Techniques For Safely Spraying Liquid Pesticides And Fungicides On Pumpkin And Gourd Plants

by CEdward

To resist insect and disease damage on your pumpkin and gourd plants, it’s very important to apply liquid pesticides and fungicides and do so carefully to protect the plants.

Having pumpkins and gourds growing in your garden is a fun and exciting experience. You have visions of your pumpkins and gourds harvesting in the early fall, but to get there you must grow them during the hot summer months.  And unfortunately during these hot summer months you will likely have many harmful insect pests like Cucumber Beetles and Squash Bugs, and diseases like Powdery Mildew attack your plants.  To combat these you will want to make applications of pesticides and fungicides in addition to providing adequate nutrients to the plants to keep them healthy.  You have many choices of pesticides and fungicides that are in the form of dusts, ready mixed sprays, or liquid or powder concentrates to be used in a liquid spray. Concentrates to be diluted into liquid sprays are common and work well for larger planting sizes.  This article will address some safe techniques to be used for applying the liquid sprays on pumpkin and gourd plants.


Once the season has begun and you are ready to begin spraying the pumpkin and gourd plants there are a few specific items you will need: the powder or liquid concentrate of the fungicide or pesticide, measuring utensils such as teaspoons and small measuring cups, clean (debris free) water, and your pump sprayer, which for smaller size plantings and home gardens may hold from 1 to3 gallonsand could be carried by hand or worn as a backpack.


Admittedly so, some pesticides and fungicides are safer than others, and if possible you should try to use safer, more natural options, but regardless of what you decide to use, handle the product with care and follow the manufacturers handling instructions.  When handling any pesticide or fungicide use care and take every precaution to protect your own safety and the safety of those nearby in close proximity.  In general (regardless of the product), it’s a good idea to not allow the concentrate or diluted spray to touch your skin.  You can achieve this by minimally wearing plastic gloves (not cloth), and long pants and long sleeves.  When spraying sometimes its very difficult to avoid wind effects (its better not to spray during windy periods) and human error, and you could easily get the spray on you and inhale it.  To minimize harm, you should wear safety glasses and a protective face mask.  You should also ensure before mixing that people, especially children, are not anywhere near where you are mixing or spraying, and do not enter the area for the minimum period of time as specified on the pesticide or fungicide instruction label. 


Now that you are ready to begin spraying it’s a good idea to test your sprayer with a little bit of plain water, especially if you are using a new sprayer or one not used since last season.  Even if you have been using the sprayer very recently, testing it again is a good way to avoid wasting your time, energy, and the concentrate if a problem or malfunction occurs with the sprayer.  Also take precautions if you plan to use the sprayer for various pesticides or fungicides.  It’s better to use the sprayer for a single product, but if you need to use it for multiple products, try to make sure they are all in specific categories, like pesticides, fertilizers, repellants, etc.  For example, don’t use the same sprayer for a pesticide then a fertilizer.  The same goes for the measuring utensils you use in handling the concentrate for making the spray.  Don’t lose track of what you are using the sprayer for.


Once you have measured out your pesticide or fungicide concentrate in the correct amount, you can pour it into the sprayer, then fill the sprayer, with clean water.  To further clean the water, you can use a cloth strainer over the opening through which you pour the water into the sprayer.  Once the diluted pesticide or fungicide spray is made, fully seal up the sprayer, shake up really well and pump up the sprayer to build up pressure.  You can now use the sprayer but must adjust the spray nozzle to your desired spray stream.  You will notice that you can set the stream on the sprayer to be very narrow and strong or very wide that is more of a mist.  The way you set the stream type is up to you as long as you are able to safely, yet fully spray the gourd and pumpkin plants.


When you first begin spraying, be very careful with young plants.  In fact, it’s best to use much smaller dosages with young plants as they can become easily injured.  Once you’re able to assess what the young plants can handle, you can begin the regular spraying program, gradually increasing the fungicide or pesticide amount to the recommended levels stated by the manufacturer.  When spraying the pumpkin and gourd vines, you will want to get full coverage by thoroughly spraying the top of the plants including the vines themselves, and all around the leaves including the undersides.  This will help to achieve full protection of the plant.  It’s a good idea to avoid directly spraying female or male flowers, especially if they are opened.  If you’re spraying pesticides and hit bees in the plant flowers, you could kill them and therefore put a stop to pollination of the pumpkin and gourd fruits.  Also you may harm the development of the fruit in this way.  Fruit that is more mature should be okay after being sprayed (assuming the spray dosage is not excessive), but this author has seen first hand recently pollinated fruit that have had a heavy application (higher than it should have been) of an insecticide/fungicide dust applied to them burn and kill the young fruit.


In addition to all that’s already been stated, you want to protect the health of your plants and do your part to not allow any form of phytotoxicity to occur.  Phytotoxicity is a plant injury that can result from the application of unhealthy pesticide and fungicide mixtures to plants and spraying plants during the extreme heat of the summer days.  Doing your homework before making any liquid spray combinations is a good idea.  If you must make a mixture and can’t find any answers regarding phytotoxic effects, you can always mix up a test spray to use on a small portion of the garden to see how it responds and proceed from there at your own risk.  You can avoid spraying at the elevated temperatures of the day by simply spraying either early in the morning or in the evening.  When spraying pesticides, evening may be your best bet as the dreaded Cucumber Beetle, a known nemesis of pumpkin and gourd plants is quite active and feeding in the hours after the sun goes down.  This author has observed many times the late evening feeding of Cucumber Beetles on pumpkin and gourd plants and is a proponent of spraying your pesticides in the evening time before the sun goes down, which is just before they begin feeding.




Phytotoxicity; Landscape IPM;AgriLIFE Extension,TexasA&M System

Information on this site has been produced under the direction of: Bastiaan “Bart” Drees, Professor and Extension Entomologist; Carlos Bogran, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Entomology-Plant Pathology & Microbiology; Dave Chalmers, Professor & State Extension Turfgrass Specialist

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Updated: 08/25/2012, CEdward
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