins.

    September and October have been rather warm for autumn months, though, so perhaps there has been a late growth spurt. October, of course, kicked off with the highest temperature ever recorded on an October day, and aside from a few chilly days and frosty nights, mainly at the start of last week, the temperature has been above average.

    Given that temperatures look like staying above normal for the rest of the month, October as a whole looks like it will have temperatures averaging 2 or 3 degrees above normal. Halloween itself should be mild enough but it could be a breezy and perhaps wet evening to be trick-or-treating, unless an expected band of rain hurries through more quickly than expected.

    On the bright side there should be more than enough pumpkins for us all to bake into pies or carve into Jack o’Lanterns with abandon. They might just be less tasty or less scary than usual.

    By: Stephen Davenport